On Saturday, stand-up comic Jeffrey Ross told an Aurora theater shooting joke during the taping of Comedy Central's roast of Roseanne Barr. Unapologetic, Ross defended the material, but told NBC News that he believes he "crossed a line."
The Comedy Central Roast, known for over-the-top and shocking moments, won't air until August 12, but word of Ross's shocking comedy has already hit the Internet. The joke, which Ross aimed at red-haired comic-actor Seth Green linking his red hair to that of the orange-red dyed hair of the suspected Aurora shooter James Holmes, reportedly went something like this according to Entertainment Weekly:
"Congratulations," Ross said to Green. "This is actually a really big night for you. You haven't gotten this much attention since you shout all those people in Aurora."
The joke was met with groans from the roast audience, to which Ross continued the joke: "I'm kidding! You're not like James Holmes. At least he's doing something in a theater that people remember." The audience responded with visible looks of shock on their faces, gasps, some booing and eventually some scattered, slow applause, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Ross defended the routine to NBC News saying, "Yes, I crossed a line, and that is what the roasts are about. That's what Roseanne is about -- unapologetic comedy. If I had held back, I would have done her a disservice."
This kind of shocking material should come as no surprise to fans of the Comedy Central Roast or Jeffrey Ross who has made a living out of going "too far" and telling shocking jokes on stage for years. During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Ross made it clear how he feels about comedians apologizing for their material after the fact, "Do you want me to apologize after every joke? If it doesn't offend somebody it's probably not a joke. It's probably an observation that's not funny. It's gotta offend somebody somewhere."
Roast producer Jonas Larsen told NBC News that Ross' Aurora jokes will not be a part of the telecast when it finally airs on August 12.
Ross isn't the first comic to take on the Aurora shooting in a performance. Just two weeks ago, stand up comic Dane Cook told a joke related to the Aurora shooting, less than a week after the shooting took place. Cook later posted an apology for the joke via twitter writing, "I am devastated by the recent tragedy in Colorado & did not mean to make light of what happened. I made a bad judgement call with my material last night & regret making a joke at such a sensitive time. My heart goes out to all of the families & friends of the victims."
What do you think -- can comedians go too far? Are some topics not a joking matter? Does the context or quality of the material matter? Should comics ever apologize for jokes that go "too far?" Let us know in the poll and comments below.
Photos from the devastating Aurora theater shooting: