After Roast, Justin Bieber Wants us to Think He’s All Grown-up. Is it Possible?

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Justin Bieber at his roast. (Kevin Mazur/Getty)

Puerto Vallarta, Jal.- “The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber” on Monday night was everything you might expect: Vulgar and mean, all to the delight of the hundreds in the crowd excited to see the pop singer get skewered. However, it also had a distinct underlying theme: It’s time for Bieber to grow up.

It’s a moment that arrives for every teen star. Granted, not every crossroads is a public televised roast with dozens of gross sex jokes. But by subjecting himself to the merciless burns from a random assortment of comics and celebs (Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, Natasha Leggero, Martha Stewart, etc.), Bieber, now 21, is making a statement. He knows he’s a punch line. Time for them to get it out of their system. And then move on.

Look no further than the last few serious moments of the roast, in which Bieber said he wanted to get serious:

There was really no preparing me for this life. I was thrown into this at 12-years-old and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. There’s been moments I’m really proud of, and a lot of moments I look back and I’m pretty disappointed in myself for. But the things that I’ve done really don’t define who I am. I’m a kindhearted person who loves people. And through it all I lost some of my best qualities. For that, I’m sorry. But what I can say is I’m looking forward to being someone that you guys can all look at and be proud of. Someone you can smile at and see some of yourself in. Someone close to me once said “It’s how you rise from a fall that truly defines you as a man.” I’m excited for that challenge and I want to say thank you so much for taking this journey with me and I’m excited for you to see what’s next. Thank you, God, for your grace and for never giving up on me.

Good, clearly-scripted speech: But can everyone actually move on? Let’s review: Bieber has endured one of the rockiest “teen pop star” to “real pop star” roads in recent memory, from arrests to lawsuits to egg-throwing to just generally acting like the worst. It’s not going to be easy for him to repair his image, particularly when people are more used to seeing his name in the headlines than his music. An album is reportedly in the works, though he hasn’t released a new one in nearly three years.

It all started pretty well for the Biebs — in 2007, his mom uploaded a video to YouTube that showed him performing at a local singing competition in Ontario, Canada. Bieber was 12 at the time and the performance went viral. Talent manager Scooter Braun (in the audience at Monday’s roast, of course) spotted the video and signed him soon after with his business partner, R&B superstar Usher. In 2009, Bieber released his first singles “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl,” and the following year, his debut album went No. 1.

Things moved quickly after that, with platinum-selling albums and unstoppable momentum. At the same time Bieber’s career was on fire, his fiercely loyal tween fan base grew increasingly intense. Known as “Beliebers,” they followed his every move, YouTube video and tweet. To this day, they will go to Twitter battle with other fan bases, such as rivals One Direction.

As he got richer, older, and even more famous, the problems began, as he got in trouble all over the world. In late 2010 when Bieber was 16, there were reports of an alleged assault against a 12-year-old at a laser tag facility. Then there was a reckless driving charge in summer 2012, right after his third album “Believe” was released, with some more mature themes than his first two albums.

The following year, as the Washington Post’s Reliable Source wrote at the time, “You might be under the hazy impression, based on a drip-drip-drip of ominous headlines, that Justin Bieber has set off on a teen-idol path to destruction.” Was it really that big a deal? There were some troubling reports of Bieber walking shirtless through airports and allegedly attacking his neighbor. He also acquired a pet monkey — and when discovering he didn’t have the right paperwork at a German airport, he just left the monkey there.

So, not great. Things spiraled in 2013 with headline after headline: Marijuana found on a tour bus; a lawsuit for allegedly beating up a paparazzo; charged with defacing a building in Brazil. Bieber’s 2014 kicked off with “felony egging” and an arrest for drag racing and a DUI. That fall, he was arrested again and charged with dangerous driving after crashing an ATV. There was that fight with actor Orlando Bloom. Through it all, he had a public, apparently tortured on-off relationship with Disney star Selena Gomez.

It’s a lot to take in, though the Beliebers (61 million on Twitter) have shown time and again that they will stand by their idol. Though it appears Bieber is ready to be taken more seriously by the masses.

“Seems like only yesterday you were discovered on YouTube. Time flies when you’re a piece of [expletive],” comedian Natasha Leggero told him at the roast.

That was one of the kinder things said about the Biebs during the two-hour show, though he claimed he always dreamed of being roasted. Looking at Bieber’s gleeful expression during the roast, it did seem to have a cathartic effect, as if by reminding everyone by what he’s done, he can get a clean slate. And it actually might be true — after all of the insults heaved his way, what’s left to say?

“I know I’ve been driving recklessly, getting arrested, smoking weed, abandoning monkeys and urinating publicly,” he told the crowd at the end of the night, though reminded everyone the point of the whole event: “I turned a lot of people off over the past few years, but I know I can still turn out good music and turn everything all the around. You have my word I will not end up broken, pathetic, bitter or sitting on a dais of somebody else’s roast.”


Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr