Roast Of William Shatner

Roast Of William Shatner (2007)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: William Shatner, Jason Alexander, Andy Dick, Lisa Lampanelli, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols
Extras: Behind-the-scenes Footage, Interviews, Featurette

Released by Paramount Home Entertainment, Comedy Central's "Roast" series continues with "Roast Of William Shatner." This was the first time I was watching a roast and quite frankly I have to say I'm unimpressed.

Here's how it works. William Shatner is the center of the event and friends, collaborators and comedians simply poke a lot of fun at him as a man, his personality, his career, his acting and so forth. That could be a hilarious thing, because Shatner offers a lotto talk about and has a lot of edges that would lend themselves to be made fun of. Sadly here it is an opportunity missed. After the second comedian trying to copy his 3-word over-acting style is through, it's just not funny any more. And yet, almost every single participant in the roast gives us his or her Shatner impersonation. Yawn…

In the one corner you have the likes of Nichelle Nichols, Kevin Pollack, Farrah Fawcett, Jason Alexander and Bettie White – supposedly as Shatner's friends though you can't shake the feeling some of them never met him. In the other corner you have a handful of aspiring comedians, including Andy Dick, Greg Giraldo, George Takei, Lisa Lamanelli and Artie Lange among others. Each person gets a turn to hurl some dirt – supposedly targeted at the man of the hour – but again most of them fail. The majority of the "comedians" hurl hurtful jokes at their fellow comedians that are usually way below the belt. I mean, sometimes this felt like a verbal highschool brawl, not a "roast" hosted by grown men. Maybe someone should explain a "roast" to them at one time because it does not necessarily mean that you have to spit out uninspired sophomoric slander, but to poke fun. These are two very different things. I also wasn't interested in the "Roast Of Andy Dick," to be honest, which this show feels a lot like.

The biggest problem I had with the show however is how scripted it feels. There is no spontaneity, really. The comedians come up with their notes and read their jokes from a sheet of paper they prepared – or that the producers gave them, who knows? The routine goes like this. Read a joke, audience laughs, comedian politely smiles. Read a joke, audience laughs, comedian politely smiles. And so on. If at least the jokes were good that would be tolerable, but with few exceptions they were just mediocre.

The "friends" fared a bit better I thought. Betty White's piece is funny, though I found it slightly insulting how the producers pretty much made her include a raunchy comment. If it had been her own idea, fair enough, but in the bonus materials you can see how she's being coached into the delivery so it was simply added for its own sake – gratuitously so. Nichelle Nichols gets a mere 30 seconds or so, what's up with that? And Farrah blew them all away, first pretending to be completely spaced out, and then simply turning off the shtick and talking seriously and firing back in a very funny manner.

Don't get me wrong. There are some hilarious highlights in "Roast Of William Shatner" but they are far too few. I know that the roast is about "skewering" people but at least target it at the man of the hour, show some creativity and keep it impromptu.

A few extras are included, such as brief behind-the-scenes interviews with the participants and a look at the production of the show. All in all the extras are very slim and short and don't really convey much.

The image on this DVD is presented in fullframe and the presentation is clean and clear, without noise or other artifacts. Colors are strong and saturated making for a pleasing and vibrant picture.

The audio comes to you in the form of a Dolby Stereo track that fully serves its purpose. A note on the packaging says that the music and content has been changed from the broadcast version. I'm not sure what that refers to exactly but I'm not sure it really matters either.

"Roast Of William Shatner" was my first taste of the Comedy Central "Roast" series and I am quite sure it will be my last. I simply do not care for the toilet bowl humor so excessively on display here. I wanted to see William Shatner being roasted and the show didn't deliver. Instead it set off a barrage of cheap, hurtful shots at the other participants and simply repeated itself over and over and over again. If you have to see this, make it a rental.