What are the rules of the comedic roast? Initially, there might seem to be a tension between ‘the comedic’ and ‘roasting’ or ‘insult.’ The comedic is concerned with the funny, light-hearted mirth or fun, while insults are mean-spirited in nature, tools of injury. So how can the two be combined to produce something fun?
Obviously, the mixing of the two isn’t always successful. Just as adding too much salt to a dish can make it unpalatable, being heavy-handed with the insults can make an intended humorous utterance emotionally unbearable. There is a delicate balance that must be struck to ensure that insults within the roasting context are taken “in good fun.”
In this talk I briefly entertain a few views that attempt a resolution of this apparent tension. I conclude with a proposal that suggests when they are succesful, roasts employ mechanisms that redirect attention from the joke’s content to its formal properties; it is when those mechanisms fail that roasting becomes disagreeable.