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Historical Roasts

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Historical Roasts TV Poster Image
Language and rude jokes in bland roasts of historical VIPs.

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Positive Messages

Viewers can learn fascinating facts about the lives of historical figures while they're being mocked: Abraham Lincoln was a champion wrestler! Curiosity dominates as a theme of this series, and those interested in history will be entertained.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some "historical figures" have important points to make, such as Harriet Tubman's statement that important black people in history like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth often don't get the credit they deserve. Many of the people taken on in this show are admirable -- Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln -- but others are villains of history: Adolf Hitler. 

Violence

Jokes sometimes circle around violence, such as a sequence in which John Wilkes Booth describes how he "blows Abraham Lincoln's brains out." 

Sex

Jokes can veer very rude, as when Mary Todd Lincoln says that the underwear of her time was so difficult to remove that it was easier "if we just sucked their c--ks." She then goes on to talk about how women would then save ejaculate "in a cheesecloth" to "bake into biscuits in the morning" to make "the Cinnabons of their time." Other jokes mention Grindr, "all the guys" Freddie Mercury "jerked off," the (unfounded) rumor that Princess Diana performed oral sex in the limousine in which she died, and so on. 

Language

Cursing is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "damn," "bitch," "c--k," "a--hole," "hell," "ass," "s--t," "motherf--ker," "hell." John Wilkes Booth gives Abraham Lincoln the middle finger.  

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jokes can touch on substance abuse, like a scene in which Mary Todd Lincoln snorts Xanax, stating smilingly that it "hits you faster" that way. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Historical Roasts is a comedy series in which celebrities dressed as important people from the past make fun of other historical figures in a mock roast format. Though viewers may learn quite a bit about the people featured on the show -- which may spark curiosity to know more -- the humor is quite mature, even more so than similar show Drunk History. Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "damn," "bitch," "c--k," "a--hole," "hell," "ass," "s--t," "motherf--ker," and "hell" all make appearances. Jokes often touch on drinking/drugs and sex, for example, a former First Lady who swigs from a liquor bottle and gulps down/chews on/snorts Xanax. Jokes may mention real historical violence and sensitive topics too: the assassinations of Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., slavery, and the Holocaust are all fodder for humor. 

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What's the story?

After making a name for himself roasting celebrities for Comedy Central and the Friars Club, "roastmaster general" Jeffrey Ross takes on the annals of history for HISTORICAL ROASTS. Anne Frank, Freddie Mercury, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cleopatra are all among the VIPs of bygone days who take their place on the hot seat on the dais to be roasted by such past figures both notorious and beloved, like Adolf HItler (Gilbert Gottfried), Princess Diana (Fortune Feimster), and Barack Obama (Brandon T. Jackson). 

Is it any good?

In a post-Drunk History era in which wringing comedy from olden times seems natural, pillorying public figures from the past sounds brilliant, but this show's mostly a swing and a miss. Part of the problem is the selection of historical luminaries being roasted: most people can laugh freely at Adolf Hitler, but working up a head of snark over Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and Freddie Mercury isn't as easy. The roster of guest stars host Jeffrey Ross pulls for Historical Roasts is sparkling -- Seth Green as David Bowie, John Stamos as John Wilkes Booth, and Jaleel White as Muhammad Ali are highlights -- but the jokes they're given just don't land hard or often enough. What are you going to make fun of about Lincoln? His beard? His portrait on the penny? Ross and company do their level best, cracking wise about the Underground Railroad, Civil War-era dysentery, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but they scare up mild laughs at best. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people often like to mock important people and events in history. Do you have to know something about the figure being mocked to get the joke? Can humor help people process serious historical events? 

  • Are any of the historical figures in Historical Roasts positive role models? What worthwhile qualities do they have? What less admirable qualities does this show mock?

  • Does watching this show ignite your curiosity about any one particular figure or event? What's your favorite way to do a deeper dive into history?

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