BARRY Dougherty - editor of The Epistle, producer of the Friars Club roasts, and author
Friars Club Private Joke File" - knows who can dish it out and who can take it. Meet the m
mingles with everyone from Robin Williams to Kelsey Grammer, and find out why laught
the best medicine.
How do these roasts work?
It's a wacky event. There's nothing else like it. The premise of this event is to get up and
most horrible things about the guest of honor - whom we all love. Our tag line is "We on
ones we love" - and people seem to buy that. It's hilarious. And it can be filthy.
Is it hard to find willing participants?
It can be, because you're asking someone to be grilled for three hours straight. At
the same time, it's a rite of passage - and at the end we give them this really nice
award. It's a crystal friar with red flames at the bottom of it. It makes a really nice
How do you decide whom to appoint roast master?
We try to find some sort of synergy with the guest of honor. Regis and Trump are
very good friends, so that made sense. When we roasted Kelsey Grammer, we had
David Hyde Pierce. When we did Billy Crystal, his best friend, Rob Reiner, was the
roast master. The idea is that they feel more comfortable having a person they
think has their back, someone who will maintain order - among all the comics - for
them. It's the roast master's job to introduce the show and then introduce the
comics before they come up.
Do you have a favorite roast?
Kelsey Grammer. We were going to roast him in September, but the day before he
flipped his Dodge Viper and ended up in Betty Ford. It was tragic, but here at the
Friars we try to the find humor in every situation. Obviously, we didn't do the roast
that day, but Kelsey was such a good sport that one month later, when he got out
of Betty Ford, he agreed to do the roast. David Hyde Pierce got up and his very
first lines were, "Hi, my name is Kelsey Grammer and I'm an alcoholic." And then
he paused and said, "Whoops, I got my cards mixed up with Kelsey's."
What was your first paid job?
I delivered phone books in high school. I got 50 cents for every phone book and
75 cents if I took back the old the ones.
What's one ritual you keep no matter how busy you get?
At 3 o'clock, every afternoon, I have to have a Pepsi. I come down here and get
my ice at the bar, and because the club doesn't have Pepsi - they only have Coke -
I have to import my own.
Do you get many strange requests from celebrities?
You mean, like, they only want red M&M's or something? No. I think it's because
we work with comedians. Not to say that comedians can't be divas, but I think
they're a bit more mellow, more go-with-the-flow. They're not that highmaintenance.
What was the weirdest guest of honor/roast master combination?
Steven Seagal surprised me. He's very serious and very Zen. Not only that, but he
asked if we could have Milton Berle as roast master. Who would ever have that
combo together? I never saw that one coming.
Photo by Michael Sofronski.