By Dan Snierson
September 01, 2016 at 08:12 PM EDT
Mark Davis/WireImage

If you think Rob Lowe is hot, just wait until his friends point their flamethrowers his way on Labor Day. The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe (Comedy Central, Sept. 5, 10 p.m.) will celebrate the 52-year-old alum of Parks and Recreation and The West Wing by encouraging celebrities including Peyton Manning, Jeff Ross, Ralph Macchio, and Ann Coulter to chuck a ton of insults at that flawless face. Here, Lowe — who has shown that he can take a punchline by parodying his sex-tape scandal in this new promo — readies for a skewering to remember. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you walk me me through the intricate decision process of saying yes to this public flogging?

ROB LOWE: I figure I can’t be both the person who is obsessed with these roasts and also the person who turns them down every year. I just couldn’t look myself in the mirror any further. And if it’s good enough for the Biebs, it’s good enough for me.

Do you have any previous experience being roasted?

For my 50th birthday, I decided I wanted to be roasted by my favorite people. It was a really great group — Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Rob Riggle. It was so fun, so I like the process. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I find a great, well-crafted joke at my expense to be delightful.

How are you prepping? Have you practiced crying on the inside or your courtesy laugh for a joke that cuts too deep?

I’ve done a lot of advance work with my shaman, my psychiatrist, my chi massager, and my crystal guru — every element of my spirit is prepared to be broken.

Are there any jokes that you’re dreading?

I already said to [Roast Master] David Spade, “Look, I’ve got a family now, and I’ve worked really hard to put certain things in my past behind me, so I’m really hoping you protect me.” David said, “Oh, I totally understand. Believe me, no one’s going to talk about Dr. Vegas.”

And what kinds of jokes are you hoping that people make?

Like anything in comedy, I love the unexpected. There’s always low-hanging fruit and I guess that’s their fiduciary obligation to go after that, and that will all be great, but it’s the unexpected stuff that you never see coming that always make me laugh the most. That — and being as mean as humanly possible.

Did you tell the producers that certain subjects are off-limits, or did you just say, “Fire away”?

You can’t be a p—y about this. It has to be a free-fire zone — that’s the fun of it. I had some people who I wanted to be on the dais and they would’ve been great, but they had some issues — “I’ll do it, but I don’t want to get hit on this particular thing” — and I’m like, “Then you’re not going to be on the dais.”

Want to workshop any of your jokes about David Spade right now?

I’ve got some good ones but if they end up in print, then I can’t use them on the roast… If he starts getting too rough with me, I’m going to carry headshots of every gorgeous actress he’s banged over the years, and just hold them up to distract him.

When you said you were going to carry the headshots, I thought at first you were about to say that you were going to carry him off the stage and make a size joke.

There’s also that. I mean, you noticed that Rob Riggle is not the Roast Master. I’m not f—ing around. I definitely wanted to have somebody that I could physically overpower if I had to.

Peyton Manning, Rob Riggle, and Jeff Ross are among the roasters. Which do you fear the most?

Jeff Ross is the man, and whenever I watch the Roasts, you can’t turn it off until Jeff has had his way. But the other thing I’ve learned last year with Martha Stewart, who stole the roast, is: Beware of wolves in bunny suits. Whoever seems like they’re the least likely candidate is the one you have to fear the most… I will say that if I had to pick the No. 1 person I would most love to have —  and the No. 1 person that would never in a million years do it — it would’ve been Peyton. And he’s doing it. I said, “Peyton, I’m really sorry that I announced your retirement two years early on Twitter, but the fact of the matter is, I was only about seven NFL records and one Super Bowl victory off. That’s nitpicking.” So, I announced his retirement, and he’s going to preside over the evening that will actually be my retirement.

Why don’t we kick off the roast right here? Rob Lowe, rip the hell out of the Rob Lowe.

Well, I’m very excited that we got Bo Derek to be on the roast [Note: Bo Derek was unvailable to attend the Aug. 27 filming of the Roast due to a scheduling conflict]. Not only is she a cultural icon, but she will be one person in the room who’s prettier than I am.

You know the “pretty” jokes are coming. Although there are much worse things that could be said about someone than that—

And we will find them out. Believe me.

But that was a pretty gentle self-roast.

Would Bill Belichick talk to you about the offensive formations he was thinking of using in the Super Bowl? He wouldn’t…. And that’s where I’m at. I hate to even bring up a subject in public for fear that one of these other comedy minds will go, “Oh, that’s a great idea I haven’t thought about.”

So, you’re playing it close to the vest?

I’m trying to lower expectations. I’ve made a career out of low expectations — no pun intended — and I’m hoping it continues to work for me on Labor Day.

A version of this story appeared in the Sept. 2 issue of Entertainment Weekly, currently on newsstands.