Old: Insults. New: Reality in Politically Correct Times.

Author:Serafini, Dom

Today's crude and rude "reality television" cannot match the crassness of TV "roasts," which were popular in the 1970s and '80s. Then, words were used as weapons. Today, those "weapons" have been replaced by cusses, sex, vulgarity, and nudity. In effect, nothing in TV has changed, it's just adapted to the politically correct times.

While re-watching some of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast shows taped at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, one thought came to mind: With the Politically Correct Police Force now on patrol, those shows could never be aired today.

When the shows were broadcast on NBC from 1974 to 1984 (with a total of 54 episodes), each installment was guaranteed to insult people with impunity--no matter their race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. No one even seemed to be offended--not the live audience, not the viewers at home, and not those sitting on the dais. The words were less "insulting" than they were "enjoyably irreverent." It was all considered to be in good fun, and the ridicule was never disdainful.

People shelled out their hard-earned cash to listen to comedians like Don Rickles (aka, "the Merchant of Venom"), who made sure to ridicule everyone equally--without discriminating.

Nowadays, the only person in the world able to disparage people with impunity is U.S. president Donald Trump, who has contemptuously derided women, soldiers, Latinos, Muslims, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and even the Pope! This is something that no other presidential candidate will be able (or willing) to do, making him a formidable contender for re-election among his "base," i.e., those who don't consider themselves to be politically correct.

What brought this journalist back to Martin's show--which has a few episodes available on YouTube--was his research into the career of his Italian co-regional, Dean Martin (born Dino Crocetti, 1917-1995), whose father came from his native region, Abruzzo. (The region seems to be a breeding ground for talent. Other notable Hollywood luminaries originating from Abruzzo include Madonna, Alan Alda, and Patti LuPone, as well as the late Henry Mancini, Penny Marshall, and Perry Como, among some 40 or so other famous personalities.)

The very popular Dean Martin Celebrity Roast was a spin-off of the similarly successful The Dean Martin Show. The "roast" (a type of insult comedy) was a TV show concept developed in 1949 by the Friars Club in New York City. However, the insults at the...

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