Historical Roasts season 1, episode 4 recap: Martin Luther King Jr.


Episode 4 of Netflix series Historical Roasts looks at the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., with comedic portrayals of King, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, and RFK.

This episode of Historical Roasts largely sees Jeff Ross take a back seat to his guests: Martin Luther King Jr. (Jerry Minor), Barack Obama (Brandon T. Jackson), Nelson Mandela (Jaleel White), Rosa Parks (Sasheer Zamata), and Robert F. Kennedy (Neal Brennan). Much like the semi-scandalous Anne Frank episode, this sort of historical comedy won’t be for the easily offended. However, if you can withstand jokes about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wardrobe and our “first orange President,” you’ll be okay.

Much like the Anne Frank one, this episode has an overwhelmingly supportive audience who understand this sort of humor, and understand that comedy is about “going after everybody.” After all, if someone takes seriously any comparison between Nelson Mandela to Howie Mandel, they’re probably offended by virtually anything. Historical Roasts ought to win some points for being somewhat historically accurate (though the jokes obviously are jokes).  As before, this recap will focus a bit on the historical context of the episode, rather than rehash every single joke presented (and yes, there will be some opinion here, in addition to factual content).

Mandela and Rosa Parks

Related Story. Historical Roasts season 1, episode 3 recap: Anne Frank. light

More from Show Snob

When Nelson Mandela steps to the mic, we learn a number of pertinent things. For example, Ronald Reagan’s administration considered him a terrorist. It’s also noted that Jackie Robinson (among others) never got a holiday. We’re also reminded of the terror of South African apartheid. It’s also true that King helped end segregation at a great personal cost: By becoming a public figure, he was targeted for assassination, and not just for the march on Selma. Historical Roasts doesn’t delve into it, but he was assassinated by the cowardly James Earl Ray while planning the Poor People’s Campaign.

Called “the least fun person to play musical chairs with” by Ross, Rosa Parks is perhaps the most blistering speaker in this episode. However, she emphasizes that she was not just “the bus lady.” Parks was already in the NAACP, and would later be awarded the Medal of Freedom (there’s a reason she’s more famous than James F. Blake, the man who ordered her to vacate her seat for a white man). Historical Roasts might have done well to mention Claudette Colvin, a young woman who defied segregated busing 9 months earlier, at the age of 15.  To its credit, Comedy Central’s Drunk History did a segment on her.

Obama and RFK

Everyone knows Obama as the first black US President, but Jeff Ross calls him “the father of the flying murder robot” (AKA drones). Obama doesn’t really get that detailed, but he makes a few funny jokes about Mandela. Also, it’s suggested there would have been no Barack Obama without MLK. Historical Roasts doesn’t delve much into Obama’s Presidency, including how — despite trying to be a moderate — he was frequently depicted as a radical leftist, an atheist, an ISIS supporter (by Donald Trump), a communist and a Wall Street sycophant (a wearer of many hats, one might say).

After Obama, the late Bobby Kennedy (RFK) is addressed in the audience. Ross mentions how he had authorized the FBI to spy on MLK, how he and JFK had relations with Marilyn Monroe. It’s also briefly noted that, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby was assassinated. However, RFK’s assassin was Sirhan Sirhan and it was over the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Next. 11 Netflix originals to binge in October. dark

When Martin Luther King Jr. steps up, he accuses everyone of stealing his act, asks what else Rosa Parks did and laments “white kids shooting up schools.” He also mentions the stereotype of a black man either holding a microphone, a ball or a gun and proposes building a Trump-like wall around Atlanta. While the last part may be strange, it’s a hint that America will not solve its problems by building walls, as its problems aren’t simply coming from outsiders. Many of our problems are already here and within American’s own minds. This episode partly reminds us that some problems are greater than skin color or identity, having stronger roots in prejudice, fear and related superstitions.

What are your thoughts on Historical Roasts? Let us know in the comments!