New York Friars Club Book of Roastsby Barry Dougherty, Alan King
The Friars Club was not started by comedians, nor by entertainers of any sort. It was actually started, back in 1904, by eleven New York press agents who were trying to figure out how to stop people from scoring free tickets to Broadway shows. But they enjoyed their Friday night after-theater get-togethers so much that by 1907 they had adopted a formal constitution and by-laws -- and changed their name from the Press Agents Association to the Friars Club. Almost immediately they began their tradition of throwing Testimonial Dinners for "outstanding theatrical personalities." There was always a lot of pomposity-piercing repartee, but things didn't get really raunchy until the first Roast in 1949. Today, much of the R-rated language you hear at a Roast can also be heard at the average comedy club. In fact, Roasts are now broadcast on cable television. But between the 1940s and 1960s, comedy was clean. In night clubs, on Broadway, wherever, no one -- among the public that is -- ever heard Jack Benny or Milton Berle or George Burns or any of the greats say a dirty word. But the Friars did. In the privacy of their stag Roasts, they let their hair down (even if they didn't have any) and said what they couldn't say on stage, radio, or TV.
The Roasts were so private that women, all non-members, even the waiters serving the lunches were rudely kicked out of the hall before the festivities began. Eventually, the Roasts became so notorious, that Benny himself quipped, "My wife Mary hates these stag luncheons. I didn't even dare tell her that I came here today. She thinks I'm in a whorehouse." Now you want to know what they were like, right? Well, we can give you the insults, but you'll have to open the book to find the obscenities. Go ahead. Read a few pages. See, they are funny. And now you're hooked. Now go to the counter and pay for the book, like a good little reader. But keep your face covered, or you may get arrested for mooning. And don't try to stuff the book down your pants. Remember what happened last time. And it was at a discount store. How cheap can you get? -- welcome to your first Roast!
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The Book of Roasts reads like a Roast. A little bawdy but affectionate and interesting look at the history of the Friars and their famous roasts. Dougherty shows good natured fun has he takes us through nearly a century of American humor.
OK, so you expect a book on the Friars Club to be funny, right? The biggest surprise may be the biting asides of Barry Dougherty. The author has the best job in the world: working behind the scenes at the Friars Club and eavesdropping on the likes of Alan King, Red Buttons, Billy Crystal and Jerry Stiller. They've rubbed off. When the pros fall flat, Dougherty keeps the LOLs going.