Thursday 29 June 2017

Television: Roasted Bieber gets the cold shoulder

* The Roast of Justin Bieber, Comedy Central
*Tonight With Vincent Browne, TV3

Justin Bieber and comedian Natasha Leggero in 'The Roast of Justin Bieber'
Justin Bieber and comedian Natasha Leggero in 'The Roast of Justin Bieber'
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

When you think of Justin Bieber, several things immediately spring to mind. First, of course, comes the angst and self-loathing when you realise that you are wasting mental energy by thinking about him at all. But that will soon be replaced by the horrible realisation that you are, like, totally old and irrelevant.

Yes, yes, I know. Tweeny popstars exist on a plane which is impossible to comprehend if you are either a) male or b) over the age of 12. But while few of us who care about music would be able to name more than one of his songs (and I'm guessing that song would be the teeth-grindingly loathsome Baby), the cocky Canadian chipmunk has become a pop cultural phenomenon worthy of his own Roast Of Justin Bieber.

This is depressing on a variety of levels, not least because it just reminds us old farts that they simply don't make bad boys like they used to.

That might seem like sacrilege to the legions of Beliebers who think their idol is a combination of James Dean, Keith Richards and Marilyn Manson, but let's be honest, there are few sights less intimidating than watching young Justin desperately trying to attack the paparazzi as his gigantic bodyguards pretend that they're struggling to restrain him.

Of course, we've all been here before and the sight of a kid emerging from nowhere and gathering millions of fans before having his inevitable public breakdown is a familiar one.

For the uninitiated, American roasts are where some entertainment legend sits in a room while their nearest and dearest showbiz buddies come up with the most demeaning, degrading and hurtful insults they can think of.

It's a rather odd tradition, I suppose, and one which takes the Irish concept of slagging someone to Olympic levels of cruelty. Normally reserved for industry stalwarts such as Joan Rivers, Hugh Hefner and Charlie Sheen, it's a testament to Bieber's cultural impact that he was deemed worthy of such a dubious honour - although whether he will thank his management for forcing him to endure such a public humiliation remains to be seen.

You see, the thing with roasts is this - the person being roasted is usually roasted by their friends (except for one infamous roast of Chevy Chase, when the producers couldn't find anyone who would admit to liking him).

On this occasion, the carefully assembled chorus of celebrity contempt was provided by some people who really, really don't like him.

Martha Stewart appeared and made a series of prison rape jokes, which , in fairness, is not a phrase I ever thought I'd write, while the increasingly uncomfortable Bieber seemed genuinely shocked at the levels of vitriol thrown at him.

But amidst the crude, lewd and gratifyingly gratuitous jokes at his expense, perhaps the most withering assessment came from Hannibal Buress, the comedian who is famous for outing Bill Cosby as a sexual predator.

As Buress told the 21-year-old: "They say that you roast the ones you love, but I don't like you at all, man. I'm just here because it's a real good opportunity for me. I actually hate your music more than Bill Cosby hates my comedy."

For anyone who has never seen a roast before, the whole experience must have seemed like a hideous and needlessly cruel character assassination of a 21-year-old, his family and his fans, such as when comedian Pete Davidson quipped: "I lost my dad in 9/11 and I've always regretted growing up without a dad. Until I met your dad, Justin".

Having said that, when asked after the show how he was going to cope with the demolition derby that had just been conducted on his reputation, he replied: "Man, I'm getting straight onto my private jet and going to Vegas to party."

Which, in fairness to him, is a pretty cool way to have the last laugh.

Of course, we don't need roasts in this country because we have our own one-man roasting-machine, Vinny B. Tonight With Vincent Browne occupies a strange place in the Irish psyche.

Is it a news review programme? Is it a current affairs show? Is it a form of well-paid public therapy for Browne, who seems to undergo some form of primal screaming virtually every night?

Of course, it's actually none of those things. It is primarily an entertainment show; a trendy, media version of Liveline for the kind of people who like to look down their noses at Liveline.

That's not to say there aren't moments of vital public service broadcasting, of course. This week, for example, we discovered that Michael Healy Rae doesn't wear his cap in the Dail because... it doesn't rain inside the building.

Of course, a cynic might point out that it doesn't rain indoors anywhere (unless the weather is worse in Kerry than I imagined) so the only possible explanations for the ubiquitous cap is either because he wants to hide some early baldness or maybe, in the absence of any identifiable policies, he just needs something to remind the public that he actually exists.

What's objectionable about Tonight With Vincent Browne is not the opinions expressed, but the stale, cosy uniformity of those opinions.

Monday saw more dire warnings about income inequality and wealth redistribution. One panellist warned us that we were turning into America (cold, mean, heartless etc.) and cited an example of a family of nine who experienced terrible poverty.

Maybe I'm just getting grumpier by the day, but did it not occur to any of the pundits that maybe if that family hadn't had nine kids in the first place, then they wouldn't have been so poor?

No, of course not. Because that would involve people taking responsibility for their own lives without relying on the State and like all old Lefty luvvies, Browne is made queasy by such heresy.

Even more ridiculous was the assertion by another guest that it was 'time to declare a war on smoking.'

Maybe he has a point.

After all, that whole war-on-drugs crusade is working out really well isn't it?

Irish Independent

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