Historical Roasts is a popular Netflix series masterminded by Comedy Central’s Jeff Ross. And in this show, Jeff Ross takes a leaf out of the Comedy Central book and puts a whole new spin on the roast format: injecting history into the mix. Historical figures from Anne Frank to Freddie Mercury walk on stage to be slammed by their affiliates and Jeff Ross, the self proclaimed “Roastmaster General,” as well as other guests of honor in the audience.
I was very apprehensive about watching Historical Roasts. So apprehensive I skipped on watching it when it initially came out to avoid watching an overwhelming flop. But, just a few weeks after its release, I took the plunge. And I was surprised, mostly pleasantly. Only a modern comedy legend like Jeff Ross could even remotely pull off jokes about Mary Todd Lincoln’s drug problem. He also brings a pretty effective ensemble of actors to play these roasters, including John Stamos as John Wilkes Booth and Bob Saget (a fellow Full House star) as Abraham Lincoln, as well as a laundry list of all star comedians who really assist in pulling off these obscure and sometimes controversial jokes.
Most of the history jokes on the show are either common knowledge or not completely necessary to understand the humor—but come on, it’s nearly impossible to make jokes about Ancient Rome accessible to Netflix’s regular viewers. Historical Roasts does a pretty good job, but it doesn’t come anywhere near to the hilarity of the Comedy Central roasts, with most of the jokes being simple, somewhat dull play on words or exaggerations of the person’s accomplishments or pitfalls. The jokes are hit or miss, but it’s hard to blame them, as it’s really hard to deliver these jokes to people who mostly don’t know the history behind these figures. However, I have to commend this mostly sufficient but ordinary show not only for rising to the occasion of not failing miserably at the tough-sell concept, but also for teaching a lesson with every episode. I also have to acknowledge the fact that Historical Roasts didn’t just use their platform to entertain, but also to preach ideas like equality in the Anne Frank roast or unity in the Abe Lincoln roast. Overall, the show contains many admirable aspects.