It’s hard to believe it was six years ago that we were sitting in the front row of the Comedy Central Roast of James Franco to experience our FRANCO show open with a live studio audience. This year, we had the honor to re-experience that magic with our great friends from Comedy Central and none other than a celebrity-studded panel of Roasters and the Man from Massapequa himself, Alec Baldwin.
Phase one was to work in tandem with the Comedy Central team on logo design. Creative direction was to explore a variety of horizontal and stacked wordmarks that capture a modern, contemporary spirit through a lens of elegance, class, and sophistication. After two weeks of design and refinement, the joint effort delivered a slick mark, rooted in art deco flair with a nod to playfulness and whimsy. Our team also initiated the concept of crafting an A.B. monogram that would be used to further brand the event in a tasteful and fun way.
As logo and monogram exploration continued, we armed our team of five designers with intel and strategy to conceive treatments for the show open. Our goal was to cover as many style bases as possible while ensuring each treatment was driven by on-brand thinking relative to Mr. Baldwin. We presented six unique treatments, including a sweet custom song entitled The Ballad of Baldwin created by writing duo Marc Cantone and Matt Schatz, who even performed the tune for proof of concept.
In that the full Roasters roster is fluid until just before the Roast, we worked with placeholder names to present working vignettes without being hyper-specific. T&F Creative Director Kyle Miller steered the team with his selected treatment for production. Kyle ultimately designed over 80 beautiful storyboard frames once the Roasters were finalized to craft the overarching narrative as well as ensuring each vignette connected to the next in a unique and specific way.
Over the course of production, many ideas were considered, both visually and musically (taking great inspiration from our ballad). Finding the perfect Comedy Central Roast arc for anyone is no small task, let alone have it happen in 75 seconds, make it funny, engaging, and stylistically new and awesome.
With a winning concept decided upon, the real work of expanding a treatment to a full narrative and matching that to look and feel to the desired vibe for both Alec and the Roast could begin. A Comedy Central Roast is a black tie affair, requiring a classic and classy approach… balanced by the fact that it’s a celebratory take down on a deeply personal and professional level. By removing the heavy grit and exploring worlds of black and gold with unexpected pops of purple and magenta, the work became elevated and slick.
After finding a good contrast level and finish quality, we could begin to solidify the world of color by drawing inspiration from print collateral, particularly the invitations to the event, created by our partners. A world of greens and blacks punctuated by big splashes of gold and accented pops of crimson emerged, creating something unique and ownable for a graphics package while tying the broadcast, on-stage, and print design worlds together for a stronger whole.
With our look established, our open kicks off with a short succession of Sinatra-inspired black and white portraits shot by Comedy Central and graced with moody wisps of smoke, filmic textures, and classic typography stylings… with bombastic music cementing the tone. Just as things feel elegant and established, the music kicks into gear and tears into Syd Vicious’ rendition of My Way. Simultaneously, Alec goes from handsome pose to mugging through the porthole aboard the Red October. The submarine blasts two torpedos that lead us throughout the sequence (until they converge on our hero and explode in the finalé). From there we fluidly journey through a chronology of Alec-isms from his career (Boss Baby, Beetlejuice, Trump impersonation, Glengarry Glen Ross, It’s Complicated) and a select few real-world AB headlines (parking battles, refusing to turn off his phone on a plane)… all culminating into an embattled Baldwin knocking out paparazzi for the final hurrah and launch into the show.
In addition to the show open, we designed and produced a toolkit of broadcast elements including mortises, lower thirds, and transitions, as well as a handsome package of set animations to flank the stage and surrounding on-set monitors.