DVD Review: The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers

The recent roast of Justin Bieber was a let down since what’s the point of roasting a performer whose already a burn out case? A roast should catch fire on someone in their prime. When Dean Martin roasted guests, they were on the verge of historic moments. These weren’t cast off, has beens and never was performers. Dean had Hank Aaron the dais a few weeks before his historic homerun. Mr. T got roasted before he became a nostalgia act. Dan Haggerty got mauled while Grizzly Adams was popular. Nobody is getting a rhyming ribbing from Nipsy Russell to revive their career. Although Nipsy would be the perfect guy to give anyone’s eulogy. The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers collects 24 of the 54 roasts that Dino drank through from 1974 to 1984.

The roasts started as part of the final season of The Dean Martin Show. Dean was notoriously lazy when it came to rehearsing for his variety show. He basically would arrive on shoot day, put on a fresh tux and occasionally read a cue card. What would be more simple than to just have Dean read a few jokes at the guest’s expense, sit down, drink, smoke and chuckle at the right times. Dean was a natural at this “toned” down version of the Friars Club Work. They put up a stage with the Man of the Hour and a handful of guests ready to rib away. As the season progressed, the sketches and the singing cut back. Like Kenny Rogers Chicken, there needed to be more time for roasting. After the show finished. NBC turned Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts into a seasonal special. Instead of the usual studio audience, Dean took his roasts to the big room at the MGM Grand. A lucky Las Vegas audience was treated to more stars than the line outside a portajohn in Dodgers Stadium.

Even though the roasts aired on primetime on NBC, the humor would get censored by today’s broadcast standards. Dean Martin ribs Joe Namath that he saved a girl from being attacked by controlling himself. Jack Carter told Hank Aaron that he was such a bad fielder that they Braves painted the baseballs green since he wouldn’t miss a watermelon. Imagine how that joke would go down today? Hank was laughing at it. But today’s audience would be immediately emailing the FCC and organizing a boycott on Twitter. Who knew the ’70s were such different times? And Hank Aaron is puffing away on a cigarette on TV. What sports star would light up on primetime today?

The two regular attendees that always rule episodes are Foster Brooks and Nipsey Russell. Brooks is best known for acting like a drunk. But he would stretch on the dais. He would come on as characters from the roastee’s past. The man is still funny after all these decades with his routine. He was liquored up version of Cheech and Chong. Nipsey Russell enjoyed dishing out his barbs in a rhyming style that makes him a grandfather of rap. He was the black Eminem and Insane Clown Posse. Other people who got to cut up a superstar included VBob Hope, Ed Asner, Lucille Ball, Georgia Engel, Milton Berle, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ruth Buzzi, Sid Caesar, Foster Brooks, Charo, Howard Cosell, Angie Dickinson, Phyllis Diller, Lorne Greene, William Holden, Gabe Kaplan, Art Linkletter, Rich Little, Paul Lynde, Scatman Crothers, Dick Martin, Red Buttons, Audrey Meadows, Bob Newhart, LaWanda Page, Isabel Sanford, Harvey Korman, Soupy Sales, Jimmie Walker, Orson Welles,Bear Bryant and so many more.

Roastees & Air Dates
Ed McMahon, 9/28/1973
Wilt Chamberlain, 11/9/1973
Hubert Humphrey, 11/23/1973
Carroll O’Connor, 12/7/1973
Monty Hall, 12/14/1973
Jack Klugman & Tony Randall, 12/21/1973
Leo Durocher, 1/18/1974
Truman Capote, 1/25/1974
Don Rickles, 2/8/1974
Redd Foxx, 3/1/1974
Bobby Riggs, 3/6/1974
Hank Aaron, 3/29/1974
Joe Namath, 4/5/1974
Michael Landon, 5/16/1975
Evel Knievel, 11/10/1975
Valerie Harper, 11/20/1975
Joe Garagiola, 5/25/1976
Redd Foxx, 11/26/1976
Danny Thomas, 12/15/1976
Ted Knight, 3/2/1977
Peter Marshall, 5/2/1977
Dan Haggerty, 11/2/1977
Jack Klugman, 3/17/1978
Joe Namath, 1/19/1979
Joan Collins, 2/23/1984
Mr. T, 3/14/1984

For those who just want a nip of Nipsey, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Hall of Famers is a single DVD release that contains the roasting of Hank Aaron, Joe Garagiola and Evel Knievel. This is perfect for sports fans and daredevil fanatics. Evel looks like he’s going to belt a few people for their wisecracks.

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers is a fine collection from Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection. The price has come down so you can indulged in an all you can eat buffet of roasted celebrities. This is pop culture at its prime with stars when they were shining at their brightest. Dean might have been slacking off by doing the roasts, but gave eternal joy. Just don’t repeat the watermelon baseball joke in public.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was recorded on standard definition so the image isn’t quite so crisp. There are a couple moments that things appear to be missing from the broadcast version although it’s hard to tell if it’s a snip for unclearable music moment or the show originally had to slice off a dead joke. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels bring out the beauty of Nipsey Russell’s rappin’ genius.

Interviews with Dan Haggerty, Tom Dreesen, Jimmie Walker,Ed Asner, Norm Crosby, Rich Little, Shirley Jones and Jack Carter.

Sports Stars: Hit ‘Em Where It Hurts (27:36) rates how athletes gave and take on the dais. Johnny Bench’s tuxedo needs to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Most of them had a good time and those turned into good actors like Joe Namath, Bubba Smith and Dick Butkis.

Primetime Ribbing: Roasting Small-Screen Stars (24:19) covers how TV actors had a chance to mingle thanks to Dean’s dais. It also allowed drama stars to show off their comedy chops.

Show #902 (16:54) includes Dom DeLuise, Ernest Borgnine, Carol Arthur and Charo! Dean predicts cosmetics for men with Ernest Borgnine selling it. Ernest eventually promoted his wife’s cosmetics line.

Show #910 (7:28) features Dean, Ruth Buzzi and Gary Burghoff. Ruth is sauced at Dean’s bar.

Show #911 (8:36) have Dean mocking Superman and the Godfather with George Kennedy and Audrey Meadows. Dean shows off his red S.

Show #917 (4:59) includes Dean getting a laugh out of Chuck Connors (The Rifleman).

Show #920 (5:06) brings Ted Knight (Too Close for Comfort) to the piano bar.

Show #921 (6:06) brings out Dean’s old Rat Pack pal Joey Bishop.

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers is a nice chunk of the specials that aired for nearly a decade. Dean invited major people to be honored and pay honor. He truly gave us roasts that are still tasty all these years later.

Time Life and Star Vista Entertainment present The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers. Starring: Dean Martin, Nipsey Russell, Joe Namath, Foster Brooks, Slappy White and Joey Bishop. Boxset Contents: 24 episodes on 8 DVDs. Released: April 14, 2015