The ‘Roast of John Cleese’ Was a Total Disaster

The Monty Python star had to journey to Australia to find people willing to roast him
The ‘Roast of John Cleese’ Was a Total Disaster

Taking a well-deserved break from manufacturing nonexistent controversies and raging against the amorphous specter of “cancel culture,” Monty Python legend John Cleese recently proved that he doesn’t just dish out hacky put-downs, he can take them as well. The recently-aired The Roast of John Cleese found the former Fawlty Towers star being relentlessly ribbed by a dais full of his close friends a bunch of random Australian comedians you’ve probably never heard of. 

While roasts typically enlist speakers that have a pre-existing relationship with the roastee, thus making them marginally enjoyable, in this case, the show was filmed in a Melbourne casino and featured a panel consisting entirely of “Australia’s funniest” comics. And really, is there anything more depressing than seeing an 83-year-old John Cleese sitting on a mock throne, enduring grade school jokebook-tier put downs from people he likely met for the first time that night?

This is even sadder than the time Chevy Chase was roasted by comedians like Marc Maron, presumably while Steve Martin and Martin Short were at home with the shades drawn and their phones unplugged. Yeah, apparently Cleese’s fellow Pythons — like Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam — didn’t even want to put in the effort required to playfully insult him for two minutes. Maybe they really do hate each other. 

Most of the savage burns seemed to focus on Cleese’s age and numerous marriages. No wonder the special began with a warning to “woke keyboard warriors,” that is pretty extreme! Can they even say that on TV???

Meanwhile, Cleese’s rebuttal found him disparaging vegemite, kangaroos and Rupert Murdoch — which makes sense, considering that he didn’t really know any of these people. Plus, he probably couldn’t be bothered to spend 30 seconds looking them up on Wikipedia, like they clearly did with him. I mean, Cleese wasn’t even in the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch.

The fact that this show was filmed way back in the summer of 2023, and has been sitting on a digital shelf collecting virtual dust for eight months wasn’t exactly a great sign. Sure enough, audiences seemed to really hate The Roast of John Cleese. Viewers bemoaned that “Australian comedy fell flat with the John Cleese roast,” pointing out that the comics went way too easy on Cleese. “It’s important when you're roasting John Cleese on national TV to actually roast the recipient,” one person wrote. 

But the ratings speak for themselves, and… the ratings were also terrible. Only 458,000 people tuned in to the roast, while a whopping 1,489,000 people watched its competition: Married at First Sight, the reality show in which strangers agree to get married.

Had Cleese agreed to get engaged to one of the comedians, maybe it would have garnered more interest. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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