Not all actors wanted to be roasted by Dean Martin on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast
Image credit: The Everett Collection
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast wasn't everyone's cup of tea; its producer, Greg Garrison, knew that. Today watching roasts have become part of the normal TV rotation for many, with Comedy Central Roasts being the popular spot to watch your favorite celebrities go at it.
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast was hosted by Dean Martin on NBC from 1974 to 1984. The series' roasts were originally patterned after roasts held at the New York Friars Club, where roasters and roastees met to make fun.
In 1973, The Dean Martin Show was declining in popularity, and the show was retooled into a series of celebrity roasts by adding a feature called "Man of the Week Celebrity Roast."
Many fans enjoyed the switch from The Dean Martin Show to its' even more funny and much more bold format. However, not every actor wanted to spend a night being made fun of by Dean Martin and his roasters. We get it. We wouldn't want to be roasted by them either – they're too good.
According to a 1978 interview with The Olympian, producer Greg Garrison said some of his favorite Roast honorees included Jimmy Stewart, George Burns and Betty White. Among the celebrities Garrison wanted but couldn't get on the show included: Mary Tyler Moore, Raquel Welch and Lee Majors. But it's not because he didn't try.
"Mary decided the format wasn't suitable for her," Garrison said. "We decided to forget about a Raquel Welch roast after she insisted upon first knowing the names of everyone who would be on the show and having a chance to read all their material."
Other guests on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast included: Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason, Michael Landon, Hubert Humphrey and more.
"Doing celebrity roasts not only provided entertainment for millions of TV viewers," Garrison said in a 1980 interview with the Bristol Herald Courier. "It also gave us the opportunity to work with some of the great political figures of our time as well as some of the world's most exciting performers."
In the interview, Garrison remembered Hubert Humphrey's appearance well. He was only the 38th U.S. Vice President, after all.
"We submitted material to Humphrey, sometimes he made changes and this really was the first time he was visible outside of his bailiwick," Garrison said. "And when he stood up before our audience, it was like a man orchestrating a room. He handled them like a maestro. It was like watching Carson or Benny do their routines."
Some other favorite guests of Garrison's included: Freddie Prinze, Muhammad Ali, Jack Benny, Bob Newhart and Lucille Ball. During the Lucille Ball Roast, Garrison said the biggest problem was to keep her from laughing too hard for sixty minutes.
In 1974, the roasts permanently moved to the MGM Grand Hotel's Ziegfeld Room in Las Vegas. The televised roasts were popular in the ratings; however, Martin and NBC declined to extend the contract.
"(Muhammad) Ali at one time during the Roast almost took off Howard Cosell's hairpiece," Garrison said. "But he's really a man of taste, he didn't."
Now viewers can recall over 50 celebrities who had been on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast at one point in time. Garrison had his favorites, but which roastees or roasters were yours?