A ‘roast’ is a form of humor or comedy, where a comic or a bunch of comics gather to make jokes on a specific individual (often a celebrity), a guest of honor, is subjected to jokes at their expense, intended to amuse the event’s wider audience. The subject takes the jokes in good spirit, even if it’s insult comedy.
As the name suggests, insult comedy is a comedy genre in which the act consists mainly of offensive insults. In most cases, the subject of the roast also gets to make jokes on the ‘roaster’ (the comic) at the end of the roast.
In India, the most famous example of a roast channel is the AIB Roast. The AIB Roast broke the Internet the day it was released. They gained a lot of notoriety in the beginning but later they too ended up offending the sensibilities of a few people. The format has still been used on Indian television and has worked to some extend. Many people followed this ‘trend’ and became ‘YouTube creators’.
The roast culture in India has been going on for quite a long time now. In the last few weeks, YouTube creators have used the roast format to such an extent that it offended MANY people. The roasts have led to a LOT of controversies.
A recent incident involves Youtubers Elvish Yadav and Lakshman Chaudhary roasting female content creators like Kusha Kapila, Dolly Singh, etc. The primary subject of the roast, Kusha Kapila posted another video speaking out against the hate, the threats she and others mentioned in the video have received as a result of the roast.
Elvish Yadav’s video consisted of many misogynistic comments. He body-shamed the female content creators. He passed absurd comments about them, insulted them, humiliated them, and offended a number of people, including famous YouTuber Komal Pandey, who took a stand against this.
This is not the first time this is happening. A number of YouTube ‘roasters’ shame people in the form of ‘roasts’. Every time this topic is brought up, YouTubers conveniently avoid it. There was this one time when the YouTube roasters argue that the roast format is to be taken in ‘good humor’.
The most essential thing that they’ve gotten wrong about the roast format is that historically, roasts have happened with the consent of the ‘roastee’ or the person being roasted.
The comics who may be roasting the subject of the roast may or may not be their friend or acquaintance, but they participate in the roast with the full knowledge and awareness of the ‘roastee’. But if there’s no consent involved, then it’s not a roast, it’s just offensive comments or insults.
In many formats or genres of comedy, even insult humor is taken in good spirit. But in a lot of the ‘YouTube roast videos’ that have created controversy, the humor, I’d rather not call it humor, because to be honest, it wasn’t even funny. So, the ‘humor’ in the controversial videos is aimed at the appearance, sexuality, weight, gender, race, and a class of the subject, which crosses the boundaries of ‘good spirit’.
This is when you should draw a line. There’s a limit to everything. Firstly, it is nonconsensual. Secondly, you’re spreading so much of hate and negativity in just one video!
The ‘roast culture’ may have started off as a format of comedy, but is now primarily being used to look down, punch down, shame and insult people. It is just wrong and inappropriate.
Creators and comics need to acknowledge that these formats often end up pushing hate on the subjects. Worse, roast culture has now become an excuse by some creators to shirk off their responsibilities when their audience gets empowered to go after the subjects of the roast with hate comments, abuse, and name-calling.
Creators are also known as influencers because they influence people, they have a huge impact on the minds of teenagers. Watching such videos creates a bad impression on young adults, they think it is alright to shame people. These creators use their influential power in the wrong way. This is also the reason why people are desensitized towards actual issues.
It is important that moving forward, roasts are done with the consent of the subject. It is even more important that viewers or audience members of the roast do not participate in anything that leads to hate or harassment of content creators, who are just as human as the rest of us.