Aug. 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM ET
Shock comic Jeffrey Ross admits he "crossed a line" Saturday night by joking about the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., at a taping of “The Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne.”
Taking pot shots at members on the dais -- which included stars Katey Sagal, Ellen Barkin and Carrie Fisher -- Ross suggested that red-haired actor Seth Green looked a lot like the alleged gunman.
“Seth, congratulations. This is actually a great night for you,” Ross said. “You haven’t gotten this much attention since you shot all those people in Aurora. ... I’m kidding. You are not like James Holmes. At least he did something in a movie theater that people remember!”
There was an audible gasp, followed by awkward applause inside the Hollywood Palladium, where more than 600 invited guests were gathered.
After the show, Ross defended his routine, telling NBC News: “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.
“I think that this particular roast -- in these particular times we are in -- it is important to exercise freedom of speech,” he added. “Comedians are apologizing a lot. I am not saying that is right or wrong. But it scares me when I start second guessing myself. So I wanted to put it out there and remind people what America is about -- and on some level, what the roasts are about.”
Producer Jonas Larsen said Ross' jokes will not be a part of the telecast when it airs on August 12.
Ross, who arrived at the show dressed as disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, said he “doesn’t care.”
“When I was a kid I said whatever I wanted. It was one of my favorite things about America,” he told NBC News. “So now I feel like I am a big kid.”
Audiences can expect more of Ross' irreverent humor in the new Comedy Central series "The Burn," premiering August 14.
“I really want my new show to be a safe haven for comedians,” he explained. “I feel like bad taste is not a crime. There should be a place in this country for comedians to say whatever comes to their heads.”
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