How to Write a Roast Speech for Someone's Retirement

For many people, there’s something really fun about having the freedom to insult, mock, or tease a friend or co-worker in a retirement roast speech. Writing a roast speech is a difficult task; you want to be sure the subject of the speech is open to this format and that you don’t take the teasing to a hurtful place. If you do it right, a roast is the perfect way to say goodbye to a colleague with a few brilliant burns.

Group of coworkers at a retirement party Group of coworkers at a retirement party
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Brainstorm Ideas: Share Your Own Experiences

Before writing a retirement roast speech, brainstorm a list of information that could be potentially included. Are there memories, thoughts, accomplishments, work habits, or even rumors you might be able to turn into fun retirement anecdotes?

Keep this list to yourself for the time being. One important aspect of a roast speech is the element of surprise, so don’t give away all your ideas before the retirement party.

Incorporate the Group: Ask Others for Content

Let a few trusted coworkers or family members know (in person, not over email, which can be traced) that you plan on roasting someone at their retirement party. Ask if they have any content that might be worth including. The more people who are in on the jokes, the more the audience will enjoy the presentation. If lots of people are involved in the project, you’ll have your bases covered and feel that you’re not alone in the roasting process.

Write the Roast Speech

The writing of a retirement roast speech should be fun. Unlike other types of speeches, a retirement roast speech is essentially a list of jokes about the person’s habits, sayings and activities at work, or about their profession and retirement in general.

  1. Open with a great joke that’s not too personal, so the whole audience gets it.

  2. Find quick transitions to lead you from one joke or burn to another.

  3. Add a couple of inside jokes, so the subject sees that you’re doing this out of love or care for them.

  4. End with a few funny lines about their potential retirement activities or the lack of impact they had on their business/company.

Roast speeches are pretty informal, so your draft can be too. If you’re really nervous, write out the whole thing word-for-word. If you’re comfortable going with the flow, make index cards that each have a little fact on one side and all the possible jokes about it on the other side. That way, you can keep your options open as you read the crowd in real time.

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Run the Speech by a Test Crowd

To ensure your roast hasn’t gone too far past fun and lighthearted jabs, edit it thoughtfully and run it past a couple of other people before the retirement party.

  • For each joke or jab, ask yourself: Is this joke in good taste? Do I find it funny, or insulting?

  • Pass some of the jokes along to your coworkers. Do they agree about the nature of the content? Will other people understand your jokes?

  • Remove or adjust anything your test crowd deems offensive or inappropriate. If in doubt, don't put it in your speech.

Retirement Roast Speech Tips and Tricks to Remember

This is a roast, so it’s about involving everyone in the fun.

  • While you don’t want to give away all your jokes, it is okay to ask the subject of the roast if there are any topics they’d like to deem off-limits for the speech.

  • Allow time for pauses of laughter between each joke, but don't beg for applause.

  • Consider the audience and the person who is retiring. Not everyone is up for an M-rated Comedy Central-style roast.

  • Keep your speech short. Most roasts include short speeches by several people, and this is about the person retiring being in the spotlight, not you.

  • During your speech, make eye contact with the retiree often, so you’re all laughing together.

Warning: Roast Speeches Gone Wrong

Have you ever seen the television show, The Office? The main character, Michael, allows his subordinates to roast him — and it all goes wrong. The jokes are funny, but in the end, Michael takes the event personally, leaving feeling worthless and lonely.

Don’t let this happen to you! Are you afraid that your roast is going to hurt the person it attacks? Will the person be able to handle a few jokes at their expense, or will they take the roast personally? See if you can gain any insight into this person's attitude towards humor, and gather an opinion of how far the roast should really go in your retirement roast speech.

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Have Fun Saying Goodbye

A great retirement speech can be as memorable as the career being left behind. Find more fun ways to move on with great quotes and sayings.