Life Skills – How To Set Up Your Roast
We’re building up to a summer of fun with a blog series on how to roast a friend. In my last post, I talked about what a roast is and shared my own experience. In this post, I’ll give you some logistical guidelines to help you increase the painful pleasure of a well done roast.
Back in December, a few friends got together and decided to roast one of our number, a chiropractor named John, on the occasion of his 60th birthday celebration. I knew I would miss it, because we were going on our vacation at that time, so I did what I could to contribute to it from afar. I created a video (which you can download and view here – 26 mb file – warning, rated PG) and scripted something for John’s wife to say while I was at it. I did a few back and forth emails with the roastmaster, and figured it would turn out great for my friend John.
You know what they say about the best laid plans often going astray?
First, they had serious technical problems. The projector needed to run my video wasn’t tested the day before, nor were the microphones. Instead, they relied on the confidence of one of the group that promised them, ‘I know how to do this.’ (That’s almost always a warning sign!)
And that wasn’t all. Then they had personal problems. (More on that in the next post)
So just what are the technical aspects of a roast that you must attend to in order to be able to turn up the heat on the roastee instead of yourself?
General Rule: Plan Ahead
Do some pre-planning of the roast ahead of the event, to make it go better (and faster) when the heat comes up. Faster is important, because if the roast lags, it dries out everyone’s temper. That’s because a roast that goes on too long ceases to be funny, slips into painful, and then everyone leaves feeling burnt out.
General Rule: Put someone in charge of the actual roast.
Known in the roasting biz as the ‘roast master,’ this has to be someone who is comfortable with the give and take of pointed humor, who is able to dish it out comfortably, and who can watch the clock, sense the group’s energy, and organize the speakers for best result. We’ll come back to the roast master’s duties in a little bit. Try to keep up.
Ah, here we are.
Your First Duty: Get Roasters Ready
If you’re the roastmaster, don’t be taken by the surprise of people coming with nothing. Require an outline from your hand picked roasters, so they HAVE to come with something. Most people aren’t particularly comfy standing and talking about someone off the cuff, and do better thinking of stuff and then reading about it from their notes. This may change as the evening evolves, and people start to get the hang of it, feel more comfortable with it.
Gather your roasters together at least a couple weeks before the event. Give them something to write on, and something to write with. Then ask them to write something funny about the roastee, something that makes them smile or laugh or something they’ve heard about the roastee that tickles them in some way.
Then get a commitment from them to research jokes related to these themes. We’ll talk more about this aspect in my next post, on how to prepare your material.
You should limit the number of roasters. Unless you’ve got top notch talent, 10 is too many. 15 is way over the top. Know that number, and make sure everyone else knows the number of roasters too. This puts some pressure on people to get in the game quicker.
Figure that a 45 minute roast is just right if you have nine really good roasters. Otherwise, keep it to a total of 15 minutes, and limit the roast to five roasters each with a maximum of 3 minutes worth of material. Whoever opens it should be the best, to set the tone.
Roasters can roast other people too, not just the roastee. So encourage them to bring at least a few jokes that have this purpose.
Here’s a goal. If the group gets to laugh 20 to 30 times during your roast, consider it a success. So divide that number by the number of roasters plus the roastee to see how many jokes everyone needs. Then tell your roasters to test out their material on people who know how to laugh. I always use the ducks in the park, cause they quack up at all my material. My wife, on the other hand, still doesn’t get me. But she’s amused that I think I’m funny.
Your Second Duty: Get Roastee Ready
Have the Roastee come to the party a half-hour AFTER everyone else.
Ask him or her to wear something to stand out, like dressing up in a suit while everyone else comes casual, or wearing a robe (bathrobes can be regal) and holding a sceptor. Think of pomp and circumstance, so it is obvious that this is an honor, horrible and painfully funny as it may be. Create a throne, or special elevated area so that the roastee will be visible throughout the event. Spare no expense. Or do it on the cheap (old furniture left on curbs can work well, depending on the smell and sensitivities of the roastee.)
Your Third Duty: Get The Room Ready
Now you’ve got to find the right size room for the event. You want people to be comfortable, but not too spread out, because closeness tends to make for a more intimate event. Most venues will set the room for you, and it’s great if there are round tables so people have a place to set their drinks and relax.
There’s nothing as defeating as equipment that doesn’t work. And because it may be hard for people to hear each other in a crowded room, it’s almost always a good idea to have a microphone and a podium. When you stand at a podium that amplifies the sound of your voice, it makes it easy for everyone to hear, and enhances the impact of your words. In an event of this type, you’re going to have noise, commotion, people chattering. The roasters need to be able to dominate the room.
You can have other features in your roast, like a slideshow or movie to get people in the mood. If you know someone with a knack for this sort of thing, invite them to make something fun.
Test the system as far ahead of time as you can, to make sure you can hear it. If you’re using a laptop, make sure you have all the cables and dongles you’ll need. (And, if you’re lacking in experience, testing is the only way to find this out!)
When I do presentations, I simply use a sound cable from my laptop, via a mini-headphone jack, into whatever sound box or system is available. Most venues have mixing boards. Occasionally, I’ve gone directly into a speaker. You MUST try out your equipment and be familiar with its operation before the day of the roast. This will give you, the roastmaster, the peace of mind you need in order to focus on managing the event.
Next post, getting your head ready for the roast. Until then, your comments, stupid or otherwise, are most welcome!