Early History of the Friars Club Roasts

Harvey Bell, a longtime resident of New Jersey, is actively involved in several New York-based organizations. One of the more well-known groups to which Harvey Bell possesses a membership is the legendary New York Friars Club.

Started as an informal gathering for New York press agents, the Friars Club quickly gained popularity among celebrities, Broadway stars, and other industry insiders. In 1950, comedians Joe E. Lewis and Sam Levison were the first targets of the club’s legendary roasts, a private event where the guests of honor are mercilessly ridiculed by their closest friends.

While the club followed the motto, ‘We only roast the ones we love,’’ many of the jokes involved taboo topics and crude language. Due to the vulgar nature of the roasts, women were not allowed to attend until 1988, though actress Phyllis Diller managed to sneak into a 1983 roast dressed as a man.

Eventually, the private roasts involving famous names attracted the attention of the public. Between 1998 and 2002, the club’s annual roasts were aired on the cable network Comedy Central. Some of the most high profile guests of honor included Hugh Heifner and Jerry Stiller.