Hey, guys! Do you like listening to gay jokes and Indian stereotypes and jabs at people’s weight for an hour an forty minutes? If you do, you’ll love the Comedy Central Roast of James Franco. Because why make a joke once when you can have multiple comedians make it over and over and over again? That’s what this roast was. Pretty much everyone who got behind that podium made a vulgar joke about James Franco being gay, a stereotypical comment about Aziz Ansari’s heritage, or a bit at Jonah Hill’s weight fluctuations. I think comedian Billy Eichner summed it up pretty well on Twitter.
For those of you not watching the Comedy Central roast, Jonah Hill is fat and James Franco has played gay characters.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) September 3, 2013
To me, jokes like those are just lazy and take very little creativity, not to mention the fact that we had to hear them over and over again in different forms. Plus, a lot of the humor seemed to derive from the fact that the roasters all knew each other. It’s not really entertaining to watch a bunch of friends giggle over inside jokes you don’t understand in the same way they do.
There were some refreshing moments, however. A surprising few roasters commented on Franco’s love of multi-tasking. Natasha Leggero got a good joke in, saying, “James Franco, acting, teaching, directing, writing, producing, photography, soundtracks, editing — is there anything you can do?” There were a few good pokes at Franco’s tendency to squint. Jeffrey Ross said he was “half Italian and half asleep.” Aziz Ansari turned the gay joke trend on its head by asking if being clean-cut and educated makes you gay: “You think if you read one book and take a shower dicks are going to be flying at your face?” It was vulgar, but at least it challenged the annoying repetition of gay jabs.
But the best part of the night for me was Bill Hader’s bit as the President of Hollywood. It played to his strengths as a creator of characters, a talent roastmaster Seth Rogen made fun of when explaining that fans were live-tweeting: “Speaking of 140 characters nobody gives a shit about, Bill Hader is here.” Did Bill play into a few of the same stereotypes as the other roasters? Yes, but he had a lot of clever jokes, and the fact that it wasn’t really Bill himself saying everything made it more enjoyable. Plus, his confidence really sold it. It was also entertaining to watch how much Bill got a kick out of the other roasters. His laughter was constant. At least somebody enjoyed it. Get a taste of Bill’s bit below, and watch the full segment here for as long as it’s uploaded. Highlights included when he said Dave Franco sounded like a made-up brother name: “James Franco’s got a brother. What’s his name? Dave Franco.” He also turned the roasting on himself, saying you cast Bill Hader in a movie if you “need a best friend’s best friend to ask an exposition question.” Warning that there’s harsh language.