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DVD Review: ‘The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts – Complete Collection’

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Over a decade ago, the Comedy Central network began their attempts at recreating the spirit found in the old Dean Martin roasts of yesteryear. Please note how I said “attempts”. Frankly, they just didn’t seem to get it then – and I think they might still be struggling with the concept (I haven’t wasted my time with any of the more recent specials since I sat dumbfounded in a bar that last time wondering if I had indeed been slipped a Mickey, or if Flavor Flav was indeed a guest of honor for such an event). Granted, since most of today’s television viewing audiences haven’t yet figured out how to distinguish the difference between their elbows and their asses, I guess they don’t know what’s wrong with the current, contemporary format of the celebrity roast.

First off, it requires an actual real celebrity; not somebody who is just a joke to begin with. Larry the Cable Guy, David Hasselhoff, and Donald Trump don’t cut it. Secondly, the roasters should be actual acquaintances of the honorees in question – not complete strangers whose only connection with the man/woman of the hour is that they’re both semi-recognizable to the apathetic stoners sitting at home in front of the television set. In fact, there’s only one sure way to figure out how to do a roast properly: pick up The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection.

the-dean-martin-celebrity-roasts-complete-collection-dvd-review-blogcriticsThis amazing 25-disc set from StarVista Entertainment and Time Life brings us over 40 hours of classic celebrity roasts from the Ghost of Television’s Past – as hosted by none other than the one and only Dean Martin. Originally beget as a ratings booster for the final season of Dean Martin’s own NBC variety show, the tamed-down (from the non-broadcast roasts) televised mockeries of popular performers, athletes, and political figures soon turned into a series of regular roasts on the same network. The roasts consisted of little more than Martin, usually the host (or roastmaster, if you will) of the silly soirees, gathering a small group of famous men and women to playfully ridicule whoever was deemed the guest of honor.

While the jokes certainly never got to the point that the network needed to censor them, the writers for these specials were anything by clean: they just knew their way around such things through all their years in the industry. This was an era where a good double entendre was all you needed (and could get away with) – which seems so much more intelligent than hearing the crude and completely lackluster vulgarities heard on Comedy Central roasts today. Why, even when Don Rickles showed up back then, he’d still be on his best behavior; he just worded it differently is all. And Mr. Rickles and his patented personal attacks are frequent guests in this collection of specials from yesteryear – as are a slew of other famous faces: Frank Sinatra, George Burns, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Betty White, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Orson Welles (yes, always!), and even Truman Capote.

Granted, most of those faces aren’t easily recognizable by today’s youth (if any at all), but if people would just raise their children the proper way, this wouldn’t be a problem, now would it? (Of course, there are some celebrities who nobody probably even remembered back then that appear here and there – I noticed one poor dolt who was apparently edited out in syndication and is only shown walking in and laughing at the jokes of everyone else!)

Housed in a charming case, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection contains several individual (and individually sealed) releases inside – all of which feature a random assortment of the absolute crème de la crème Martin and his writers could squeeze in. Two bonus sets are also included within, which total more than an additional 15-hours of content, and give us a look at some of the truly unique programming that families had the pleasure of seeing today as opposed to mind-numbing reality shows and ultra-violent police procedurals. A booklet is also housed under the hood of the set which highlights some of the funniest jokes uttered by the many, many guest roasters.

Available exclusively from deanroasts.com, the limited edition box set – which comes complete with a bonus Dean Martin action figure (!) – is a great gift for your friends and family who either remember these grandiose moments of comedy gold, or anyone who has seen one too many of the modern Comedy Central roasts and whom you need to properly educate on how this sort of affair was executed correctly.

And besides, everyone needs more Foster Brooks in their life.

Highly recommended.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.