Arts preview: Comedy Roasts

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive

Part “Everything Wrong With…” video, part Mystery Science Theater 3000, part Dean Martin Celebrity Roast and part comic-costume party, the comedy roast of [insert pop-culture trope here] is providing ample fodder for the local standup scene.

Sci-fi heroes, comic book characters, Disney movie favorites — all have suffered and will continue to suffer the slings and arrows of Columbus standup comedians.

“I saw one of these for the first time [a few years back] at a comedy festival in Knoxville and I wondered, ‘Why is no one doing this [in Columbus]?'” Dustin Meadows said in an interview at a Downtown restaurant.

A roast of Luke Skywalker, timed to the opening of “The Force Awakens,” kicked things off, and a successful franchise was born. No fewer than seven panel roasts are scheduled in Columbus between now and the end of the year, in part because past roasts have sold out.

“It's a chance to do something different, comedy-wise, both writing and performing,” Meadows said.

Having fun at the expense of characters that are known commodities to the audience adds to the understandable appeal.

“You don't have to hold anything back when you're saying mean things about a fictional character,” Meadows said.

At a recent Roast of the Disney Villains, Nickey Winkelman portrayed Maleficent.

“My thing was to put curses on all the other characters,” she said, adding that most anything goes. “We spend a lot of time poking fun at other comedians' costumes.”

Meadows said it's imperative, though, to stay in character, to avoid “ruined friendships.”

Despite the recurring Disney theme, “these are not kid-friendly shows,” Meadows said.

“It's all the things you're thinking about these characters but don't want to say in front of the kids,” Winkelman added.

For example, Meadows said, at a recent Roast of Disney Princesses one comic wondered why Ariel wouldn't know what a fork was despite the fact her father carried a giant one.

Meadows and Winkelman provide some guidance, but comedians are generally free to choose their own characters. Costumes and jokes are all done independently as well, which can result in the occasional “that was my joke” reaction among panelists.

“It forces you to be creative,” Meadows said. “Some of the stuff is ad-libbed anyway.”

Upcoming Comedy Roasts

Roast of the Disney Villains: July 11, July 18 and Sept. 26 at Backstage Bistro

Roast of Spiderman: July 31 at Mikey's Late-Night Slice Downtown

Roast of the Disney Heroes: Aug. 22 at Backstage Bistro

Roast of Dracula: Oct. 31 at Backstage Bistro

Roast of Santa Claus: Dec. 22 at Backstage Bistro