By Matt Petras
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
If you’d have asked me last week what I expected to see at a Game of Thrones-themed comedy show, a man covered in green body paint, wearing a paper mask and using a vape pen for a dragon costume would have never crossed my mind. Yet, here we are.
On June 1, The Burning Bridges Comedy Club hosted a roast of Jon Snow, bringing to life riffs on the show’s characters like a Jeff Dunham-inspired Joffrey Baratheon and, yes, a dragon.
The independent comedy club, part of Hambone’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Lawrenceville, hosted three of these roasts and drew respectable crowds. In the past, inspired by similar shows in other cities, comedians involved have also participated in other character roasts, cracking jokes at the expense of characters like Batman and Freddy Krueger.
“Someone else more clever than all of us made this up years ago in another city,” John Dick Winters, one of the club’s co-founders told The Pittsburgh Current after the show. “There’s a bunch of comedy scenes all over the country that do character roasts.”
The Game of Thrones television show ended recently after eight seasons, the last of which received a lot of flak from fans. Many believe that the showrunners rushed the final season, making the ending unsatisfying. At times, the roasters didn’t just take the characters down a peg – they also took aim at the show itself.
The roast was put together by club cofounders, Winters and Derek Minto, who also donned a Burger King crown to portray Robert Baratheon. The roast featured 10 comedians in all. The show represented expected characters like Snow (played by James J. Hamilton), Arya Stark (Paige Polesnak) and Daenerys Targaryen (Suzanne Lawrence), but the comics threw in a few wrenches.
Shannon Norman played a troubled family man from Des Moines who thought he was at a King of Queens roast and has never seen Game of Thrones. Ian McIntosh, the sole person of color in the roast, played Michonne from The Walking Dead. He quipped that, because of the exceedingly white casting in Game of Thrones, the only way to get a black person in the roast was to “Tyler Perry” himself.
He came onto the stage wielding a bat, with dramatic music behind him. On stage, he said, “look at all these beautiful white people!”
Dragging Game of Thrones for its near-exclusively white casting became one of a few themes for the show. Many of the jokes also focused on the amount of incest in the show and the extraordinary death toll.
The dragon, played by Alex Stypula, seemingly fascinated by all of the sexual escapades in the show, couldn’t stop talking about semen. Jeff Konkle’s Baratheon, the snotty-kid-turned-king, said he found Dunham videos when researching how to be funny and then did some ventriloquism with one of the dead character’s head on a pike.
“I’m sure there are plenty of jokes up here that weren’t the most original, but there are definitely some that really no one’s ever said before,” Winters said. “And I think most of those jokes come from the perspective of the character because they’re creating a unique voice or a unique perspective.”
Lawrence joked that Winters’ answer was better than hers.
“My answer is I just search for memes and make sure I’m not doing any of them,” she said. Some fellow roasters laughed – some said they do the same thing.
The comics went back and forth when deciding who should play which character.
“We’d start bouncing around about who has a good idea for somebody, who has maybe the physical look,” Winters said. “The physical look is less important than who has a good idea for [a character], but sometimes they both lineup.”
One challenge with putting together a roast, according to Minto, is finding people who can quickly write solid material.
“Being a young, fledgling comic, it just doesn’t work,” Minto said. “You don’t quite have the writing chops yet, because it’s a very particularly unique skill, because you have to basically cold write a lot of the material.”
Because of this, there’s more pressure on the roasters to come up with material they’re confident will be good.
“You can only bounce it off your friends and the other comics around the show, but at the end of the day, you have to go up and perform it, because… there’s no open mic for roasts,” Minto said. “It’s like a great challenge.”