Hollywood-based Chainsaw recently provided postproduction services for The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, a comedy special that attracted 6.4 million viewers, a record for the long-running series. Executive produced by Joel Gallen and Mark Burg, and co-executive produced by Rick Austin, the show was recorded before a live audience at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif. and featured appearances by Seth MacFarlane (as host), Jon Lovitz, Jeff Ross, William Shatner, Mike Tyson, Slash and others.
Emmy-winner Bill DeRonde edited the show, a task that itself required a high degree of comedic skill. The timing and pacing of cuts was crucial in capturing the atmosphere of the event and ensuring that punch lines worked as well on screen as they did in the hall. “I love working on Roasts because we get to use the best jokes from each comedian,” said DeRonde, who has been editing television specials for Joel Gallen since 1997, including previous roasts of David Hasselhoff, Joan Rivers and Pamela Anderson. “We eliminate jokes that may not have hit well and end up with sets that kill.”
DeRonde explained that the challenge is to trim performances seamlessly so that the editing becomes “invisible.”
“Each performer has different timing,” he said. “It can be difficult to pull up and eliminate jokes without losing the live feel. Cutting comedy has to be very precise. The way you cut between jokes affects how well they work. A lot of time, the comedy is as much in the space between the set up and the punch line as it is in the punch line itself.”
DeRonde attended the live roast in order to get a feel for how the jokes worked in the hall. He began editing the following morning with Gallen and Austin in attendance. “We string out the show to see how long we are and then start taking out jokes that didn’t hit well,” he recalled. “Then the tough part begins. We have to take out jokes that worked in order to get the show to time. We also try to find the correct balance between the comedians, and balance the attacks regarding whom they hit.”
Ultimately, DeRonde paired down the original 2½-hour show to a tight 68 minutes. He also prepared an extended version for DVD release.