Sometimes, if you're a celebrity, you have no choice but to turn traumatic family experiences into a joke. At least, that was the takeaway from Sunday night's Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin, which included many zingers about how he's a neglectful parent. And everyone laughed uproariously!
It was hard to imagine this scenario in 2007, when Baldwin's infamous voicemail to his young daughter, Ireland, was leaked to TMZ. Baldwin, who was in a contentious custody battle with his ex-wife, actress Kim Basinger, called 11-year-old Ireland a "rude, thoughtless little pig" after she missed one of their scheduled phone calls. "You don't have the brains or the decency as a human being," he fumed on the message, which spread all over the internet. Baldwin later released a statement of apology, saying he had been "driven to the edge by parental alienation."
A dozen years later, Baldwin has addressed the incident quite a few times; as has Ireland, who is now a 23-year-old model. And apparently, they have both moved on enough to make it a centrepiece of Baldwin's Comedy Central roast. The two-hour telecast was taped last weekend in Beverly Hills, California, and afterward, Ireland's appearance as the "surprise" roaster quickly became one of the main headlines from the event. Particularly her line about Basinger's acting career: "It hasn't been easy being the daughter of an iconic movie star. But I'm not here to talk about my mother. Or her Oscar."
Before Sunday's broadcast, Comedy Central released a brief video clip with several jabs from Ireland, who opened her set by pretending to introduce herself to him.
"It's good to be here. I almost didn't even know about it because I haven't checked my voicemails from my dad from the last 12 years or something?" she said, as the audience cracked up. "While a lot of people know my dad as that guy from the Mission: Impossible movies or that guy from 30 Rock, I know him as that guy from, like, half of my birthday parties."
But the rest of her televised roast was even more brutal. Some of her jokes included:
"I'm here to talk to you, Dad, finally, without a court-appointed social worker. It's so nice that we can do that."
"He was a great dad. I still remember when he would tuck me in and yell me a bedtime story. My absolute favourite and his favourite, The Three Little Thoughtless Pigs."
"It's OK, I turned out fine. I've been modelling, which is a really fun gig. Honestly, it's just nice for a Baldwin to be on a runway without starting beef with American Airlines. (Baldwin raised a middle finger in response to this reference of being kicked off a flight in 2011 for being "extremely rude" to the crew.)
"I was so surprised when I heard about that plane incident. I mean, why would you even start [bleep] with the one place that's still playing your movies?"
And this one caused Baldwin's jaw to drop: "A lot of people only know my dad as an angry guy, but he's more than some lunatic who loses his temper. He also loses Emmys. And Oscars. And custody of his firstborn child."
After a few more digs about his neglect, Ireland closed with this: "Seriously, Dad, I'm so proud of you. You're a wonderful father and an amazing actor, and I'm thrilled to be here to see you celebrated tonight. After all the years of giving verbal abuse, it's finally time you received some. So before I leave, I'd just like to say something you've never said to me: good night."
Ireland wasn't the only one who took shots at their complicated relationship. In addition to mocking his anger issues and second marriage to Hilaria Baldwin, who is 26 years his junior, fellow roasters had a field day skewering that infamous voicemail.
Sean Hayes: "Don't worry, Alec, nothing said here tonight will be meaner than what you left on your daughter's voicemail."
Ken Jeong: "Alec's daughter Ireland is here. She might as well be named Zimbabwe, given the distance between them."
Blake Griffin: "You truly are a kind, thoughtful little pig."
Of course, when Baldwin delivered his speech with burns aimed at his roasters (which also included Robert De Niro, Caitlyn Jenner, Chris Redd, Nikki Glaser, Caroline Rhea, Adam Carolla and Jeff Ross), he didn't say a negative word about his daughter. But he also didn't completely avoid the topic.
"I love all of you," he said. "And if you don't believe me, check your voicemails."