Historical Roasts is now streaming on Netflix.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Greg Wheeler
Historical Roasts is the TV equivalent of dipping cheese and onion crisps in banana yogurt. Almost everyone will take offense, find little to like and screw their nose up at the very thought. Yet there will be people who enjoy this. Perhaps watching Robin Williams and Frankie Boyle last night on YouTube was a bad move before watching this. Roasts can be funny and I’ve seen a few on Comedy Central that prove as much. Step forward Netflix, who throws its roasting contender into the field with Historical Roasts but really fails to offer anything worthwhile here, devolving into a charade of weak insults, shouting and incoherent colloquialisms that go nowhere.
Split across 6 episodes, Historical Roasts is a simple show with a simple premise. For those unaware, the show revolves around one person taking to the stage, surrounded by others who take it in turns to “roast” the man or woman in question. This then ends with the “roastee” taking the stage with a closing statement and the episode credits. Rinse and repeat. The difference here being that the “roaster” is a famous man or woman from history. From Abraham Lincoln and Anne Frank through to Muhammad Ali and Cleopatra, there’s a surprisingly diverse range of figures through history here, giving plenty of ammunition for the battle.
From long, drawn-out stories with a big punchline to simple toilet humor and middle fingers, Historical Roasts throws every joke it can into the mix, with improv singing interspersed throughout the episodes for good measure. Unfortunately, the jokes themselves just aren’t very clever or funny. Some of the insults barely register as a put-down and others like a middle finger to the face, garner the most laughs from the audience which tells you all you need to know about this one.
Now, I know humor is subjective and each person has their own take on what is and isn’t funny to them. If you take to the style of humor here, you’re sure to have a good time but if not, Historical Roasts will feel more like a chore to sit through. There’s a surprising amount of educational content though, with plenty of facts and figures thrown in between the jokes but beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot else to get excited about.
With so much comedy out there and so many golden sitcoms, stand-ups and roasts through history, it’s ironic then that Historical Roasts is one of the worst. There’s far better material all over the internet and on cable that make this show pale in comparison. There will of course be those drawn to this style of humor but there’s nothing that clever, smart or witty about the comedy used here. With better insults, harsher jokes and a more coherent structure, this could be a decent comedic effort. As it stands though, Historical Roasts is disappointing, and a show I have a hard time recommending to anyone.
I give Historical Roasts an F.