It’s a very special edition of Notes From a Comedy Junkie as our own Sara Dahms flew out to Los Angeles to cover Comedy Central’s Roast of Bruce Willis. Sara is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found Andrew Dice Clay and became a stand-up junkie for life. Eighteen months ago, she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday. Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. Read all Sara’s write-ups here, and check out her red carpet coverage of the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis with interviews with Nikki Glaser, Dom Irrera, Samm Levine and more!
The Roast of Bruce Willis was hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and featured Nikki Glaser, Kevin Pollak, Cybill Shepherd, Lil Rel Howery, Edward Norton, Martha Stewart, Dom Irrera, Dennis Rodman, Jeff Ross and special surprise guest, Demi Moore!!! Everyone was there to honor the man of the hour Bruce Willis.
Nikki Glaser was the first comedian to take the podium. Glaser is a knockout and I’m not just talking about her gorgeous looks. Nikki Glaser literally delivered and completely knocked-out the entire dais one joke at a time! She opened with a one-two punch of a joke that started with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and then ended by nailing Cybill Shepherd! Damn! She then had a hilarious, topical Thai cave joke that was directed at Martha Stewart. Her next target was Kevin Pollak. Not only did she completely deliver hilarious jokes at his expense, she also proved that there is a way to find the funny in a subject matter as dark as suicide! She is a genius! I wasn’t sure how anyone would be able to write jokes to make fun of Edward Norton but Nikki had two killer jokes about him that officially solidified her status as a comedic killer and roaster extraordinaire! It was an awesome way to start the show!
Kevin Pollak was up next and opened with an edgy and hilarious joke about Gordon-Levitt’s long lasting acting career. Pollak then came for Nikki Glaser and delivered a super funny joke about anal sex and Nikki’s face and response to it was priceless!!! She officially needs to be invited to every roast from now on!!! Kevin then turned to Edward Norton and Jeff Ross before ending his set with a message to Bruce Willis delivered through a spot on impression of Christopher Walken. Pollak completely nailed it and continues to be a really amazing impressionist!
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis’ “Moonlighting” co-star opened with a “BBQ Becky” joke then came for Edward Norton and shared the real “first rule of Fight Club” with the room! So funny! Cybill Shepherd played Martha Stewart in two movies and had a ton of comedy gold about that experience. Then, she came for Bruce… and she was hilarious!!! A lot of the humor of her jokes came from the fact that she and Bruce had so much well-documented turmoil on set so you really couldn’t tell fact from fiction, which completely elevated her material about Bruce to another level of funny! Cybill Shepherd looked amazing, had fantastic material and completely nailed her set.
Lil Rel Howery made some comparisons between Jeff Ross and Bruce Willis’ looks which were super funny before moving on to Dennis Rodman. As a native of Chicago, Lil Rel gave Dennis his due respect for the three championship rings he helped The Chicago Bulls to win and then proceeded to tell some hilarious truths about Dennis that really required zero punchlines because Rodman’s reality is funny enough in and of itself!
If there was an Oscar category for “outstanding performance in a comedy roast,” Edward Norton would be taking home that award without a doubt, no questions asked!!! He completely stole the show with his amazingly well-written material that was more of a speech than anything else and was almost entirely directed at his good friend Bruce Willis. Edward’s set was the highlight of the night for me. It wasn’t written in traditional joke form yet was funny, creative and delivered with the professional articulation that you would expect from a talented, intelligent actor such as Edward Norton. Edward offered a deep dissection of how Bruce Willis got to be so damn famous after all of the shit he pulls both on and off the set, while alternating with a perfect balance between self-deprecation and self-praise throughout the entire time he spent at the podium. Norton brought his performance to a close with a true and heartwarming story about a letter he received from Bruce regarding a play Edward was in. Norton was full of respect and admiration for Bruce and then, completely unexpectedly he laid down the hammer and surprised us all with a “Fight Club” like twist ending to his set that kept all of us second guessing reality!!! Edward Norton was absolutely brilliant, hilarious and truly proved that comedy is in fact an art form.
After Edward Norton’s performance, all I could ask myself was who the hell is going to follow that?! The answer? Martha Stewart… and she was an absolute gangster! Not only did she have the funniest #MeToo joke I have ever heard, she also had the funniest retort of the night. Her hilarious retort was aimed at Cybill Shepherd and it was crazy funny!!! Martha Stewart completely nailed Shepherd while maintaining her class and pose the entire time!!! Martha had great comedic timing and material about almost everyone on the dais. She ended her set on her good friend and neighbor, Bruce Willis! It was really juicy stuff! I won’t kill her joke by telling you what she said, but her closer absolutely killed!!!!!!
You can tell the level of talent Dom Irrera is operating on because some of his funniest lines were written right there on the spot with a retort to Martha and A TON of material about the amazing set Edward Norton had two spots before him!!! Now that is a real professional! His prewritten material was also hilarious. There were several jokes that were told throughout the night that were aimed at Edward Norton regarding his past relationship with Courtney Love but I laughed the hardest at the one Dom wrote. Besides his outstanding comedic prowess, another thing I love about him is that he gives absolutely zero fucks! He managed to say both “no-no words” “N” and “C” three times within the same joke! Dom ended his set with what I thought was going to be the traditional warm/serious bit when the comedian tells the crowd how much the person of the hour who is being roasted actually means to them and then gets sentimental for a minute but boy was I wrong!!! His closing statement that started out warm and fuzzy quickly took a filthy, X-rated turn and was focused on Bruce’s three daughters who were all in the crowd! I loved it but the Comedy Central censors may not agree! I’m really interested to see what of Dom’s material will make the final cut!
The perfect person to follow Dom Irrera’s adult-themed surprise roaster of the event, Demi Moore!!!! She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! Holy crap! Her set was completely aimed at her ex husband and all of her jokes hit. She had the perfect balance of zings and love in her heartfelt delivery and it was this perfectly balanced act that ended up being the set that cracked the stoic stone that is Bruce Willis. The man, the myth the legend welled up at the end of set and it was a really beautiful moment in comedy to witness!
Dennis Rodman was a last minute addition to the dais and I have to imagine was a really big get for this roast given his current travels to North Korea and his ties to Kim Jung-Un; but I am sad to report that the real value he brought to the event was in the endless amount of Dennis Rodman jokes and material he provided to everyone just by being on the dais. Unfortunately, he did not do well when it was his turn to take the podium. Dennis stopped several times throughout his set to repeat jokes that he flubbed, to compose himself and to remind the audience it was his first time doing anything like this. My heart really did go out to him and the crowd was super supportive applauding him and encouraging him to fight his way through his bumpy set. Dennis did manage to get a few laughs in and ended up finishing his set with a sentimental statement about Bruce Willis which brought him to tears. He may have five NBA Championship rings, be responsible for bringing The United States together with North Korea and promoting world peace but not everyone is cut out for comedy. Good try though Dennis!
The last comedian to take the podium before Bruce Willis came up was the one and only Roastmaster General, Jeff Ross! I saw Jeff run his set at The Comedy Store the night before so I was really looking forward to seeing him perform it to this room! Jeff Ross is a Roastmaster in the truest sense of the word. He tells joke after joke, a mile a minute, zing after zing…. and they are all gold! Every single one of the hundred different jokes Ross throughout at the dais hit and got big laughs! How is that even possible?! I have no idea how he does it but it is awe inspiring to watch. No one was safe and nothing is sacred!!! I loved all of the jokes he had especially the ones about Martha Stewart, Dennis Rodman and Edward Norton but my favorite part of Jeff’s set was when he turned his attention towards the man of the hour, Bruce Willis. The adage goes that you should only roast the ones you love and it was clear throughout his set that these two guys have a real friendship so hearing Jeff bust Bruce’s balls had a genuine feeling of friendly banter to it that elevated his performance to an even higher level and was truly magical to watch. Jeff Ross embodies what the tradition of roasting is all about and I feel extremely lucky to have been able to see him roast this dais and his good friend, Bruce Willis live. It was amazing! Bravo!
Bruce Willis was an excellent roastee. He laughed along with the room and rolled with the punches of being the butt of joke after joke throughout the event. But when Willis took the podium, look out! He made it perfectly clear that it was his turn now! He addressed everyone on the dais and had some really great jokes and retorts for many of the insults that were flung at him. Bruce did a great job closing the show and really turned the event into a party because as soon as he took his bow he whipped out his harmonica and rocked out right there on the stage. He is REALLY good! Bruce played the show out and all of the members of the dais joined him on the stage. It kind of reminded me of how Saturday Night Live closes their shows. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.
I can’t wait to watch “The Roast of Bruce Willis”when it airs on Comedy Central on July 29th at 10:00 ET!