A Comedy Roast. Jimmy Carr. Image credit: Monkey Kingdom.

A Comedy Roast

Jimmy Carr brings the American tradition of the 'comedy roast' to the UK. Targets include Bruce Forsyth, Sharon Osbourne and Chris Tarrant

Bruce Forsyth: A Comedy Roast; Sharon Osbourne: A Comedy Roast; Chris Tarrant: A Comedy Roast
2010 - 2011  (Channel 4)
5 (1 series)
Jimmy Carr, Jack Dee, Sean Lock, Patrick Kielty, Jack Whitehall
Rob Colley, Kevin Day, Dominic English, Dan Gaster, Nick Findlay-Coulson, Miles Jupp, Ged Parsons, Christine Rose, Pete Sinclair, Charlie Skelton, Lee Stuart Evans
Monkey Kingdom

A grand US tradition, the format of a 'roast', is a simple one: a group of people called 'roastmasters' gather together in front of a live audience to make fun of a subject and celebrate all that is good about the 'roastee'. While the tone may seem cutting, sarcastic or salacious, at its heart, the 'roast' is in fact a genuine and affectionate celebration of the talent.

Channel 4's A Comedy Roast honours various bastions of British entertainment: Bruce Forsyth, Sharon Osbourne and Chris Tarrant formed the first batch of episodes, and later it has been the turn of Davina McCall and Barbara Windsor. Each hour long show features some of the country's finest comedic talents, as well as a selection of showbiz pals and acquaintances of the guest of honour, who each in turn deliver a humorous, irreverent, possibly rude, but always affectionate comedy tribute to the living legend.

Hosted by Jimmy Carr, A Comedy Roast features comedic talents and showbiz friends including Sean Lock, Jack Dee, Jonathan Ross, Jason Manford, Jon Culshaw, Alan Carr, Patrick Kielty and more - all of whom 'roast' different aspects of the subject's life, providing hilarious, mischievous and affectionate tributes.

Set in a glamorous ballroom, A Comedy Roast takes inspiration from the New York Friars' Club of the 1920s where the Roasts originated. Just like then, 'victims' are subjected to a mix of insults, tall tales and tributes from their friends - all taken in the best of spirits.

Our Review: The idea of the 'comedy roast' is big in America but is virtually unknown of here in the UK. Jimmy Carr & Co are giving it their best shot to introduce the format to this country too... but not all of it is working. Chris Tarrant clearly hated the jokes made about him, which made for rather uncomfortable viewing; the set dressing behind the speaker's podium is off-putting (thankfully the newer episodes now have a more expensive set), and certain speakers completely fluff their jokes (the weak acts are mainly the celebrity guests who don't possess the necessary timing to deliver auto-cue gags).

That said, a couple of the 'roasters' - particularly Jack Dee, Sean Lock and Patrick Kielty - really enter into the spirit of things and bring to the table some very funny and well crafted close to the bone jokes. The best gag writers in the business have been hired to help create the speeches, and thus there really are some super one-liners delivered. It was some of these more risky gags that help us forgive the weaknesses, and make us pleased we've tuned in to watch.

A special mention here for Sharon Osbourne and Davina McCall who so far have proved to be the best sports and clearly enjoyed themselves, unlike Tarrant and Forsyth who you get the feeling were grinning with gritted teeth and genuinely mentally crossing people off their Christmas card list.