For his 21st birthday, Justin Bieber got himself burned, skewered, and flambéd on a Comedy Central roast, taped earlier this month and airing Monday. There's no question the mockery, from host Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, and more, was brutal. (A dazed-looking Bieber himself said so.) But was it worth it?
Can being the butt of two hours' worth of tasteless jokes really turn things around career-wise for the Grammy-nominated pop star turned fifth-most hated man in the United States?
"Was the roast good for Justin Bieber is a tricky one to answer," Stephanie Abrams, co-founder of the New York City-based marketing and public-relations company Socialfly told Yahoo via email.
The Comedy Central roast, a semi-annual staple on the network for more than a decade, has been a self-flagellating stop for the mature, fire-tested celebrity: Joan Rivers, William Shatner, David Hasselhoff, and Donald Trump, among others have taken part. It's also attracted an Oscar-nominated A-lister (James Franco), and a one-man trending topic (Charlie Sheen). All have survived with their careers intact, and, in the case of Sheen, who got a sitcom order (for Anger Management) from the resulting attention, enhanced.
But unlike his predecessors in the hot seat, Justin is very young and relatively green. His career as a brand-name pop act only dates back to the release of 2010's My World 2.0. Nearly half of his time in the spotlight has been spent making the wrong kind of headlines: for a DUI bust, a ride up the steps of the Great Wall of China on the shoulders of his bodyguards, an ill-mannered act of urination into a restaurant mop bucket that led TMZ to label the teen idol "an oblivious, self-important little twit."
The roast has been portrayed as a turning point, as the latest leg in Bieber's 2015 apology tour and image makeover. And it just might be that. Or not.
"On one hand, you can say it is great that he is showing some humility," Abrams noted.
Playing devil's advocate, Courtney Spritzer, fellow co-founder of Socialfly, said an already-suspicious public could view the roast as just another antic from the star.
"Simply allowing others to hurl insults about your outlandish conduct does not mean you are a changed person," Spritzer commented. "For the doubters, only time will tell if he has truly grown up."
The roast's laugh lines likewise could cut both ways.
"It can be viewed as a great thing that [Bieber] is showing he can laugh at how absurd his persona has become," Abrams said. "At the same time, he risk[s] the chance that people are laughing at him."
Even the roast's audience could split into two camps.
"Those who hate will still hate, and those who 'belieb' will still 'belieb,'" Abrams cracked.
If Bieber has a lot riding on the Bieber roast, it's because Bieber hasn't been doing enough of what originally made Bieber famous: making music. It's been nearly three years since the performer's last studio album, 2012's Believe.
"He desperately needs to put out some music again," Abrams said.
And that career assessment, the Biebs would seem to agree, is not up for debate.
"I know I can still turn out good music," the "Confident" singer said at the roast, "and turn everything all around."
We shall see.