‘Roast’ is an American term used to describe a heartwarming ritual where someone is singled out and publically subjected to a stream of funny insults from their friends and peers at some event – usually some kind of ceremonial dinner. We don’t use the term ‘roast’ in the same way in the UK, but the ritual is not unfamiliar. A British best man’s speech would be a prime example. And on both sides of the Atlantic it’s understood that the ritualized insults and embarrassing revelations can actually demonstrate fondness, affiliation and somewhat contrarily, respect.
In both the UK and US, the person being ‘roasted’ is required to take the jokes and insults with good humor. In fact taking the jokes in good part is actually an opportunity for them to demonstrate what a good natured soul they are, and thereby gain more esteem. However, there are some transatlantic differences. US roasts include more praise and tributes. And in the UK, where ambiguity is rife, the jokes are allowed to be more barbed and vicious.
When I heard Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe awards last year, I thought “Uh oh, this ‘roast’ is pitched this wrongly for this audience.” What is acceptable in London can easily go over a line in LA and his reviews weren’t good. But he was given another go at it this year so I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I think he’d been well coached in the interim and he was more on target this year. His most vicious jibes were reserved for British actors, who he could be sure would play by his rules and show no offence.
But I have a question about this year’s award ceremony. To me it looked like the recipients of Ricky’s jibes seemed to have prepared responses which I found odd in various ways. Did you think the same? I’m wondering what other folks made of this.