What's the recipe for the perfect celebrity roast? We got some pointers when we spoke to some of the roasters, friends, and family of James Franco on the red carpet before his Comedy Central roast.
Natasha Leggero attends 'The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco' at Culver Studios on August 25, 2013. (Jason …
Leggero is a stand-up comedienne, but you may recognize her from “Chelsea Lately” or any number of guest starring roles on “Community,” “Whitney,” or “Reno 911.” She also has a recurring role in the next season of ABC's “Suburgatory.” She and Nick Kroll are the two least-known comics on the Franco dais, so they have the best chance of becoming breakout stars like Lisa Lampanelli or the Roastmaster himself, Jeff Ross.
Although Leggero's time on “Chelsea Lately” made her comfortable with being snarky on camera, “I don't know how confident I would be if I was saying something about Lindsay Lohan and she was sitting right there, so it's a little different in that respect.”
When asked if it's easier to know a person or to be strangers when roasting them, she definitely prefers the latter. “It's easier when you don't know the person, because you hit hard.” And the most roastable things about Franco? “Honestly, his paintings suck. Also, I'm not a fan of his inaugural poetry.”
But she respects his willingness to try new things: “It's like he's homeschooling himself. I like it.”
Another person who respects the breadth of Franco's interests is his grandmother, Mitzie Verne. “I honestly think he is a renaissance man,” said Verne, citing his early exposure to her brother's book business as a strong influence. “James was a bookaholic, no question about it.”
That didn't keep her from getting into the spirit of the event, however. “I'm not going to be that kind to him,” she said. “You've got so much material to work with... how are you going to fit it all into one night?”
This was Philipps' first red carpet outing since having her second child. Though family life and preparations for the next season of “Cougar Town” keep her occupied, she made time for an old friend.
Philipps poo-pooed the notion of skeletons in Franco's closet being revealed at the roast. “I don't think there's a deep, dark secret; I think that he puts it all out there for everyone to see, so there's lots of that they can pull from.”
Does he have a sense of humor about himself? “It's hard to say because I met him when we were 19 years old and I don't think 19-year-olds really have a sense of humor about themselves. I know I didn't at 19. I think he has certainly grown into the ability to poke fun at himself and his persona. I think we all are able to do that once we pass the age of 30.”
On the legacy of “Freaks and Geeks”: “We did feel like [it] was something special and that we were part of something really incredible. And we knew how lucky we were at the time, even though most of us hadn't done anything else. Seth [Rogen] and I had never stepped on set before the pilot of 'Freaks and Geeks.' I don't think we could have predicted that we would all continue to be working these eleven years later.”
Kids may know her as Vanellope from Disney's “Wreck-It Ralph,” but adults will know her from “The Sarah Silverman Program,” where she played a version of her darkly hilarious stand-up persona. Her new HBO special “We Are Miracles” will air November 23.
Get a sneak peek at Sarah Silverman's set from "The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco":
A veteran of the Comedy Central roasts, she told us she enjoys them, “but it's scary, and you have to have a thick skin and you have to say mean things, but there always has to be that conceit that it's with love.”
Is she worried she'll offend anyone on the dais? “I'm fully prepared to never get to work with any of these people after this. I really want to, but I want to do well on the roast more than that.”
This marks the Roastmaster General's 11th straight roast for Comedy Central (though he's written for even more), and he takes his work very seriously. “You want to come up with angles he can laugh at, that's the tricky part,” said Ross. “Because you want him to have a good time too. So I dig deep into his films and books and painting and all the lectures he's done. I've become a Franco expert.”
Get a sneak peek at Jeff Ross's set from "The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco":
And what did he find? “I loved him in '127 Hours,' I loved 'Milk'... he's brave in those movies. And 'This Is the End' was the funniest movie of the year. So I was all in. I was like, 'Wow! That guy is just made enough of Teflon for the jokes to bounce off of him.'"
“And my girlfriend and I both really want to have sex with him, so I'm not going to be too mean.”
"The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco" premieres Monday, September 2 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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