You could argue that there are few opportunities that stand-up comedians relish more than to participate in a roast: comics gathering on the dais to lay into a guest of honor and their peers with some of their most personal, raunchy, most button-pushing material.
Louisville-based stand-up Raanan Hershberg said his friend Will Hardesty tossed out an idea that turned the typical roast on its head.
“He had an idea to roast Jesus in December,” Hershberg said. “I thought he was joking, but he was serious.”
The two of them brought a few comedians into the act and staged this fictional, occasionally blasphemous and, based on the audience’s reaction, oftentimes hilarious roast four years ago at The Bard’s Town Theater in Louisville. The spark of that idea and its success on stage eventually led to the formation of the Character Assassination comedy troupe.
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The comedy troupe’s name says it all. Several Louisville-based comedians and performers write and stage fictional roasts that allow for the skewering of virtually any and all beloved pop culture icons. Hershberg, Character Assassination’s co-founder, said the group has come up with 40 roasts to date that have included Nintendo video game characters roasting Mario, Marvel comic heroes slinging insults at Spiderman, and Star Wars favorites trading verbal barbs, just to name a few.
“We’re dismantling it, but we’re also celebrating it,” Hershberg said. “It’s great to see characters, people dressed as the things they love, and making fun of it at the same time.”
The cast of comedians usually can create a new roast every two months. They come up with their own material, they help create the costumes, they write introductory scenes, they film video to be used on stage, and they come up with new ways to present characters and their relationships with other characters for the best effect.
“It’s definitely more elaborate than your average stand-up show,” Hershberg said. “That’s one of the exciting things about this show. It’s not stand-up; it’s a whole production.”
The troupe now primarily presents four performances over the course of two nights every few months at The Bard’s Town Theater, with occasional performances in Newport and Indianapolis. They also recently brought The Roast of Harry Potter to Comedy Off Broadway in August. The show went so well that Character Assassination plans to bring its newest roast to Lexington every couple of months.
The latest one is The Roast of Disney Villains, which the troupe will perform Sunday night at Comedy Off Broadway. Among Disney’s baddest guys, gals and creatures will be roastee Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty” (Mandee McKelvey), master of ceremonies Hades from “Hercules” (Hershberg), Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” (Kate Sedwick), Captain Hook from “Peter Pan” (Patrick Passafiume), Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” (Andy Fleming), Scar from “The Lion King” (Tyler Jackson) and Jafar and his parrot Iago from “Aladdin” (Kent Carney).
Don’t let the cast of some of Disney’s most memorable villains fool you. Hershberg said this show is for patrons 18 and older for a reason and might cause you to look at these animated creations in a whole new way.
“I would say a clean, family-friendly show would be pretty boring,” he said. “Let’s just say this: We get pretty mean. It’s kind of no-holds-barred.”
If you go
Roast of Disney Villains
What: Comedy Central-style roast presented by Character Assassination
When: 7:15 p.m. Sun.
Where: Comedy Off Broadway, 161 Lexington Green Circle