To some, Comedy Central’s annual roast is like the Super Bowl of comedy. And this year’s distinguished honoree, Alec Baldwin, makes for a particularly great football to kick around. Not only has he endured as an award-winning film and television star for more than 30 years, but he has survived all kinds of tabloid incidents, from fistfights with photographers, to the embarrassing voicemail he once left for his “rude, thoughtless” daughter. He has also hosted Saturday Night Live, America’s foremost comedy institution, more than anyone else in its history. The point is that Baldwin’s remarkable life offers a lot of material to work with. The Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin airs Sunday night, but Collider was invited to the live taping last week, and with a dais that included acting legend Robert De Niro, transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner and controversial comedian Adam Carolla, you can bet there was plenty of friendly shade thrown and shots fired.
Sean Hayes served as a surprisingly strong Roast Master for the evening, and joining him and the aforementioned trio on stage were doctor-turned-actor Ken Jeong, NBA star Blake Griffin, SNL‘s Chris Redd, Sabrina the Teenage Witch star Carolina Rhea, roast ringer Nikki Glaser, and the Roastmaster General himself, Jeff Ross. Plus, there were two surprise roasters, Alec’s daughter, Ireland Baldwin, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who may need to be put down soon, as his shtick is getting a little long in the canine. And yes, that is a tooth joke, for all the dentists who read Collider.
At one point, I thought Lady Gaga was going to roast Baldwin (who introduces Ally’s SNL performance in A Star Is Born), via video, but she was just announcing that she and Comedy Central had a made a cool million-dollar donation to Exploring the Arts, a charity that supports arts funding. That’s always the first thing to go when there are budgets cuts at schools, so it’s a worthy cause, and hey, isn’t that worth it to get Lady Gaga on your broadcast? Methinks so.
Glaser brought her A-game, as you’ll see below, but that’s what I expected from a pro. Griffin, on the other hand, dunked on everyone with the kind of confidence that only a jock can muster, and truly surprised me with his ease and timing on stage. I should’ve seen it coming, too, as Griffin once held his own in a roast battle against Ross, who underestimated his competition and was lucky to squeak by the All-Star forward back in the day.
Jenner deserves a medal for what she was put through during this roast, but she gave as good as she got, and went toe-to-toe with some much more experienced roasters. De Niro did his thing, but at that point, he’d been on stage for close to three hours and it was getting late, so the energy — both his and the crowd’s — wasn’t quite there. And Carolla stayed right on brand, using most of his time to rail against #CancelCulture instead of Baldwin. Speaking of whom, when it was Baldwin’s turn for rebuttal, he showed everyone why he won two Emmys for 30 Rock — he can deliver a hell of a zinger.
So put that remote down — remotes are for closers — and check out the #BaldwinRoast on Comedy Central on Sunday night. Here’s a little sneak peek of my three favorite jokes from each roaster. Naturally, parental discretion is advised…
“No offense, Blake, but I’m a better ball handler than you.”
“Caitlyn, being here tonight is the bravest thing you’ve ever done, but don’t worry, any parts you don’t like will be cut.”
“Alec once said I was like a brother to him, which is why we haven’t talked in 10 years.”
“Alec, this will be the funniest thing you’ve been a part of that Tina Fey didn’t carry you through.”
Hayes made for a surprisingly solid Roast Master and his introductions for each roaster were some of his funniest jokes, especially his intros for Redd and Jenner. I thought he did a good job setting the tone for the evening with his strong opening set.
“Blake, you look like a black guy made by a printer that was running out of ink.”
“Robert De Niro… I can’t believe I get to share this stage with you, and by that I mean the final one of your life.”
“Stevie Wonder sees his sons more than you do, Caitlyn. I mean, even Casey Anthony knows the current location of her daughter!”
“Alec, you’ve had four kids with Hilaria, which is incredible, because isn’t your semen just oatmeal at this point? Oooh, Robert got excited when I said ‘oatmeal!'”
Glaser was really the ringer of the evening, as she’s really the only one flexing that comedy muscle every night. It showed, as her set was absolutely vicious.
“Chris Redd… just like on SNL, your jokes have been cut for time. Let’s move on! Scroll, scroll, scroll!”
“Alec, you have five kids with two different women. Why can’t you be more like the investors in your films and just pull out?”
“Robert, I’m a great doctor, but even I can’t resuscitate your career.”
Ken Jeong’s jokes alternated between network sitcom and edgy cable series, so to speak. Some were a little corny, but the clever ones really hit the mark, especially Jeong’s delivery of the Redd joke above. Hopefully that one makes its way into the broadcast, which will inevitably leave some punchlines on the cutting room floor.
“If you wanna hide something from Robert De Niro, just put it on a SNL cue card, because he can’t read that shit!”
“I’m excited to watch an old man figure out trans pronouns in front of a live studio audience.”
“Caroline looks like she leaves her baby in a hot car to meet firemen.”
Chris Redd got off to a rough start but he recovered and finished strong.
“Back in the day, Alec and Bruce were like brothers. That’s one more brother he’ll never talk to again.”
“Adam Carolla is so boring. I’ve never seen a drier pussy in my life, and that’s coming from me. See Adam, women are funny!”
Jenner closed her set with an inspirational message, telling trans viewers ‘if I’m strong enough to sit up here all night, you can handle anything,” and telling her critics “if you have a problem with that then you can suck my dick… if you can find it!”
“Jeff Ross, you are one fat Jewish man. I feel like you took “Let my people go!” out of context.”
“Alec Baldwin worked as a busboy at Studio 54, where he had to clean up jizz and coke every night. That’s exactly what Nikki looks for in a shampoo!”
“Where are your brothers tonight? God knows they’re not working!”
Rhea may have stuck out like a sore thumb on the dais but she held her own onstage and took all the jokes about her weight in stride.
“Caroline, if you’re here then Salem the Cat must’ve turned it down. Sorry Robert, I know how much you like black pussy.”
“Caitlyn Jenner’s pussy is so young that Alec just called it a “rude, thoughtless little pig.”
“On behalf of the entire NBA and half the rappers on the Billboard charts, thanks for giving your daughters daddy issues.”
Griffin showed his roast experience, dunking on the entire dais, and forcing the industry to wonder, should he be starring in Space Jam 2 instead of LeBron James? Could he be the next Dwayne Johnson or Dave Bautista? The charisma is there…
“Ken Jeong showed his dick in The Hangover, and Ken, I haven’t seen a dick that small since I took my nephew ice-fishing!”
“If you were offended tonight, please give a reach-around to your emotional support dog and shut the fuck up!”
Carolla works a bit better in longer-form, where he can build up a head of steam. His jokes were good, and I liked how he pushed back against the Comedy Police, but it felt like he left a few punchlines on the table.
“It’s hard being the daughter of an iconic movie star, but I’m not here to talk about my mother… or her Oscar.”
“It’s nice to be on a runway without starting beef with American Airlines. I mean, why would you start shit with the one place still playing your movies?”
“At least you taught someone the ABC’s!”
Ireland was the surprise roaster of the night, and frankly, she deserved a few minutes of revenge years after her father left that terribly mean voice mail on her phone. She has grown up to be a beautiful woman, and she showed a lot of poise on stage considering the fact that she isn’t paid to deliver lines, and many other roasters struggled in front of the live audience.
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
“I thought Jimmy Kimmel was here but I was just smelling Adam Carolla’s finger!”
“Alec, your fuse is almost as short as Chris Redd’s IMDb page!”
“Alec Baldwin once made an appearance on Sesame Street. It was the only way he could get close to an Oscar.”
I’ve gotta be honest… Triumph’s shtick is getting a little old… in terms of both human and dog years. When an actual dog is stealing the show from you, what does that say?
Robert De Niro
“After tonight, Rocky and Bullwinkle won’t be the worst thing I’ve ever done!”
“I was in Goodfellas, and I bet Sean has also been in some good fellas.”
“Comedy Central wouldn’t put Caitlyn Jenner on a roast until after her transition so they could pay her 20 percent less.”
I just don’t think this was the right format for De Niro, who struggled with the teleprompter. He was OK, but his timing wasn’t 100 percent. Too bad Comedy Central couldn’t afford to de-age him like Netflix. I heard enough Old De Niro jokes to last me a lifetime. The man is the greatest actor ever, and it just felt weird watching everyone tee off on him like that, but at least he’s a good sport!
“It’s a Saturday Night Live reunion! Alec Baldwin plays Donald Trump. Robert De Niro plays Robert Mueller. Chris Redd plays Kanye. And Caitlyn Jenner donated the dick in the box!”
“Robert De Niro is a method actor. I just wish that method involved reading the script, Bob!”
“Caroline, you look like the schoolteacher all the kids hide behind during a shooting.”
“Adam, you once said that women aren’t funny. Well, they are, and let me tell you, you should’ve hired some to write your jokes tonight!”
The Roastmaster General was pretty damn great, and his set was consistently good. It didn’t have quite the same highs as, say, Nikki Glaser or Blake Griffin’s, but he didn’t have many stinkers in the bunch, and he definitely seemed to get extra camera time.
“Blake, moving from LA to Detroit is so sad. That only happens when a prostitute’s body is sent back to her family.”
“Nikki, were you the flight attendant I was rude to? What devastating comment can I make that Nikki hasn’t already muttered to herself in front of a mirror at Equinox?”
“Ken, the hardest possible title for you to pronounce is Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Baldwin got some good licks in when it was his turn to respond, but the roaster is always in a tough position at these things, because we’ve already heard 3 hours of jokes about each individual on stage, so it becomes harder to surprise the audience as the night wears on. Still, for a guy who made ‘Always Be Closing’ famous, he scored as the evening’s closer.