The Roast with the least

The Roast is a concept which never quite manages to die. We don’t mean in the sense that pretty much every era of recent decades has thrown up a nightly or weekly topical comedy show, more that this particular team’s attempt to make a topical comedy show never manages to get axed. But you know that, we’ve talked about this before, you keep seeing it listed in TV guides and you keep not tuning in. Not even YouTube can bothered if the stats from The Roast’s channel are anything to go by. It’s just not very good. But why?

We’re not going to attempt to work out why this keeps getting re-commissioned – the ABC wants them to be the next Chaser, they’ve got compromising photos of Mark Scott – pick your favourite crazy theory, we don’t know! What we’re going to try and nail is why The Roast sucks.

1. The Host. If there’s one thing the great TV satires of the past couple of decades have taught is that there’s plenty of laughs to be had from a host who’s completely unaware that they and the situation they’re in are completely insane. From Chris Morris (On The Hour, The Day Today, Brass Eye) to Shaun Micallef (Mad As Hell) to Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), this isn’t about being a straight man introducing wacky news reports, this is about “The News!”. The conventions of news and current affairs shows are kinda ludicrous when you think about it – especially the ones which include any kind of on-air editorial – so comedians need to get stuck in. On The Roast the closest you’ll get is a gag about how the TV built in to the set is actually a microwave. LOLZ!

2. The Reporters. Again, there are plenty of ways you can get laughs by giving the reporters some character. Any character. On The Roast the reporters are a bunch of near-identical middle-class white guys, except for the Asian woman one, who’s different because she’s an Asian woman. Put it this way, it’s a good thing the male reporters have different haircuts or we’d never notice the difference between them. Dozens and dozens of fake news shows in the past have managed to give their league of young white guys various wacky characters; just sticking a wacky hat on one of these guys would be an improvement.

3. The Stories. When The Roast does a parody news report it often goes like this: host Tom Glasson reads out an intro about an actual news story, cut to a sketch which is based around one tiny, often not very pertinent, aspect of that story, the sketch goes on for a minute and there’s basically only one joke in there, which is the one about the not very pertinent aspect of the original story. This is not a roadmap to quality comedy. It’s not even a couple of lines drawn in the dirt directing people to a smirk.

4. The Jokes. Often there aren’t any. Oh, it might seem like you’re watching something that contains jokes, but if you look closely you’ll find that all you’re actually getting is observations delivered with a layer of snark smeared across the top. This kind of thing is fine on occasion, especially when you’re dealing with politicians (as so much of The Roast does). But when that’s all you’ve got to say on a topic, you don’t have a television show – you barely even have the comments on a politics-themed blog.

5. The Perspectives. When you have what looks like a crew made up entirely of smug, entitled, well-off white guys – oh yeah, and that Asian woman written to sound exactly like a smug entitled, well-off white guy – it wouldn’t hurt to occasionally have some kind of perspective that wasn’t that of a crew of smug, entitled, well-off white guys. Usually here we’d say that part of the problem is the format: a send-up of bland news reporters covering the news is by it’s very nature going to contain elements of the bland, middle-class perspective it’s sending up. But then we remembered that Mad as Hell manages to cover an extremely wide spectrum of types and experiences while doing the exact same thing as The Roast and being roughly a zillion times funnier at it.

6. The Jokes Again. You know when you take a current situation – oh no, the government wants old folk to work longer / kids are being told to skip university and jump straight into the workforce / etc – and then you exaggerate it for comedic effect? That’s almost never funny unless you put some actual thought into the kind of exaggerations you’re going to make. So The Roast seems to do it at least once every episode, making sure to only ever go down the most obvious and least interesting path. Let’s bring back child labour and make old people into slaves! Oh ho ho.

7. The Fact It Never Seems To Get Any Better. Even most crap comedy shows change and grow over the course of their lifetimes as the cast and crew focus on what works, ditch what doesn’t, deal with changing interests and cast members, and so on. Not The Roast. Apart from the news being mocked, you could stack a current episode up against one at the start of the show’s run and you’d be hard pressed to detect any difference at all. Does this mean the show achieved perfection out the gate, thus leaving no room whatsoever for improvement? No. No it does not.

8. The Fact That It Never Gets Axed. It’s a head-scratcher! And an annoying one at that. Is The Roast hitting that right level of blandness and inoffensiveness that keeps hundreds of firmly average shows on air for years? Or does someone at the ABC seriously think they’re awesome? Got a theory? Post it in the comments.

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  • BIlly C says:

    I suspect it’s just pretty cheap and runs itself. If they used the money to make lots of small things from different people they’d have to supervise a million little projects. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s so small that nobody at the network is actually watching it. Perhaps the network assumes that younger audiences like it? A lot of the stuff on youtube with a bazzion views is terrible.
    They have too much to produce on a daily basis and probably not enough resources or talent to make something good but that’s not a reason to me making something this bad all the time.

  • yepyepyoyo says:

    The Roast is the Rupert Pupkin of political satire-all ambition no talent. What is with that call out in the middle of the show to follow it on twitter and facebook? Could these people BE any more desperate? Hello! Looks like I just made a roast joke! Pun! Talentless frauds. You’ve got to love how cowardly they are too to rarely go after abbott.

    @Billyc, anyway sure there’s a lot of terrible stuff on youtube with a bazzilion views, but awesome stuff always has a bazzilion views too, or at least way more than 150 after being on youtube for 2 years. As if those numbers don’t matter. They’d have a worldwide audience on youtube so you’d expect a bunch more hits even by accident, like when people search for roast recipes or actual funny shows like comedy central roasts. Apparently even chinese web crawlers turn their nose up at this show.

    And see Clarke and Dawe is a show that would be cheap to run. I’m gonna to take a guess and say a show with a fancy set that uses special effects on a daily basis is not cheap to run. And even if it is cheap, I mean what group of comedians use professional level computer effects in their humour? Can anyone recall another comedy show doing that successfully? It just isn’t funny nor is it whimsical and odd like monty python, it just makes them look like rich privileged white guys in a commercial. Which wouldn’t even be a problem imo if they were actually funny. The chaser guys are all privileged white guys from sydney grammar school and they were slightly funny I mean except for Charles Firth.

    I honestly reckon you could find a group of 15 year olds who could make a better show in their garage. And it’s an achievement that they’ve actually not improved at all since the show started, it’s like they’re actively resisting getting better. I’m glad you wrote this post, this show fucking shits me.

  • Ricepicker says:

    i’ve commented on the roast before. all i will add is that maybe these people are too well adjusted to create comedy that appeals to australians? maybe, when all australians experience life like well educated middle class white guys, who have had utter privilege their entire lives (including getting their own show for no clear reason) australians will find the roast funny? and maybe, like educated yuppies, australia will come to distrust cynicism, and look down on jokes as juvenile antics of a past age, and see the roast as optimistic and innovative instead of lame and patronising and careerist! ahhhh, b bb but till then folks..

    next week on the roast: all encompassing, funny, working class blue collar comic hired to make roast appealing to funny, working class viewers. new segment teaches host Tom Glasson how to commiserate with the proletariat to show he’s a man of the people. ha just kidding, the roast would never hire a funny comic. nor do they give a damn about appealing to viewers.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I watched the ‘Best of The Roast’ a couple of weeks ago. Not only was it dire it assumes no knowledge on behalf of the audience. Frankly I think it’s made for English/Media teachers to show to classes. I think the Asian woman is an actual proper journalist not a comedian so the condescension is probably natural. Also there is something very Patrick Bateman about the host.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    It seems clear there there’s a mandate or a carved stone tablet or something in the ABC offices ordering them to have a “satirical team” on staff at all times. Preferably one that has no actual opinion about the news they’re “making fun” of.

  • Plsjuststop says:

    I was almost going to defend the roast and say it’s not really fair to be mean to people who are probably trying their best. Then I realised that’s exactly what the roast does on a daily basis. They mock people on national tv who they don’t know and who they’ve probably never met. If anyone deserves to be criticised it’s this show- although a roast is *meant* to be a warm hearted ribbing, and the person roasted is meant to be there in on the joke. I guess it makes sense that the host not only criticises people for a living, but it looks like he also criticises movies (although he doesn’t seem so critical of the movies he sees. But I guess that fits in with the tumbleweeds point that critics in Australia find it hard to be objective as most of them want to be in the industry themselves):

    Anyway, the people from the roast might be really funny one day and good luck to them. Right now I think they need a bit more practice, and maybe they need to see and experience a bit more of the world before they make fun of it.

  • Joe says:

    You know, I actually laughed once while watching The Roast tonight. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. 🙁