Studio: Time Life / Star Vista Entertainment
DVD Release: September 24, 2013
Director: Greg Garrison
Review by James Klein
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts are considered by many to be legendary. Dean would somehow acquire some of the biggest celebrities in show biz to come to Las Vegas and perform small stand up acts while making fun at one of their fellow entertainers. Certain comedians even got their start on some of the Celebrity Roasts. Time Life and Star Vista Entertainment has gone out of their way to release a must purchase DVD collection of some of the best Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts to have been aired in the 70’s and early 80’s.
This six disc collection which is also loaded with extra features will have you entertained for many weeks to come. Roasts include such giants as Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis Jr, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Kirk Douglas, Jackie Gleason, Michael Landon, Joan Collins, Don Rickles and Dean Martin himself. While there are a few roasts that didn’t have me laughing as much (the Michael Landon roast was especially weak) most of these had me rolling around in laughter. I especially enjoyed the Sammy Davis Jr roast which may be shocking and offensive to some modern viewers today. However, Davis says it best when he goes up there to the podium during a standing ovation and says, “One of the great joys of being 45 years in this business is to have people who love you, make fun of you. That is one of the great joys. Because the day they don’t make fun of you, that means they don’t give a damn about you.”
What is so neat about watching these great legends tell jokes and make fun of one another isn’t just because it’s funny, but that it’s so nice to see these great entertainers laugh with one another, hug and kiss one another, and tell stories about one another. While I do laugh quite a bit over the more recent Comedy Central roasts, there is a certain aura of mean spiritness that generates from the more recent roasts. Most of these actors and comedians don’t even know one another and its obvious they are there to compete with each other. Who can get a bigger laugh? Who can shock and offend the most amount of people? With the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, I didn’t get this feeling at all. Everyone has a certain amount of respect for their fellow entertainer. Even Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles, has a very moving speech after his own roast to Roastmaster Dean Martin himself, thanking Martin for giving him a chance to come on his variety show early on in his life, thus creating his amazing career.
I had such a ball watching these roasts that I couldn’t help but feel a touch of sadness while watching. Almost all of these great actors, actresses and comedians are now gone. We don’t have Dean, Sammy, Lucille, Milton, or Jackie anymore. George Burns, Jack Benny, Freddie Prinze, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, Phyllis Diller, Joey Bishop, Dom DeLuise, Jonathan Winters…do I need to go on? While I loved being transported back to the early and mid 70’s while watching these hilarious legends smoke, drink and laugh at one another, I couldn’t help but become misty eyed while thinking of how much I miss some of them. Personally it was a little difficult watching the roast to Jackie Gleason as my own father was devastated the day Gleason died as he and I would watch old re-runs of the Honeymooners. To this day, I still believe it to be the funniest sitcom ever broadcast.
The DVD set also contains interviews with Rich Little, Don Rickles, Betty White, Jackie Mason, Tim Conway and Ruth Buzzi. There are also bonus comedy sketches with Tim Conway, Dean Martin and Ted Knight. Also included are two Dean Martin TV Specials: Dean Martin’s Red Hot Scandals of 1926 and Dean’s Place. Maybe the best special feature in this collection are some of the home movies of Dean Martin and his friends.
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts are a must see. I can’t imagine anyone not finding this DVD set absolutely hilarious and a joy to own. Best watched with a drink in one hand, a smoke in the other and in the company of your closest friends.