Chevy Chase Roast Was Worst Night of Marc Maron’s Comedy Life
Somehow, Chevy Chase didn’t get the worst of his infamous Comedy Central roast, a vicious skewering courtesy of several up-and-coming comics (mainly because his more famous Saturday Night Live and movie co-stars couldn’t be bothered to show up to insult the surly crank). Make no mistake--Chase was on the receiving end of some brutal comedy haymakers. Want a sample? How about Stephen Colbert, admitting he didn’t know Chase, but taking the stick to him nonetheless: “The only thing I think of when I look at this man is, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ Why would I tempt the Comedy Gods to leave me pale and pear-shaped — a humorless husk of my former self haunting the halls of Hollywood like some sort of walking, waking cautionary tale, shapeless and odorless and colorless, gray-on-beige, a comedy lamprey just sucking the joy out of everything I touch?”
Despite an entire evening of Chase squirming uncomfortably, there was another man on the dais who felt even worse. In fact, roaster and caustic comic Marc Maron told Howard Stern last week, the special almost made him quit comedy altogether. Back in 2002 when the roast was recorded, Maron remembers, he was just an angry guy whose attitude was too dark even for a Chevy Chase flogging. “Because when you're angry, if you're insulting somebody, it's to hurt them, right? So my tone isn't quite right.”
“It was one of the worst nights of my life,” Maron says of a roast that Chase himself seemed to want no part of. As a kid, Maron admired Chase but by 2002, the up-and-coming comic was ready to tear into him. He had a series of jokes that looked good on paper, but in practice, the insults didn’t go over nearly so well.
Thankfully, producers boosted Maron’s meager laughs in post-production “because I got up on stage, it must have been 2000 people, and I was just bombing,” he says. Maron kept delivering misfire after misfire in front of “everyone I know in comedy. At some point, I'm like ‘oh my god, this is going horribly.’ The jokes were good, but I literally like I could feel my personality disintegrating.”
After the show, Maron retreated to his hotel room and reconsidered his career choices. “I'm literally on the verge of tears,” he says. “I'm like, I can't do this anymore.”
Years later, Maron understands that his own vitriol worked against him. For roast jokes to work, “there has to be a warm-heartedness to it.” Friends today can’t quite understand his painful memory since the broadcast makes it appear as if he’d done well, but Maron knows the sweetened laughs were pure fiction and his jokes were met with dead silence despite 2000 people in the room. “There's no more feeling alone,” he says. “That is the loneliest feeling in the world.”