Roasting back in focus as YouTube acts against 'offensive' video

The key to the insult-comedy genre is to go far enough to be funny but stop just short of being nasty
Last Updated 29 May 2020, 16:00 IST

Roasting is back in the news thanks to a controversial video by YouTuber CarryMinati.

The 20-year-old, whose real name is Ajey Nagar, brewed a storm with his roast of popular TikToker Amir Siddiqui.

Now deleted by YouTube on grounds of bullying, the controversy resulted in the video sharing app going down in PlayStore rating to 1.4 stars.

Many took issue with the homophobic slurs that Ajey used in his video but some have come to his defence saying a roast by definition has to be insulting.

What is a roast?

Wikipedia defines roast as a form of humor in which a specific individual, a guest of honour, is subjected to jokes at their expense, intended to amuse the event’s wider audience.

In a roast, the person you are making fun of has given full consent, and nothing is off limits.

“What CarryMinati and others like him are doing in the name of a roast really is just making fun of others. I don’t think it matters to him,” says comedian Karan Talwar.

The format, made popular by the TV channel Comedy Central, was first introduced in India through the infamous AIB Knockout roast.

AIB is one of India’s most popular YouTube comedy channels, now on hiatus.

“It created such an uproar that no one has dared to dip a toe in those waters since. So it never really got a chance to evolve,” says Ravina Rawal, founder and editor-in-chief of DeadAnt, an online publication that tracks India’s comedy scene.

During a roast, the performers and the audience are temporarily allowed to be cheeky, even badly behaved; your conscience is allowed a quick break in this space, she says.

When asked whether CarryMinati’s videos can be considered roast, Ravina says they feel more like the diss battles on the hip-hop scene.

“I take you down, then you take me down, and we go back and forth while our fans watch in morbid fascination and decide which side they’re on,” she says, describing these videos.

Karan says the YouTube variety is more of a rant. At the same time he admits the word ‘roast’ has evolved to mean “making fun of someone/something”.

Rules of roasting

While a roast is insult comedy, the key is to go far enough to be funny, but stop just short of being nasty. “The environment on the whole should feel safe; your roastee and even fellow roasters need to be able to trust your motivations,” Ravina explains.

Karan adds that in a true roast the roastee agrees to the roast understanding the nature of comedy.

“If you’re roasting an entity, I don’t think consent can be acquired, but when it’s a person I think consent is required. The best is to have the roastee present,” he says.

10 lakh following

He refers to the web page Reddit section r/roastme. It allows individuals to upload their image for the community to roast them. The platform is well regulated and has over a million members. The users have a set of rules they must follow, above all that the insult should be funny and not just “unfunny abuse”. They also have a “don’t be evil rule”, which means no malicious jokes at the expense of someone’s race, religion or sexual identity.

They also specify that jokes at the expense of children and ones that wish physical harm on someone are not tolerated.

“The most popular roasts are the ones in which things are being said in a public forum that would otherwise be restricted to your living room. You thought it too, but the vicarious pleasure of seeing someone have the guts to say it out loud in public, even worse, to the person’s face, articulated for you with a punchline. That’s what’s keeping people hooked,” concludes Ravina.

How they do it

Here is a sample of roasting from a Reddit section dedicated to the art.

Woman asking to be roasted: I am 46 divorced 3 times, in college for the first time for neuroscience program.

Roaster 1: Yea it doesn’t take a degree in neuroscience to figure out why three men left you.

Roaster 2: On the opposite end of that it would take a degree in neuroscience to figure out why they married her in the first place.

(Published 29 May 2020, 15:38 IST)

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