The Australian Roast of John Cleese with leastest

The Australian Roast of John Cleese, which aired recently on Seven, had a few decent laughs in it, but, mostly, it was a slapdash affair. You’d think you could expect better from a show with 15 credited writers[1] and a group of comedians and entertainers roasting the British comedy legend which included Joel Creasey, Lehmo, Damien Power, Lawrence Mooney, Tom Gleeson, Christie Whelan Browne, Alex Lee, Rhonda Burchmore, Steve Vizard and Stephen Hall.

But as each roaster delivered their bit, it became clear that the 15 writers had all gone off separately to write their assigned speeches and had produced roughly the same set of easy gags. We lost count of the number of fat jokes directed at host Shane Jacobson. We’re not saying some of them weren’t funny, but man, it’s not like he was the guy being roasted. Similarly, how many gags did we need about Mooney’s substance abuse and firing from Triple M? Or Gleeson’s red/bald head and Gold Logie win? Or Burchmore’s age and plastic surgery? Write some different material for each person, guys![2]

But even when the speeches eventually got around to roasting Cleese, each one of them felt pretty much the same. It’s almost like the writers had a series of dot points to work through:

  • Cleese has had a lot of wives. CHECK!
  • Cleese must be really broke from his divorces if he’s doing this show. CHECK!
  • Wow, almost every film Cleese made after A Fish Called Wanda was total crap. CHECK!

To be fair, the above-mentioned things are all true – especially the gags about Cleese’s recent terrible film work – but why wimp out in mentioning The Very Excellent Mr Dundee? Or even better, why not roast Cleese about his dodgy recent TV work, like his plan to resurrect Fawlty Towers.

There were a few highlights, though. Rhonda Burchmore singing an original song called “John Cleese is Dead,” in which Cleese pretended to die halfway through, was pretty funny, in a The Producers sort of way. And Stephen Hall (also one of the credited writers) recounting how he’d played the Cleese role in the 2016 stage adaptation of Fawlty Towers, alternately impersonating and ribbing Cleese, to Cleese’s obvious delight, was also good value. But then it was back to the divorce gags, including some from surprise guest Camilla Cleese, John’s writer and actor daughter. Although, hers, were at least a bit more pointed, like how Cleese’s current wife is 18 days younger than Camilla’s elder sister.

But eventually, after more than an hour of this, it was time for the man himself to get a right to reply, which he did in typical John Cleese style. He may be old, and he may be problematic, and he may not be great at picking films to appear in, but somewhere within him, he still has it.

P.S. Was it just us who noticed that no one on the production team seemed to have a clear idea as to what the show was called? Throughout the show, host Shane Jacobson held a card reading “John Cleese Roast Live!” but the podium which Jacobson and the various roasters stood behind had “John Cleese Roast” on it, while the titles sequence and advance publicity had “The Australian Roast of John Cleese.”

[1] Or you would if you’d never seen an average episode of Saturday Night Live, which employs a great many more writers. And is always average.

[2] And the writers pretty much were all guys.

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1 Comment

  • Tim says:

    I heard a podcast recently where someone was talking about being a writer on one of these stupid roasts. Man they sounded like shit

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