The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump: The View in Hindsight

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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference. Four years ago, Trump took the stage for one of the most memorable moments of his career: a "Comedy Central Roast." Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Allow me to quote a five-time Emmy award winning journalist:

Boy, that escalated quickly.

CNN polls are now indicating that Donald Trump will be competitive in the general election. This means that, as far as Donald Trump can tell, he will be the nominee and he will also be the next president of the United States of America. Stranger things have happened, probably. As Trump would tell it, since the beginning of the summer he has outperformed the GOP establishment's various pretenders, single-handedly broken the media and demonstrated a superhuman ability to absorb all the fallout from all his gaffes. He can be accused of misogyny, refer to the children of undocumented immigrants as "anchor babies" and make fun of John McCain for being tortured during the Vietnam War, but his poll numbers keep going up. All indications from those who have been in contact with him suggest that Trump is an Ozymandias-level supermensch without peer (and possibly without conscience).

So it will be left to future presidential biographers—as they chronicle how the Trump administration constructed the Trump Texas Wall, relocated all the jobs in the global economy back to the United States and negotiated an Iran nuclear deal that included a Trump Golf Links resort in the middle of Tehran—to explain how, in 2011, four years before he announced his candidacy for the 2016 election, Trump fell to a depth reserved for the likes of David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Charlie Sheen and Justin Bieber, when he took the stage as the subject of the annual Comedy Central Roast TV special.

This really happened. With his wife and daughter in attendance, Trump smiled reticently as several B-level comedians took shots at each other and at the man himself. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who conceded in his opening remarks that "[I] clearly don't give a shit about this show," emceed.

"Tonight we honor a self-made millionaire," said MacFarlane. "He started with nothing, worked hard and made a fortune. That man is Fred Trump, Donald's dad."

Future political science students will write dozens of dissertations examining exactly how, during the 2016 election, Trump managed to avoid scrutiny over this apparent contradiction in his greatest claim to leadership acumen—being worth billions of dollars in the real estate business. The biggest deal Trump ever struck was inheriting a fortune. But then, America is an incredible nation, one that also miraculously forgot the fact that Trump's biggest claim to national relevance for the bulk of the 2000s was forcing "real-life" participants direct from central casting to compete for a job in his company on network television.

"He's an American success story," said Larry King, who, bafflingly, also appeared at this roast. "When he graduated college, he put his shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone, borrowed $6 billion from his father and started his career."

King wasn't the only unexpected face in the audience. The roster of comedians shared the microphone with Snoop Dogg and Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino, a Jersey Shore "cast" member.

Perhaps it's best to contextualize the event as illustrative of the American decline that the Trump campaign has promised to reverse. Looking back at this roast, it's clear that "make America great again" and "our country is in trouble," were never really talking points about the flow of "illegals" over the border; they were, in fact, calls to action for a nation that collectively allowed an actual rich and famous human to un-ironically refer to himself as "the Situation."

(In an evening full of callous, banal, misogynistic and uninspired humor, the Situation managed to draw boos from the live crowd for being the most callous, banal, misogynistic and uninspired of the bunch.)

The guest of honor did have something memorable to say in response (and in third person) to all the talk about his hair:

"What's the difference between a wet raccoon and Donald J. Trump's hair? A wet raccoon doesn't have 7 billion fucking dollars in the bank."

No, it doesn't.