A bunch of whiplash-tongued cabaret performers – sharper than the school bully, funnier than your nan – are embracing that very American import, the comedy roast. Its basic format is simple: one person is cussed out by their friends in public. Cabaret star Myra DuBois is next up to feel the burn (for the latest in a series of roasts held at cabaret stronghold The RVT), with Lola Lasagne, Mary Mac, Holestar and Mrs Moore lined up to throw down ego-shredding insults.
But before you even begin to worry for Miss DuBois’s self-esteem, bear in mind that it’s seen as a massive honour to be roasted and the roastee has the ultimate comeback: a right to reply. ‘I knew what I was letting myself in for,’ says Myra, ‘and I’m quite happy for any of them to say anything because I’m confident that whatever they have to fling at me, I can dish it back tenfold.’
Roasts were made popular by rat pack crooner Dean Martin who oversaw the televised take-down of Joan Rivers, Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali. Previous British attempts to bring it over the Pond have fallen flat (odd, because we are a nation of superb cuss-slingers). Until now. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has taken up the challenge and become home of the roast, inveigling a crew of foul-mouthed, audacious cabaret stars well versed in acerbic put-downs.
Lola Lasagne has been involved in two previous shows. ‘You can go a bit further in a roast. You have to know how far you can go without being horrible. Anybody can be nasty; there’s a real skill to roasting. It’s got to be the best barbs for the right people.’
And then there’s the love. Myra explains that underneath all the trash talk, there’s got to be a palpable sense of friendship. The original comedy roast motto was ‘We only roast the ones we love.’ ‘There are those out there who I could crack bitchier jokes about but I absolutely loathe them on a very deep level, so it wouldn’t be nice for other people to watch,’ Myra says. ‘It would be like a catfight outside a chippy – nobody wants to watch that. Not even for charity. Affection is important in a comedy roast.’
And as all friends know, affection doesn’t get in the way of some good old smack talk. ‘I’ll be wearing something black, simple and comfortable,’ says Lola. ‘Sleeveless, so I can really get stuck in. I don’t need to roll up my sleeves for the viciousness to come out!’
Myra’s Roast is at The RVT on Thursday July 28. All proceeds go to the Terrence Higgins Trust.