By Christopher Mangum
Originally published on Advocate.com February 22 2010 6:35 PM ET
Bryan Safi has returned with a second season of That’s Gay, a segment on the Talk Soup-esque infoMania that satirically examines how the media treats and represents LGBT people, issues, and characters. From rappers declaring “no homo” to the saving power of gay best friends on reality TV, Safi and his co-creator Natalie Proctor have used humor to shed light on offensive stereotypes perpetuated by the likes of John McCain and even Kathy Griffin. Sitting down with The Advocate, Safi discusses the gay undertones of Jersey Shore, working as a writer for Ellen DeGeneres, and the imperative need for “don’t ask, don’t tell” to protect all those straight “anal virgins.”
The Advocate: What was the inspiration behind That’s Gay?
Bryan Safi: It started last year when I saw an episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker and she [Patti Stanger] had a client on. She kept saying, “Are you a bottom or a top?,” “I love my gays,” and that kind of thing. And I thought, God, that is crazy that people speak about their gay friends like that. I wondered if there were a lot of other examples of that and there are. So the first episode was That’s Gay: Gay Best Friends, and from there That’s Gay evolved.
That first episode was hysterical because it really does highlight how people remove a gay person’s individuality and just define them as ‘the gay.’
Exactly, even people who are huge supporters like Kathy Griffin and Tyra Banks say that. Kathy Griffin is really funny and does support the community, but separating the gays from the rest of the humanity makes you seem like an alien.
Your last segment was on "don't ask, don't tell," and you claim that whole debate boils down to the threat of the gay penis. What do you think is so scary about the gay penis?
All these arguments are about close quarters and showering together. It is the idea that we gays are super promiscuous so why wouldn’t we enlist for four years just so we can check out a straight dude and see what he’s packing? It all boils down to these poor guys who enlist, these anal virgins, and how we can’t have them around ass impalers. The arguments are basically masking the word anal rape.
It’s the fear that the collective gay community will abandon West Hollywood and P-town and head to Fallujah. I mean, who needs a Dlist account when you could just enlist?
Exactly! Why wouldn’t you want to risk your life just so you could cop a feel and get some ass?
Check out the most recent installment of That's Gay below.
Judging from your episodes, you must be a pop culture junkie.
I am. I try to ingest everything I can. I watch everything.
Even Jersey Shore?
Yes! What I love about Jersey Shore is that it is so gay. I think the motto for the guys is gym, tan, and laundry. It’s such a stereotypical gay thing – the vanity, the tanning, going out together to find someone.
It’s basically Queer As Folk on the Jersey shore. Is there a gay stereotype you wish would just go away?
Certainly the gay best friend is one. I think the idea that we don’t have an identity and live for these other people is super frustrating. It’s like we are accessories, and defining gays as accessories then puts us in the realm that we are not a real people and don’t have real needs. I know that the straight-woman, gay-man relationship exists, and those relationships can be very genuine, but the ones on TV are not.
No, they are usually abusive!
They are absolutely abusive, and every time I think, Why are you friends with her? Why do you want to be friends with someone [like that], or calls you the gay in front of her friends and thinks it is fun?
Are there any gay people in the media who are contributing positively or challenging gay clichés?
I think Ellen [DeGeneres] is one that talks about her life everyday on TV, and I know that does make a difference. When I worked for Ellen, my grandmother asked me if I had met Ellen’s wife. For my grandmother to use the word wife when talking about a gay couple was crazy. I think she does a lot in the way of subtly mentioning what her and her wife do. It normalizes it so much that all she is saying is no different that what anyone else would say. On the other end, I love Adam Lambert. I love the flamboyance and the in your face attitude. I love that he goes out on these award shows, does what it does, and points out a double standard. I think there could be a lot more fuck it in the gay community.
How long were you working as a writer on Ellen DeGeneres's show?
I was almost there for five months and then Current wanted to do a second season of That’s Gay.
Was there a lot of dancing at Ellen?
Everyday baby! I really did like that job a lot. It was great seeing someone who bounced back bigger than before after going through a shit storm in the 90’s. Everyone, gay or straight, just railed on her.
Gays can certainly relish in hating on other gay individuals.
Oh, it is the easiest thing to do. I instantly hate someone if I see them wearing an Abercrombie [& Fitch] shirt. You are too old to be wearing that! And it takes me two seconds to realize that I don’t hate you, I just hate what has happened to us. I hate that I feel I should hate you, but I don’t hate you. I think that gays hating gays is certainly a thing. I am sure there are plenty of gays who hate Adam Lambert for the very reasons I love him.
You have looked at rap music, advertisements, coming out stories, same-sex marriage, and countless other topics. What has been your favorite episode of That's Gay?
I loved the "No Homo" episode because I think using that phrase in rap music is hilarious. Instantly what you think is, “Oh, I wasn’t questioning if you were gay, but now I do.” I never thought for a second, Wheezy, that you wanting a girl to go down on you was gay, but now that you are saying that it isn’t gay I am starting to think that maybe you don’t want a girl to go down on you, and that you want a guy.
That episode was everywhere online. Was that your most viewed episode?
Yeah, I think that and Gay Best Friends were the two most viewed. All it takes is someone pointing it out, giving examples, and then people realize it is a thing. Obviously for the political issues I go for a different angle. For instance, for gay marriage I went from the direction that what the opponents were saying made sense.
Do you have more fun with pop culture or the political debates?
They are both really enjoyable. I like the political segments because it is so fun having those talking heads on screen and just trying to make them look as stupid as possible. You just feel great doing it.
What other issues are you hoping to cover this season?
I want to do one on gay parenting, mostly coming out of the Modern Family show. I also want to address gay dating. I showed my friend a gay dating site and she was horrified by what was on there. I definitely want to do the Oscars when all the Cojo’s come out for that. Also I want to look at video games. There are gay characters in some and there is also really abusive homophobic language in others. And if it is possible I want to do a figure skating one. I think it’s funny that sport is looked at as super gay and yet there is no male-on-male contact like there is in almost every other sport.