On Thursday night, the House of Blues was filled to the brim with stars and comedians, who gathered for the Roast of David Ortiz.
Celebrity guests ranging from Canton comic Bill Burr to “Avengers” actor Anthony Mackie took turns dishing out biting jokes on Big Papi ahead of his number retirement ceremony at Fenway Park on Friday. Before putting himself in front of the firing squad, Ortiz spoke about his trepidation going into the show.
“Everyone has stories on me,” Ortiz told the media in attendance. “I guess I’ll just have to bit my tongue.”
Boston comedy veteran Lenny Clarke also spoke prior to the event, confirming that “the kids in the Dominican Republic absolutely love him, he’s just the sweetest guy.”
The roast opened with performative painter David Garibaldi, who quickly created portraits of Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz as the audience cheered on. The build-up continued until finally everyone was welcomed on stage and the former Red Sox slugger, reposed in his white throne, took his seat, clearly looking anxious about what he had signed up for.
Clarke went up to the podium first, making the crowd roar with laughter on his bit about Ortiz “not being happy around phones,” an homage to the time Big Papi smashed a dugout phone in anger during a 2013 game with the Baltimore Orioles. The next act, which arguably stole the entire show, was comedian Adam Ray dressed up as an old New Yorker simply named Tony. He started a motif for the night by teasing Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for his petite stature and Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski’s intelligence, stating he “has a seizure every time he tries to read the word elephant.”
Mackie showed off his comedic chops next, while Ortiz began accepting various alcoholic drinks right from the audience standing near the stage. Josh Wolf, carrying on the established theme, tore apart Gronk for being too dense and suggested that more bobbleheads of Pedroia do not exist because “they couldn’t get him to sit in that little plastic box long enough.” He brought out a guitarist near the end of the act, surprising the audience with his vocal abilities while never giving the people on stage a second to breathe. Sarah Tiana, the only female guest, fired back at all the jokes about her promiscuity by announcing “the list of men I have slept with is as short as Dustin Pedroia.”
The athletes then got to step up to the plate after the incessant ridicule all night. Gronkowski immediately called out Big Papi for his love of donuts, a nod to their series of Dunkin’ Donuts music videos, before moving down the line to the others. Pedroia decided to focus on personal anecdotes, particularly on the time when he realized that Ortiz thought his name was “Peewee” up until just last year. The show wrapped up with Burr, who joked that Ortiz’s organization was so stingy that “they flew us in the back of coach and made us walk here from the hotel.”