Anger-management issues, a public cellular spat with his daughter, bumbling brothers, a slumping career, marrying a yoga instructor half his age with whom he has four kids under the age of 6, and other assorted shortcomings, missteps, and meltdowns were all fair game at Saturday night’s Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin.
For three and a half hours Robert De Niro, Caitlyn Jenner, Nikki Glaser, Adam Carolla, Chris Redd, Caroline Rhea, Ken Jeong, and Blake Griffin filled the Beverly Hills landmark Saban Theatre with decidedly NSFW commentary on the actor. For his part, Baldwin proved himself an ideal roastee, punctuating his laughter with reactionary shots of cocked eyebrows, a dropped jaw, and a mouthed series of increasingly astonished wows.
An edited version of the Baldwin roast airs September 15 on Comedy Central, but here are the key takeaways.
A Diverse Set of Roasters
“It’s good to see all the diversity on the stage,” noted Roastmaster Sean Hayes, a Baldwin pal since the latter’s initial 2005 appearance on Will & Grace. “We have gay, trans, black, Asian, mixed … I don’t know whether to roast these people or register them to vote.”
Per usual, no subject was off-limits. Participants’ jokes were equalizing, normalizing, and aimed to unite rather than offend. In the tradition of the historic Friars Club, whose motto remains “We Only Roast the Ones We Love,” dais members came together from disparate backgrounds to foster understanding … and make Alec Baldwin uncomfortable.
Carolla Combats Cancel Culture
Adam Carolla, podcast juggernaut and veteran roaster since taking on Hugh Hefner in 2001, made damn sure his closing remarks were among the boldest of the evening. “If I can rant for just one minute here,” he began before nodding to Baldwin. “You’re a great sport. You have a great sense of humor — unlike the social-justice warriors who are going to be out there tweeting that all the jokes are problematic. You people can blow me, you pussy fucksticks! This is a goddamn roast! Comedians need a place where they can be offensive without your bullshit fake outrage, you hashtag heroes! You already ruined the Oscars! You’re all woke and no joke! So if you were offended by anything said tonight, please give a reach-around to your emotional-support dog and shut the fuck up! This is our safe space, bitches!”
Jeff Ross Ribs Adam Corolla
In years past, Friars Club Roastmaster General Jeff Ross has taken to the red carpet costumed as Joe Paterno (for Roseanne Barr in 2012), a portly Prince (Rob Lowe, 2016), and Kim Jong-un (Bruce Willis, 2018). His 15th Comedy Central roast found him donning a tasteful azure tux, his only prop an oversize white mug bearing Baldwin’s Glengarry Glen Ross catchphrase “Coffee is for closers.”
In his traditional cleanup spot, Ross went after both the professional — “Alec, I saw you in the movie Pearl Harbor, which was worse than the actual Pearl Harbor!” — and the personal, asking his Greenwich Village neighbor, “I watched you get arrested for pummeling a guy over a parking space. Next time, why don’t you just valet your car and help out your brother’s business?”
Ross also proved himself to be an unparalleled improviser, remarking to Carolla, “You once said women weren’t funny. Well, they are, and you should have hired some to write your jokes tonight!”
Caitlyn Jenner Caught a Lot of the Jokes Too
It’s no small secret that as a producer, Ross was dying to bring 69-year-old Caitlyn Jenner onboard in whatever manner she felt most comfortable. The first transgender person to participate in the Comedy Central roasts might have seemed the easiest and most frequent target, but she also had larger goals than simply firing back. (Which she definitely did.) A sampling of the Jenner-directed jokes:
Sean Hayes: “Caitlyn, being here tonight is braver than anything you’ve ever done. But don’t worry, any parts you don’t like can be cut … Give her a big hand, even though she already has two of them.”
Nikki Glaser: “Caitlyn Jenner, you’re such an incredible athlete. People forget how fast you once ran away from your first family to be on a reality show … You’re a Republican, I don’t know why. You’ve already gained control of a woman’s body.”
Chris Redd: “Caitlyn, you’re against gay marriage. You voted for Trump. You’re like the Auntie Tom of the trans community.”
Blake Griffin: “Caitlyn completed her gender-reassignment surgery in 2017, finally confirming that no one in that family wants a white dick … I want to take this moment to publicly thank you. As an athlete, I want to thank you for your bravery. As a human, I want to thank you for the doors you’ve opened. And on behalf of the entire NBA and half the rappers on the Billboard charts, I want to thank you for giving your daughters their daddy issues.”
Robert De Niro: “Comedy Central wanted to wait to have Caitlyn on a roast until after her surgery so now they can pay her 20 percent less.”
Alec Baldwin: “Caroline Rhea hasn’t been laid in so long she went through Caitlyn Jenner’s trash looking for dick.”
Jeff Ross: “Caitlyn, you supported Donald Trump despite his policies. How could someone who chooses to be a woman vote against a woman’s right to choose? Who did you transition into? Man Coulter? … You proved tonight that you’re not only a great athlete, you’re also a great sport. You’re an inspiration to Republican transgender Olympic decathlon winners everywhere.”
In closing, Jenner herself took a moment to get confessional — and return the favors. “Look, I know some of you hate me just because I’m me. Some of you hate me because of the things I’ve said in the past. Well hey, I’m not perfect. I’m a person trying to figure out my life, just like everyone else. All I want is for future generations of transgender people to know that if I can find the courage to be who I am, then you can too. If you have a problem with that, then you can suck my dick! If you can find it!”
Ireland Baldwin Got Back at Her Dad
Comics made cracks about his athletic ability, but basketball player Blake Griffin proved a surprising star. One of his stronger moments came when he described the Baldwin brothers as “the original Wayans Brothers, if the Wayans brothers said the N-word a lot more.”
Yet the sneaky MVP of the evening might have been Ireland Baldwin, who showed up unbeknownst to her father. Like Demi Moore at last year’s Bruce Willis roast, she was in a personal position to say things the professionals couldn’t.
“It’s good to be here,” she enthused up top. “I almost didn’t even know about it because I haven’t checked my voicemails from my dad for the last, like, 12 years. I actually have a lot in common with the people on this roast because, like them, I don’t really know you that well either.
“A lot of people only know my dad as an angry guy, but he’s more than some lunatic who loses his temper. He also loses Emmys and Oscars and custody of his first-born child, am I right?
“Let me just set the record straight. He was a great dad. I still remember when he would tuck me in and yell me a bedtime story. His favorite: ‘The Three Little Thoughtless Pigs.’”
But don’t worry: It ended well, with the two sharing a big, extended hug at the end of it all.
De Niro Was the Real Headliner
As Hayes enthused before Baldwin first took the stage, “Now let’s get to the real reason we’re all here tonight: to meet Robert De Niro!”
The revered Godfather II, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas actor appeared dwarfed in an oversize purple chair and was slightly rambly at the teleprompter, but he unquestionably loomed large over the proceedings. As Jeong put it, “Alec, you weren’t the star of 30 Rock, and with De Niro here, you’re not even the star of your own roast.”
An extended standing ovation welcomed De Niro to the microphone, where he stood shaking his head in disbelief at his own presence: “I know, I know. What the fuck am I doing here?”
“I’m happy to be here for Alec,” he later admitted, “but honestly I’m here to teach Chris Redd, Caitlyn Jenner, and Blake Griffin how to fuck black women.”
On playing Robert Mueller to Baldwin’s 45th president in Saturday Night Live sketches, De Niro followed previous roasters in making his political leanings known: “I have to mention Alec’s great portrayal of Donald Trump on SNL. He fucking nails it, exposing Trump for the ridiculous, malignant, narcissist bully sociopath he is.” Waiting for the applause break to die down, he returned the focus to his friend the roastee. “It’s not fair, though, because Alec doesn’t even have to act to do that.”
Of course, it was Baldwin who got the final say at the end of the night. “I love all of you,” he told his roasters. “And if you don’t believe me, just check your voicemails.”