Speakers Need To Know How Host A Roast Without Becoming Toast

Host A Roast Incorrectly And You'll Get Burned
Host A Roast Incorrectly And You’ll Get Burned

As though speaking in public isn’t tricky enough, then there is the roast. When we are asked to put on a roast for someone we find ourselves walking directly into a social minefield from which there appears to be no way out. If we do a poor job, then the audience will be bored and will end up hating you. If you do too good of a job, the object of the roast will become angry and will end up hating you. What’s a speaker to do?


If you’ve ever had a chance to attend a roast or watch one done on TV, then you know what this is all about. A group of people who know the guest of honor get together and, because they know him/her so well, are able to get up and say disrespectful things that make everyone laugh. If this is done well, then the speakers appear to almost be making it up while they are talking; however, the reality is that what they are saying requires careful preparation. There’s a huge difference between ribbing and insulting.

When you host a roast, you will be called on to lob mild insults towards the guest of honor all night. This means that you are going to have to do your homework and collect the information that you’ll need before the big event. The key here is to collect as much background information as you can.

Since both your audience and your fellow roasters know about the target, you need to make sure that what you say is not only funny, but also relates to the person that you’re talking about. This means that you’ve got to dive into their past and find out where they went to school, where they’ve worked, who they’ve worked with, and why they left each job. Ultimately it’s the answers to these questions that will provide you with the raw material that you’ll need to create the roast talking points that will be required.


When you are hosting a roast, you get to control who speaks and when they speak. Generally you’ll select four to five other people to come up and say a few things about the guest of honor. Let’s be honest here, some people will do a good job of this and the others won’t.

Knowing this, you’ll want to make sure that nobody is scheduled to talk for too long. You’ll want to create a sequence in which the speakers go. This sequence should be based on some sort of logical progression. People who knew him or her at different stages in life, people who worked with them at different companies, etc.


The success or failure of a roast ultimately comes down to the content. As you put together what you’ll be saying, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

You need to make sure that your ribbing relates to things that the audience knows are not true (“… when you robbed that bank last week…”). Stay away from things that they can’t decide if you are joking about or not (“your wife tells me that you are still beating her”).

The best humor comes when you make fun of the guest of honor in regards to things that they make fun of about themselves. For example, if the target can’t spell very well and is always lamenting the fact, then feel free to rib them about it.

Finally, making fun of things that the guest of honor doesn’t really care about is always safe. This could include a comment about the time that his / her boat sank because they forgot to plug a hole. Stay away from such items as you are too short, you are too fat, you are too bald.

What All Of This Means For You

Putting on a roast that will provide a good-natured ribbing of the guest of honor without offending either them or the audience can be a real challenge. Speakers who are asked to take on this task need to realize that if done incorrectly, they can get themselves into a lot of hot water.

In order to successfully host a roast, you’re going to need to do your homework. You’ll need to collect a lot of information on the guest of honor. This includes both background information and stories. Next you’ll need to organize how the roast is to be conducted: sequence the presenters and tie their presentations together. Finally, your material will need to be carefully edited so that you make everyone laugh, but you don’t offend.

The next time that you get asked to host a roast, you don’t need to say no or go running for the door. Instead, use the tips that we’ve discussed and do a great job of showing the star of the show just how much he or she is appreciated by gently making fun of them in a positive way.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How long is too long when you are putting on a roast?

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