Comedian Don Rickles has sustained a long and successful career doling out insults and trouncing egos on anyone within earshot. A frequent visitor to “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” Rickles has regaled millions with his swiping barbs. Early on in his career, while working at a nightclub, he was brave enough to pick on Frank Sinatra who was seated in the audience, “Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody.” Lucky for Rickles, Sinatra found him hilarious and encouraged other celebrities to check out his act. As an actor Rickles appeared in his own sitcom “C.P.O. Sharkey” and such films as “Run Silent, Run Deep,” and “Kelly’s Heroes.” He’s the worst nightmare for any guest of honor at a roast.
Actor, director and producer George C. Scott is best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of General George S. Patton in the film “Patton.” Chills still run up people’s spines when they think of his memorable performance of the hard-nosed WWII leader. His Broadway and film career is as esteemed as his memory is revered. On stage he received rave reviews for his performances in such shows as “Uncle Vanya,” “Death of a Salesman” and “Inherit the Wind.” His films have included, “Anatomy of A Murder,” “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Bomb,” “Jane Eyre,” “The Hindenburg,” “12 Angry Men” and so many more.
The king of late-night television, Johnny Carson dominated evening talk shows for thirty years as millions tuned in to “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Each night he held audiences spellbound and helped them keep up with the hottest movers and shakers in showbiz. Carson’s trusty sidekick Ed McMahon bellowed “Heere’s Johnny” for the last time on his farewell show on May 22, 1992. More viewers than ever watched the man who brought to life such characters as Art Fern and Carnac the Magnificent say good night one last time. The ultimate gentleman when it comes to Friars roasts, Johnny Carson let his quick wit and sophisticated sense of humor guide his clean, yet hilarious, roasting.
Known to a generation of viewers as “Uncle Miltie” or “Mr. Television,” Milton Berle was the undisputed king of TV during its golden age. His popular variety show, NBC’s “Texaco Star Theater” helped to sell more TV sets in the early days of the medium than any other individual. During his tenure as head of the Friars Club he was the master of the Roasts. Nobody was safe from his skewering–or his legendary wit.
Newscaster Chet Huntley was a nightly staple on NBC for almost 20 years. While broadcasting from New York City and his partner, David Brinkley, co-anchoring from Washington, DC, “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” became an American institution. With his straightforward presentation, Huntley was warmly greeted into living rooms across the country, reporting breaking news and keeping audiences up to date on current affairs.
Starting out as a comic, Dick Cavett soon found a more comfortable niche, first as a talent coordinator for “The Tonight Show” under Jack Paar’s reign and then as a writer for Johnny Carson. But it is his career as a talk show host that has revered him to audiences around the world. His conversational style was a new concept for television viewers, as he easily got superstars to open up and share their lives, careers and opinions in front of the cameras. His interviews with Katharine Hepburn and Groucho Marx are classics, and have been replayed for new generations to experience these Hollywood legends.
“Take my wife, please” was all one needed to hear to know that Henny Youngman was on stage. The king of the one-liners shot off his trademark yuks in rapid fire, often while playing the violin. He was a staple of the Friars Club, asking for a “table by a waiter” as he entered the dining room. Youngman was famous for getting up at Friars roasts and ignoring the guest of honor–pummeling the audience instead with his repertoire of quick and easy jokes.