Before pseudo-celebrities and tabloid bait became the new trend for the Friar’s roasts, Dean Martin was a bonafide MC who roasted some of his favorite celebrity friends, and iconic actors with much hilarity. From 1973 to 1984, the celebrity roasts were priceless, and Dean Martin never failed to deliver with laughs, antics, and some of the most famous celebrities hob knobbing and riffing on one another. The 6 DVD Set from Time Life features a dozen celebrity roasts, along with some extra footage for fans looking for more laughs for people actually worthy of roasting.
The new edition marks the ninth season of the Roasts, with Dean Martin tackling some of his most newsworthy Hollywood pals. Disc One features two roasts for Bob Hope, and Johnny Carson, both of whom garner their share of friends as well as regulars like Rich Little. Aside from Kevin Spacey, Little can deliver an excellent Carson impression. Disc Two features the roasting of Jimmy Stewart, and fellow Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr. Disc Three is the roast of the legendary Jack Benny, along with notorious comedy queen Lucille Ball, who manages to throw in some good jabs at her roasters when her time comes.
Disc Four finds the mast of ceremonies Dean Martin get his chance at the hot seat, while episode two features Kirk Douglas getting his roasting. Disc Five brings us Michael Landon, who garners some jabs from past co-stars, including Melissa Gilbert. As a hardcore “The Honeymooners” fan, my favorite is Jackie Gleason, who is given a lot of guff for his penchant for drinking and his weight. One of the funnier moments involve Art Carney coming up dressed as Ed Norton, and the pair giving an impromptu Ralph and Norton moment. Disc Six gives some time to the then risque comedian Don Rickles, while the last episode involves the roasting of Joan Collins.
These episodes are pure Hollywood treasures for anyone who is a fan of the classic Hollywood when celebrities had talent and something to offer. Surely Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball were notorious mongers on the set, while Dean Martin was mostly a clubber, but they had unique gifts, while the roasts were often very funny without being reliant on shock value. Save for Don Rickles. You can’t help but love it when people like Sid Caesar and Ruth Buzzi get on stage to throw in their barbs.
The DVD set from Time Life also offers some unique extras, including “Dean’s Place,” the TV Special featuring Angie Dickenson and Robert Mitchum, and “Dean Martin’s Red Hot Scandals of 1926” guest starring Dom DeLuise and Abe Vigoda. There’s a small featurette entitled “Legend of the Roasts,” a segment entitled “The Art of the Roast,” as well as a featurette about Martin entitled “The King of Cool: Always in Fashion.” Finally, there are a series of short interviews with Roast regulars like Don Rickles, Ruth Buzzi, Tim Conway, Rich Little, Jackie Mason, and Betty White.