This weekend, The Bard’s Town will see the return of a show that is quickly becoming a New Year’s tradition for some Louisvillians.
The comedians of Character Assassination, more colloquially known as “those people who do the Roasts,” gather to figuratively burn all the bad things of the outgoing year and usher in the new one in their playfully brutal comedic ways.
For “The Roast of 2018,” held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 28-29, the Roasters will once again eschew their normal standup schtick and play a variety of characters — some famous people, some fictional creations.
To get the lowdown on this year’s action, Insider caught up with Roaster Andy Fleming.
The comedian, who also stars in “The Lil’ Andy Show,” splits his time between Louisville and Chicago, lured back to Derby City time after time by his love of our comedy scene and his romantic and comedic partnership with fellow Roaster Mandee McKelvey.
For “The Roast of 2018,” Fleming will be hosting as Freddie Mercury, who, despite dying in 1999, had a big year — the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” focused on the singer and became the highest grossing music biopic ever.
“We have to go back to Freddie Mercury to be our guiding light, because now we can revere him for the lifestyle he was not allowed to lead in public,” says Fleming.
The “Roasts” of 2016 and 2017 found loose themes, but, according to Fleming, 2018 was a trickier beast.
“This year it’s not that it’s hard to find things that sucked, but it’s that it’s hard to put your finger on what the theme is of what sucked,” he says.
In 2016, the Roasters put Death in “the hot seat,” and in 2017, the year the #MeToo movement exploded, they found a natural focus on abusers and predators, with Hugh Hefner as the guest of honor.
“(For 2018), the rough theme I see is that this was the year it was hard to hide,” adds Fleming.
He noted two cases in particular, starting with Roseanne Barr’s downfall. The comedian had just launched a successful revival of her sitcom “Roseanne,” which focused on Barr’s fictional self, Roseanne Conner, and then she tweeted controversial and racially charged statements.
“She said that sh*t, and then she got put on blast for it,” says Fleming. “Then Roseanne Conner died of an opioid overdose.”
Even the real life dead weren’t safe in 2018, and several times the public at large beat Fleming and the Roasters to the punch in raking newly dead politicians over the coals.
“People like John McCain, I don’t know what your Facebook feed was like, but mine was all (people saying), ‘F*%k that guy, he was a terrible person.’”
To Fleming, events like “The Roasts,” as well as “The Lil’ Andy Show,” are pushing standup into the future, and not just from 2018 to 2019.
“Standup — it’s crazy that it still exists,” he explains. “It’s rude what we ask people to do. We ask them to come to a show, not look at their phones, and pay attention to us talking for an hour and a half. It’s so rude. So I think we have a responsibility as producers to give people the wildest sh*t they have ever seen.”
Character-based standup, also known as solo sketch, is more complex than tossing a few cheap shots at the rich and famous, according to Fleming, adding that McKelvey has mastered the proper techniques.
“Her Roast sets are all about telling the story of who that character is,” he says. “We really have this perfect partnership on the Roasts … we write all of our stuff together, and she is so good at helping me figure out the heart of these characters.”
Fleming notes his role in the partnership is mostly to write jokes, but says Andy Fleming can’t be the one telling jokes.
“It’s not just, ‘Can I talk sh*t about Stan Lee?’ It’s ‘What would Freddie Mercury think of Stan Lee?’ You’ve gotta write from this voice,” says Fleming.
The Roasts’ popularity, all year long, seems to be holding strong, leading one to wonder if 2019 will see another round of characters finding their voices and mocking people with them.
“I hope not,” he says. “I hope that next year is great and that we cannot do ‘The Roast of 2019.’ Every year I spend the year hoping that we cannot roast the year. And so far, it’s not gone my way.”
Catch Fleming, McKelvey and a collection of Louisville’s best solo sketching standups on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 28 and 29. With two shows each night — at 7:30 and 10 p.m. — there are plenty of options. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online or at the door.