What does Charlie Sheen, David Hasslehoff, Donald Trump, William Shatner, and Flavor Flav have in common? They have all been featured roastees on the Comedy Central Roast. In case your unfamiliar with how the roast works, one at a time comics like, Tom Arnold, Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin and others, take turns making fun of the roastee (more like ripping them to shreds). It is all done in good fun, when the camera pans over to the roastee, even they can be seen laughing uproariously.
Jason Fried, of 37signals, had the idea to feature a roast at one of his companies events. Instead of roasting a person, they roasted one of their products, their main product, Basecamp. Every employee had the opportunity to knock on this product, accentuate the various problems that customers have found annoying with it, and point out flaws without hurting feelings. This exercise was simply to make the product better. Fried says, of the product roast, "...we started fixing some of the stuff that was brought up in the roast...we began working on solving some deeper problems that emerged...The roast hit all the right notes: It brought us together, generated some laughs, broke the ice on the first day of a long week together, highlighted a bunch of issues, and motivated us to dig in." (read more at Inc. Magazine, Oct. 2011)
Perhaps what we need in the fire service is a roast. Perhaps at our next large gathering we spend some time roasting ourselves. Bring together operations, prevention, and administration, and give an open forum to express things that need changed, both within the department, and outside the department (community). Put the jokes (that we all have) about each side of the house out in the open. Perhaps this exercise could be the start to closing gaps that have long existed in your department (gaps between operations/prevention or between the fire department/community). Maybe this might be the start to realizing new programs and initiatives that need to be started or revamped for your community. Everyday we all hear different opinion of what the community thinks about our service (and we have our own opinions). A roast can serve as a non-threatening way to have these opinions heard and realized.