I heard recently an interview between Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and Jeff Ross, “Roastmaster General” of Comedy Central. One of the questions Terry asked was,
“Do people ever request a roast? Or do you have to talk them into it?”
One (to me, surprising) person Ross said had requested a roast was Justin Bieber. According to Ross, Bieber (or, I’m guessing, his publicist) had requested a roast in the wake of a year of negative publicity. The idea was that it would be better for everyone to get their jokes out of their systems in one fell swoop rather than drag them out over weeks of late-night talk shows. According to Ross, Bieber was able to use the roast as a “reset button” on his career. Post-roast, Bieber’s next album was number one.
Whether or not, the roast was the reason for the number one album, this idea struck me as one many of us might benefit from embracing. Whether the rumblings you might be hearing from colleagues, co-workers, or family are ominous or overt, sitting everyone involved down in one place at one time and clearing the air— while possibly hideously uncomfortable in the moment— has the potential to benefit everyone AND to get the conversation over with with expediency.
What qualities does Ross say make for a good roastee? Vulnerability and self-awareness. Two qualities I know I struggle with— as I’m guessing many of you do, too. After all, if we were self-aware, it’s likely we would have recognized— and possibly modified— the behaviors others find irritating. If we were vulnerable, we would have made a point of discussing these perceived flaws with those around us without the need for a roast.
What makes for a fun roast? Ross says the willingness of the people chosen to do the roasting to be fearless with their jokes: not to hold back in deference to the roastee’s feelings. What has the potential to make your roast productive? I’m guessing the same thing: telling those you have included that — in order for this to be useful— they are going to need to be fearless with their comments and criticisms.
And while I’m guessing none of us is likely to enjoy every moment of the roast as it’s occurring, my guess is that— if we have the courage to remain vulnerable and embrace a new awareness of our self moving forward— the atmosphere post-roast is likely to be nourishing.