Trump. Clinton. Nasty culture clashes. What the hell happened to 2016? It makes a Kardashian scandal seem like a fairy tale. Let's face it: It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world of late, so when levity arrives, there's no shame in savoring a good vibe. Even at the expense of a film and television darling?
Enter "The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe." (Labor Day, 10 p.m. ET.)
Lowe, the '80s dreamboat ("The Outsiders," St. Elmo's Fire," "About Last Night") cum Emmy-nominated actor ("The West Wing") turned TV comedy star ("The Grinder") was amped about the roast weeks prior to its taping last weekend. Still, few could have predicted how much buzz this roast would produce. The show goes where no roast has gone before--from raunchy revelations about hung libidos and '80s sex tapes to use of the C-word and extreme racist references--the latter two directed at conservative Ann Coulter, who showed off her new book on the show. (She and the book were met with much brouhaha.)
Meanwhile, comedian and film star David Spade, a roast master virgin, does a fine job this round. And the dias? Well, it's not loaded with vibrant stars linked to Lowe, such as Martin Sheen and Allison Janney ("The West Wing") or Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore ("St. Elmo's Fire"). But it does flaunt the likes of saucy Brit Jimmy Carr, "SNL's" Pete Davidson, comedian Nikki Glaser, singer/songwriter Jewel, Ralph Macchio (who starred alongside Lowe in "The Outsiders"), football titan Peyton Manning, comic Rob Riggle, roast master extraordinaire, Jeff Ross ...
And ... out of left field: Coulter, of course, who later shot back at Comedy Central after sitting through all those burns.
As for Lowe, he was chipper on the red carpet prior to taping. "At the end of the day, I love a good, mean joke. I do," Lowe told a small posse of reporters, myself among them. "Our society is so paralyzed with political correctness right now, that to have a free-fire zone, where you can say anything about anyone and nobody is going to go marching or beat you up on Twitter, boycott you, is a really cool breathe of fresh air."
Other stars I interviewed took turns waxing comedic:
Nikki Glaser on what it takes to be a good roaster: "Being a sociopath. You have to be mean and not care about people's feelings. And a lot of Zoloft ... to put down your feelings because you're going to get roasted. So, I am pretty numb tonight."
Pete Davidson on why we still crush on Rob Lowe: "I don't think he's cool at all. I don't know who the F*** ... I just said yes to this because I am promoting my special. (Oct. 29 on Comedy Central if you must know.) I don't really know who Rob Lowe is. I know he was in those commercials ..."
Ralph Macchio on his set: "I'm very confident. What I have that some of the other roasters don't have is a long-time personal relationship with Rob. The comics are just comics. But I am ready for the shrapnel I am going to take. I've known Rob since 1982. We both auditioned for 'Eight is Enough.' I have a personal approach to my set."
Ann Coulter on why she had to write her new book, "In Trump We Trust": "To explain the Trump phenomenon, hopefully to people who read 'Huffington Post.'"
I pointed out that the end of every HuffPo article revolving around the Republican nominee for President reads: Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.
Coulter, clad in a short black dress and a diamond necklace cross around her neck, suggested that I be among the first to review the book for HuffPo--to which I forced a smile. I asked whether she was nervous about the roast, yet noted that she was no stranger to being roasted or criticized. Her eyes lit up. "Right, that's my career."
Tune in at 10 p.m. (ET) Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, on Comedy Central.