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I Asked Strangers on the Internet to Insult Me for a Laugh

A subreddit where people upload photos of themselves and ask Redditors to "roast" them went viral yesterday, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Ever since I spent a full human hour crafting my first MSN username, I was hooked. We all were. It didn't matter if it was a Hi5 status or someone profoundly over-sharing on Bebo, the internet represented the best opportunity the world had ever known for people to open up their inner monologues to a mass audience.

It took us a while, however, to realise that most of the time, the auditorium was empty. That we were screaming into a void. Carefully curating a profile playlist on Myspace, only for people to pause it literally as soon as it started. Posting very earnest political statuses to Facebook, which were Liked by exactly no one.


As time chugged on – as Google evolved from a noun into a verb – the things people were willing to do to get some kind of online validation became both more incredible and more inane. Case in point: Periscope. Watch the first thing that comes up to see how far it's gone. I've just done it; a sunburnt, pained-looking man is live-streaming himself planting corn, and hundreds of people are watching.

All photos via r/RoastMe

A subreddit that went viral yesterday, r/RoastMe, where Redditors upload photos of themselves so strangers can take the piss out of them, is another recent example. Televised roasts are usually reserved for fading figures like David Hasselhoff or Flava Flav and performed by people they actually know. So it's a strange thing to want strangers to do it to you, right? Surely it can't be enjoyable? Maybe it's cathartic in some weird, masochistic way?

To put an end to these questions – and so we could all talk about me for a bit – I washed my face, brushed my hair, set a timer on my camera and uploaded my photo to see how it feels when people you don't know attack you for loads of stuff you're really insecure about:

"You look like you faceswaped with anxiety." [sic]

Yeah, this is actually a pretty good comment. Both zeitgeist-y and accurate: I'm an anxious person already and I was extra anxious when I was taking the picture, knowing that it was going online specifically so the vile people of the internet could point out how I look like Steve Buscemi's parasitic twin, or how the size of my mouth doesn't tally with the rest of my face.

Not sure if the comment is really "roast" material, though. If, say, Ludacris had tried it at Justin Bieber's Comedy Central Roast, it probably would have just about inspired one of those dead-eyed, Dermot O'Leary sympathy laughs.


"TIL: redditors actually live in their mothers basement" [sic]

I actually genuinely live in a shed, mate. A basement is a step up from a shed, and this is a victory as far as I'm concerned.

"You look like a character being controlled by Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit."

Okay, this is spot on. I've been prepping myself for Gollum comparisons since I became self-aware. This one is like calling David Cameron "spam-head" or Piers Morgan "the skin of a boy stretched over the body of a toad" – it's a given. I've put enough hours in the mirror to accept and soak up that one.

"You look like someone has photoshopped all of your facial features and made them smaller."

This is a good comment, but slightly off: I think that visual thing is more down to the size of my head than the size of my features. I have an exceptionally-sized head for someone who is a mere 5ft 9 – you try finding soft Celtic features that will fill it.

"Clockwork Orange meets 'Gollum'"

Yep. We all get that and we can all see it's true.

"Was your father Donald Trump??? I don't know whose hair is less convincing….."

This is textbook roast material. The kind of pre-scripted burn you'd hear word-for-word from a sweaty Seth McFarlane, who's pretending it's an off-the-cuff thing he's just thought up. Topical with the Trump reference, sweet and damning. I didn't know my hair was that silly, but it turns out it is. I'm switching back to a middle parting.

"Have you just had a flashback to that cold night with Uncle Stephen…" [sic]

I get it: you're attributing the worry lines and general look of desperation to me being molested as a child. Very, very shit roast. The kind of burn that probably wouldn't even coax a laugh out of a pissed up uni rugby team.

"Glad you took time out of your busy schedule of planning to shoot up a mall to post here on Reddit"

So this was one of a few "you look like a murderer"/"killing spree"-themed roasts. And like Reeves and Mortimer one way and David Spade the other, this one is lost on the trip over the Atlantic. Perhaps in the United States, where tragic mass shootings actually happen on a daily basis, this taps into that Frankie Boyle vein of shock-humour? But I have to say: it didn't do it for me.

"Doing it for a piece? Oh come on. I would call this lazy journalism, but it's hardly journalism and at least laziness looks appealing. Nothing about you, or this situation looks enjoyable. When boring old men complain about millennials being broke because they're too scared to do a real job involving real work, you're the kind of prick they're talking about. Everyone under 30 gets chucked under the bus because faux-intellectuals like you want to write 'You know guys, I really learned something today' articles for a living, confusing a career with Kyle's monologues at the end of a South Park episode. Is that good enough to satisfy whichever Murdoch-owned, click-baiting, race-to-the-bottom, content churning media cesspit you're getting 5p a word for? Oh, and if the eyes went any further back into your head, they'd be staring at the balls of the dinosaur on the wall behind you. BTW, dinosaurs on the wall, have you had that up since your sixth or seventh birthday party?"

I mean, a lot to process here. But first: do not worry, enraged stranger; I wasn't expecting to win a Pulitzer with this. It's just a bit of fun, isn't it?

It's strange – despite the comment being so dense and targeted, the one part that really sticks out for me is the dinosaur thing. I guess I want to tell him it's a signed Stewart Lee poster. Enraged Redditor: it is a signed Stewart Lee poster. Look – it says, "To Oobah, You a Cunt."


I feel like you'll like that? You seem like an intelligent, angry guy, so even if you don't like me, presumably you like Stewart Lee? A lot of us intellectuals do.

However, you definitely won't like this: I feel like I did learn something today. For all the semi-solid burns that actually made me smile, there were just as many that fell incredibly flat.

So what did that teach me? That loads of people on the internet have shit banter.

If you want to tear into me for being a small-mouthed, floppy-haired cunt, you can do so here.

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