I like Roasts. Both culinary and comedic. But this article is not supposed to be about my indulgences at the last family BBQ, but about the recent broadcasts of the celebrity roasts on Comedy Central Germany.

The roasts were presented by Desiree Nick, who is known for having a sharp tongue, but in the light of what is being said at these roasts she still seems kinda nice. And her overacting and exaggerated facial contortions don’t really make her presentation more enjoyable. After the previews I actually thought she’d be the right choice for this, but after seeing her in action I am a little disappointed on how this worked out.

The first roast to be shown was the roast of William Shatner, which first was shown with a German translation dubbed over the original voice track. Next was the David Hasselhoff roast and just last weekend the roast of Charlie Sheen, both in English with German subtitles. The translations, both the overdubbing on the Shatner roast and the subtitles are mostly quite accurate, aside from removing references that a lot of people in Germany won’t understand anyway and replacing stuff that simply won’t work when translated to German. And of course pretty much anything about Jews was replaced. Because we still shit our pants when somebody uses the J-word.
Given our national sensitivity on everything that goes against other cultures I don’t see Comedy Central Germany showing the roast of Flavor Flav, which happens to be one of my favorites.

As a German comedian who started his “comedy career” by performing in English I know that many jokes that won’t work when translated into another language. That’s valid both ways. Often these jokes are based on wordplay, like my bit about how much I like German beer. While the part about calling Berlin Beerlin would still work in German, the part about renaming Germany to Beermany wouldn’t.

So I guess it’s quite good that for the Hasselhoff and Sheen roasts they decided against overdubbing. That way those who understand English can enjoy the roast the way it was recorded and everybody else has the option to use the subtitles.
I, however, am no friend of subtitles. Simply because I prefer to watch the movie instead of having the read the dialogue at the bottom, and if I want to read the movie I’ll just buy the book. But given that many people here in Germany have problems with the English language I think it’s a step in the right direction to offer subtitles for those who would like to enjoy these roasts. And while having to read the dialogue may put off some people who’d certainly watch it if they had a German voice track I think it’s still better than the overdubbing they did on the Shatner roast, as you could hear the original voice track behind the overdubbed German voice track. And that was just weird.

Despite Comedy Central Germany obviously just picking up on the roasts now these events are nothing new. Comedy Central has been producing roasts since 2003, and they weren’t the ones who started it in the first place. Probably one of the earliest recorded roasts is when Nero burned down Rome.

The recent German Comedy Awards have shown that there is a big base of performers here in Germany, and I hope we might be able to get something like this done too. While a lot of German comedy does seem to involve singing and silly antics I think we can use our historically evident mean side to poke a little fun on some volunteering victims.
A problem with this of course is the still prevalent and crippling collective guilt and the all-overshadowing attempt to make Germans seem about as nice and fluffy as a bunch of Care Bears, but why not drop that costume for a night a year and spit some poison? It would certainly be a “nice” addition to the German comedy landscape.

Thank you!
Dennis Wronka

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