How To Write And Perform A Comedy Roast

A comedy roast is an event where a group of people gather to make embarrassing and unflattering jokes about a specific guest of honor in front of an audience. The assumption is that the person being roasted will be able to laugh at themselves and take all the jokes in good humor.  Poking fun at friends or co-workers or even your boss (if you dare) is always a good laugh but you do need to know where to draw the line. You don’t want to go overboard and end up with someone running to the nearest bathroom stall to cry hysterically at your savagery. 

True, humor is subjective, but what one person finds offensive, another might find hilarious. This is why it is so important that the person you plan on subtly humiliating is a good sport. You don’t want to poke fun at someone who could react badly. It’s ironic really, the people who deserve to get a good roast are the ones that get offended the easiest.

So before you start constructing your roast, you need to remember a few things first.

Getting Ideas For The Roast

With anything creative in life, you need to draw inspiration and generate ideas before putting pen to paper. If you are not really experienced with roasts, it may be worth watching old Friars Club or Comedy Central Roasts of other people to see what techniques and styles are used. 

When thinking about who you will roast, know whether or not if you will need to tone it down. You can’t roast your boss about their recent divorce but you could roast a friend about how they can’t find a date. 

Think about all the strange habits or quirks of the person you intend to roast. Do they snore really loudly? Do they take freebies from hotels? Do they always leave the toilet seat up?  These little things can offer a unique insight into the person being roasted.

If you are looking for more ideas, recall notable memories, which are usually a fantastic source for a good roast. Was there ever a time where the person did something really stupid, like drop their phone down a  portable toilet at a festival or get lost in Ikea? These fond memories are perfect for teasing someone.

The best roasts usually have an element of truth in them so don’t go crazy trying to think up obscure joke topics. Just state the obvious about the person, especially things that everyone watching can easily recognize about your target. Can they not grow a beard? Do they have a squeaky voice? Do they never stop using their phone? As long as you have something that you know everyone can laugh at, you can be sure that the roast will be awesome.

Writing The Roast

Once you have some solid ideas about what to joke about, it’s time to get to work. Generally roast jokes follow one of two formats which is either:

  • Setup – misdirection
  • Hyperbole/comparison (like telling adult “yo mama” jokes)

A strong introduction is always important; talk about how you know the person, list three things about them with the third thing being a total misdirection. 

For example: “I have known Matt since high school. He’s a great father, loving husband and always farts when he’s nervous! I guess that explains the smell in here.”

Your roast should be organized in such a way that that audience will grasp the content. Think of a roast as humor and sentiment combined with tasteful vulgarity. The punch lines are the key ingredient to roasts and your “I got you” moment. Think about making note cards where you put one story or joke setup on one side and the other side has the punchline. You also want to end the roast in a loving, light-hearted way by talking about how much you love the person (unless it’s your boss, in which you say you admire them). A roast is a delicate balance between funny and insulting, composed of hilarious memories, weird occurrences, embarrassing situations and shocking revelations, but all done with love.

Once you have your material ready, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion. You don’t want to find out that your material is too sensitive when you are performing. Not only is it awkward but you come across as mean instead of funny. You could ask a family member or co-worker or someone who will know if the joke is going too far. You also want to pick someone who is going to be discreet about your material, you don’t want it going back to the person or all your jokes getting around before you get the chance to perform them. 

Once you have everything ready, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! A roast is a performance and you need to be stage ready.  The whole point of the roast is to make people laugh, and in order to do so you need to feel comfortable and confident performing your material. You may want to practice performing in front of a mirror a few times before you do it for real so you can spot what you might be doing wrong. Alternatively, film yourself performing and watch the replay for places to improve.

Performing The Roast

Once you have your material, it’s not too offensive and you know it by heart, now it’s time to perform. Doing a roast in front of people, especially for the first time, can be a little scary. You might be inclined to just get it over with as quickly as possible so you can sit back down. This is why you should aim to practice timing before performing. Being funny is about being able to pace yourself so focus on including pauses so that your audience can keep up, especially when delivering your savage punchline. 

Another important element while performing is watching the person’s body language. If they are laughing with everyone, you haven’t been deleted off FaceBook yet. If the person looks uneasy or uncomfortable, skip to another topic as quickly as possible. Sometimes a person will do a fake smile but have their arms or legs crossed which indicates they are unhappy.

The last thing to remember about performing is to say everything with confidence. If you don’t sound confident then even the funniest jokes will fall flat. You have to really believe in your jokes or at least pretend that you do. Stand up straight, look around the room, speak in a clear and confident tone. You’ve got this!

James D. Creviston

James D. Creviston is a writer, blogger, comedian, and podcaster in Los Angeles. He is the producer of the wildly popular Clean Comedy Hour stand up show, as well as the co-host of The Clean Comedy Podcast. James has been doing stand up for the last three years and has performed in LA and NY at some of the hottest clubs. James is a former veteran of the United States Navy as well as a graduate of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. He is an avid comic book, television, and movie nerd. James can be seen performing his clean comedy all over the United States and heard giving advice on his weekly podcast The Clean Comedy Podcast.

Recent Posts