Justin Bieber, this time the willing butt of jokes, delivered a veritable mea culpa after partaking in Comedy Central’s latest celebrity roast.
The YouTube sensation-turned-pop star served as the guest of honor on Saturday and turned the raunch-filled evening into a platform to issue an apology for his recent rash of questionable behavior.
“This roast was a dream of mine,” Bieber said, taking the stage after his 10-person firing squad let him have it all night long.
“I turned a lot of people off over the past few years, but I know I could still turn out good music and turn everything all around. You have my word I will not end up broken, pathetic, bitter or sitting on somebody else’s roast,” he said before transitioning from the light -- though often mean-spirited -- lineup to push his agenda in a move to rehabilitate his public image.
“There’s really no preparing me for this life; I was thrown in this at 12 years old and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into,” Bieber explained. “There’s moments I’ve been really proud of and a lot of moments I look back and I’m pretty disappointed in myself for. But the things that I’ve done don’t really define who I am. I’m a kind-hearted person who loves people and through it all I lost some of my best qualities. For that, I’m sorry,” he said.
The headliner added that he looked forward “to being someone you can all look at and be proud of” or “smile at, see some of yourself in.”
The newly legal star used the roast to celebrate his 21st birthday, which landed two weeks ago. He was skewered by comedian Kevin Hart, who served as roast master, and sat on a dais filled out by comics Jeff Ross, Chris D’Elia, Natasha Leggero and Hannibal Buress, his “Baby” collaborator Ludacris, rapper Snoop Dogg, NBA alum Shaquille O’Neal and lifestyle maven Martha Stewart.
Yes, even Stewart was there, delivering some of the evening’s strongest punches and giving Bieber “some tips to use when he inevitably ends up in prison.”
Ellen DeGeneres declined to roast the purportedly penitent star, who posted a confessional video in January apologizing for his slew of headline-grabbing bad behavior.
Will Ferrell, in character as his “Anchorman” alter-ego Ron Burgundy, made a surprise appearance, celebrating a litany of Bieber’s blunders in chronological order.
“This kid has spunk, moxie and a few other STDs,” he joked.
The roasts, which Comedy Central began producing in 2003, started off as light-hearted tributes to industry veterans, then evolved into vicious tear-downs of the roastees -- Joan Rivers, David Hasselhoff, Charlie Sheen and James Franco have all subjected themselves to an eager dais of contributors. Bieber’s panel didn’t pull punches when it came to the tatted star’s relationship with Selena Gomez, his appropriation of black culture, poor driving, Anne Frank “Belieber” foible, monkey business and bevy of legal troubles including altercations with paparazzi, an arrest in Miami and involvement in a $20,000 egging incident to which he pleaded no contest.
Even so, most of the roasters made more wisecracks about one another than about the man of the hour.
Saturday’s event, which will air on the network on March 30, drew audience members including Bieber’s pal Jaden Smith, singer John Legend with wife Chrissy Teigen, comedian Dave Chapelle, Clippers star Chris Paul and TV personalities Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City.
Hart opened the roast saying that “Ebola patients hear about Bieber fever and say, ‘I’m gonna go ahead and ride this one out’” and offering to do “what his parents and the legal system should have done a long time ago: Give him the ass-whooping that he should have got.”
The emcee said the evening was about “redemption” and believing in “second, third and 15th chances."
Then Bieber descended from the rafters toward the ranks of an assembled church choir, coming down in an angel-winged harness like the contraption he’s worn on tour. Then he fell, and the audience erupted in laughter.
Hart dissed Bieber’s 33-year-old manager Scooter Braun, also in the audience, who, while watching YouTube videos in the middle of the night, discovered the singer at the tender age of 12.
“That’s a ... predator if I’ve ever seen one,” he quipped.
Gomez, Bieber’s on-off girlfriend whose relationship has played out in the tabloids, was not in attendance because “she didn’t want to come,” Hart said, apologizing that he didn’t have “something better to say about her.”
The Disney alum also took a major slight from Ross, who called her out for dating the much-maligned musician.
“That’s right, Selena Gomez used to bang this guy, proving once again that Mexicans will do the disgusting jobs Americans refuse,” he said.
Leggero also sniped that “she is literally the least lucky Selena in all of entertainment,” invoking the memory of the late Selena Quintanilla, who died in 1995 at the hands of the president of her fan club.
The comedians drew few lines and even invoked the late Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker in their sets. Slavery jokes, Ferguson quips, Bill Cosby, Suge Knight and Bruce Jenner jabs and salty humor involving lesbians and sexual virility also peppered the ceremony.
“Saturday Night Live” newbie Davidson kicked off the lineup and blamed singer Usher for being Bieber’s mentor.
“This is Usher’s fault. Usher’s the one who took you under his wing,” he said. “You’re the worst thing that an usher has done to America since the guy who sat John Wilkes Booth behind Abraham Lincoln.”
Ludacris recalled having to babysit Bieber and took credit for the YouTube success of “Baby,” blaming his collaborator for all the “dislikes” the music video has racked up. Then he ripped into the artist for trying to be tough and black.
“Justin Bieber wants to be black so bad he’s actually seen Kevin Hart’s movies in the theaters,” he said.
“I’m so sorry to be kicking you while you’re down, but since you want to be black you might as well get used to it,” he added.
Leggero took the most pointed jabs at her fellow roasters.
“There is a lot of star power up here. These men combined have made millions in child support payments. ... Kevin has a Napoleon complex. Kevin, Napoleon was the leader of France. Ludacris, France is in Europe. Justin, Europe’s a continent. Shaq, a continent is not a free breakfast.”
“Justin’s fans are called Beliebers because these days it’s politically incorrect to use the term ‘retards,’” Leggero continued. “Justin was born to a single teenage mom. No wonder he’s got moves, he was in the womb dodging a coat hanger.”
That last barb had Bieber shaking his head.
“You were rated the fifth most-hated person of all time. Kim Jung Un didn’t even score that low and he uses your music to ... torture people,” O’Neal said. “Justin has a tattoo of Jesus on his calf. Why you gotta bring Jesus into your mess? That man has suffered enough.”
“Undateable” star D’Elia was invited because he’s one of Bieber’s favorite stand-up comics -- a fact that didn’t go unnoticed throughout the evening and has brought D’Elia acknowledgment among the 12-year-old set.
“It’s cute that you want to be roasted, but, just to be clear, no one likes you, bro. We’re all here because bashing you helps our careers.”
However, D’Elia delivered one of the darkest sets of the roast and compared Bieber’s videos to those of the self-styled Islamic State.
“‘Baby’ is the most hated video online and there are also ISIS videos online. That means someone saw a video with a guys screaming ‘death to America’ and sawing someone’s head off and thought, ‘Nope, still not worse than Bieber featuring Luda in a bowling alley,’” he said before getting sort of sentimental.
“I’m proud of you. You have it all. You are literally a guy who has it all, except for respect, love, friends, good parents and a Grammy,” he quipped.
Buress also said he was in attendance for the career boost.
“They say that you roast the ones you love, but I don’t like you at all, man. I’m just here because it’s a real good opportunity for me,” he deadpanned. “Actually you should thank me for participating in this extremely transparent attempt to be more likeable in the public eye. And, I hope it doesn’t work.”
Roast veteran Ross dubbed Bieber “the King Joffrey of pop.”
“You’re young, you’re talented, you’re famous, and that can be a lot of pressure. But you’re a smart man with a good heart,” he said. “And I know you’ll never end up like Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse: respected. Happy birthday, buddy!”
Snoop, who sparked up smokables onstage and gratuitously used the N-word in his monologue, told the singer not to say that on video. Then he said Bieber had “released so many horrible and unwatchable videos” that he should change his name to “Vanilla ISIS.”
He also castigated the young star for purchasing a monkey, Mally, after he made it big and then abandoning said monkey in Germany. (Mally -- or his stand-in -- later made a guest appearance as well.)
“You bought a monkey. I mean that monkey was more embarrassed than the one that started the AIDS epidemic,” Snoop said. “You got problems, little homey.”
Stewart offered the musician jailhouse tips, running through the easy steps of making a shank from “a pin-tail comb and gum” and suggested that he change up his tattoos by getting “white power” across his back so he doesn’t “look like some 14-year-old girl’s Trapper Keeper.”
“Here’s my final piece of advice: You need to settle down, bring some balance into your life. Find yourself the right gal, but she’s going to have to really special, someone on your level, someone powerful and famous and rich. Someone you can smoke a joint with or engage in the occasional three-way. I’m talking about a player in the boardroom and a freak in the bedroom. So, Justin, my final piece of advice is, call me,” she joked.
Bieber had the last word, though, saying that Comedy Central had solicited Jamie Foxx and Chapelle before winding up with Hart at the helm.
“Look, I’m new to comedy, but here’s a joke: What do you get when you give a teenager $200 million?” he asked. “A bunch of has-beens calling you a lesbian for two hours.”
Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.