He’s William Shatner, the man behind Captain James T. Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane, and creator of musical arrangements of “Rocket Man” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” most fans will never forget. The man’s feud with cast members of “Star Trek” have been legendary and his treatment of fans has been notably poor at times. Heck, “Star Trek” fan and “Next Generation” cast member Wil Wheaton even writes about him as “Willam F***ing Shatner.” Who better to be targeted for a roast? But when Shatner takes the stage, how come nobody notable is there to belittle him? Roasting a man used to be a chance for friends and family to join together and humiliate someone through humorous stories and tales, sometimes resorting to direct insults. The focal point was always the man of the hour – someone notable who was actually being celebrated through the humiliation. Comedy Central takes a slightly different approach with their Roasts – which use direct insults through crude dick and fart jokes where anyone is an eligible target.
William Shatner is supposed to be the celebrated celebrity in this case (hence why it’s called “Roast of William Shatner”) and initially he’s given treatment worthy of his notorious ego. Shatner rides in on a white horse, taking his place on the stage – the only place worthy of the legendary Shatner – his original “Star Trek” captain’s chair, on loan from the Science Fiction museum where it normally sits. Shatner takes his place and looks on with a frozen open-mouthed grin on his face as comedians take the podium. From there, the roast goes downhill quickly.
The problem isn’t the fault of Roastmaster General Jason Alexander, although you have to wonder how Jerry Seinfeld’s sidekick wound up as master of ceremonies for a William Shatner roast. Was Leonard Nimoy busy? What about Shatner’s current co-star, James Spader? There are familiar faces on the stage with Shatner in the form of Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and “Boston Legal” guest Betty White, but the rest of the stage is made up of people you wouldn’t associate with Shatner – geek fanboys like Patton Oswalt and Comedy Central Roast regulars like Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Ross.
Having very few people who are familiar with Shatner beyond the body of his work might explain the approach most take to the Roast. You see, not knowing Shatner all that well, most of the Roasters turn their attacks upon each other, since anyone on the stage is fair game for insults. You can’t count how many times “George Takei is gay” jokes are made at the recently outted actor’s expense, but you can bet there are at least as many “Andy Dick is gay” jokes. It’s pretty clear anyone on the stage is fair game for the Roast, although a few comedians don’t limit themselves even to that, making fat comments about Carrie Fisher (in the audience) and even targeting the absent Janeane Garafalo. The problem is that so much attention is paid to the whole stage that most of the comedians putter out before reaching Shatner. The man of the hour is woefully left alone for a great deal of the Roast.
Part of the blame might be attributed to the success of last year’s “Roast of Pamela Anderson” where anyone was fair game as a target. But, come on – when you have a stage that consists of Anderson, Tommy Lee, and Courtney Love, you have to target everyone and anyone. This year’s Roast attempts to recapture that anarchistic event down to more insults at Courney Love’s expense, but fails miserably. With Shatner and company this is a slightly more distinguished crowd – or at least a little less crude, but the comedians don’t change their game and the result is disappointing.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good punchlines in the 80 minutes of insults and gay jokes. Kevin Pollak announces his decision to stay away from the “poo poo and kaa kaa jokes” that the rest of the crowd revels in and shares his story of having to tell Shatner how to do a Shatner impersonation. Patton Oswalt asks offers the Enterprise captain a little brown bag, asking him to act his way out of it. Sadly, however, these gems are diamonds in the rough.
It’s clear the impact Shatner has had on some of the geeks and comedians present. While some putter out before getting to the legend, others have too much reverence for the actor who boldly went where no man had gone before and always got the girl. It’s just a shame Comedy Central chose to go with the staples of their Roasts instead of providing an entertaining evening with people who really knew Shatner and could really shed some light on some embarrassing tales for the man, the myth, and the legend. The biggest claim this DVD release has is that it is “extended and uncensored.” With such a long time since the special’s television airing, I couldn’t tell you what comes with the extended element of the Roast but it certainly is Uncensored. Foul language that even most civilized cursers would pass by (including the dreaded “c” word) is unbleeped and presented for your amusement. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to you.
There are very few extras on the DVD, with less than fifteen minutes of bonus material. The primary focus of the behind-the-scenes footage and the “Making of the Roast” featurette seems to be to communicate that Shatner really doesn’t know most of the people who are roasting him, which makes me wonder why he’d agree to do this. That’s a question left unanswered, but Shatner does seem to be a good spirit about being torn apart by people he barely knows.
“Red Carpet Interviews” is the largest of the bonus material, with about eight minutes of interviews conducted before and after the show. Although the interviews themselves are nothing special, the featurette is interesting if, for no other reason, than to watch the host shift from giggly pre-show interviews to slightly too drunkenly post-show interviews.
Comedy Central tacks on a few “quickies” – short cuts from three of their regular shows, “The Colbert Report,” “Drawn Together,” and “Reno 911.” The clips have nothing to do with the Roast and are presumably included just for exposure.
If vile insults are your thing, you’d probably be better off checking out last year’s “Roast of Pamela Anderson.” If you’re looking for a quality roast or insight into William Shatner, there’s little to nothing actually good here other than a few quick punchlines. The DVD offers even less worth checking out. Hopefully Shatner got a few good drinks out of the evening because nothing else memorable came from his Roast.
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