Mikala Bierma has made quite the viral impression in the last two weeks with Disappointing Gay Best Friend, her new series of video shorts opposite Tyler Coates, a Brooklyn-based writer whose low-key indifference and post-hipster malaise make for one hilariously unexpected gay sidekick. Bierma certainly doesn’t disappoint as she speaks to The Advocate about tired gay stereotypes and the criticism she got for saying “hot tranny mess.”
The Advocate: For starters, I think it’ll feel good to take your Lady Gaga–related advice and say, “Girl, do you.” What’s your story, funny lady?
Mikala Bierma: You betta work. I’m originally from Minnesota and went to the theater school at the University of Michigan. Then I moved to Chicago, where I performed as a comedian at Improv Olympic, the Lincoln Lodge, and the Annoyance Theater. I moved to New York about six months ago, and now I’m being Internet-famous and performing stand-up all around town. I’m pretty amazing — gaymazing, some would say.
What inspired your Disappointing Gay Best Friend videos?
The inspiration came out of two drunken nights. A few months ago Tyler and I met up with a bunch of my gay friends from college who were being super-bitchy and downright mean. I found myself worried that these guys were being too gay for Tyler. Later, I asked him if he was offended by all the shit-talking. He was like, “No, I know lots of gay men. I date gay men.” That experience planted a seed that there’s something funny about comparing Tyler to that bitchy gay stereotype. A couple weeks later I was performing in a variety show, and Tyler was wasted. He teetered toward me in all his hipster glory and confessed that he wanted to perform with me. I was like, “Yes, let’s shoot something!” Later that week we got together and filmed the first three shorts.
How true is the Disappointing dynamic to your real-life relationship?
We’re playing exaggerated versions of ourselves. There’s a lot more love between us in real life. Although if I asked him how I looked in a dress, he would never say “fierce.”
Some bloggers are viewing Disappointing Gay Best Friend as a direct, more realistic response to the Sassy Gay Friend Web series that aims to counter its sassy gay stereotypes. Is that fair?
We didn’t set out to comment on anything. We just want to be funny and make each other laugh. The world is full of many different gays — sassy and disappointing. They’re like snowflakes.
But have you heard from Brian Gallivan, the Sassy Gay Friend guy?
I met him a few times when we were both performing in Chicago. He’s super-nice, and I think his videos are funny. We should do a world tour together.
As your videos suggest, straight girls sometimes place unfair expectations on their gay male friends, perhaps due to their stereotypical mainstream portrayals in TV shows and movies like Will & Grace, Sex and the City, and My Best Friend’s Wedding. Should gay male friends play a role in a woman’s life that’s different from that of other friends?
The only thing I expect from my gay friends is amazing hand-job tips, and I’m finally getting good at it. Really, I think a gay friend should be held to the same friend standards as anyone else. A woman expecting a gay man to make her feel better about herself is so 2008. Friendship is a two-way street. I love to hang out with Tyler because we have a great time and similar interests: We both love cocktails, going to a show, and giant dicks.
As far as other gay BFF portrayals in entertainment, what’s the ultimate straight female–gay male friendship against which all others should be measured?
I love Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman — their “Bestie x Bestie” videos are great. And Scooter and Skeeter from Muppet Babies.
Tell me more about your friendship with Tyler Coates — and feel free to include embarrassing personal details about him that he wouldn’t want anyone else to know.
We met through a friend I performed with in Chicago. We both moved to New York last fall, and that’s when he became my gay boyfriend. Tyler is the greatest. He’s supportive and fun. Something embarrassing? He only eats cereal and hot dogs. It’s gross. Oh! He just got his boobs done, and they look amazing.
Does he ever change that plaid shirt?
We thought it would be funny if I changed for each video and he always looked the same. He’s been seriously hungover both times we shot, so I think that helps him look so disappointing. He’s method.
Is he aware that he looks like Jesse Tyler Ferguson?
Yes, he knows that he looks like JTF. Are people shortening his name yet? Well, I am. He actually gets stopped in the street and asked for his autograph. It’s so funny, because Tyler is just like, “Really? I’m not him.” In possibly the most gay moment in TV history, Tyler met JTF — I’m still doing that — at a taping of Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live. I think Tyler also looks a little like Anthony Rapp from Rent. I’d know, because I had that poster on my wall growing up. I love to sing, “How we gonna pay last year’s rent?” to an annoyed Tyler. He used to dress more like a character from Rent too — striped scarf and all.
Watch Disappointing Gay Best Friend's "Make Up" video below.
What’s your history with gay men?
I’ve always had lots of loving gay men in my life. My parents are musicians who had all sorts of artists — gays — around us growing up. One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting between two drag queens at Thanksgiving dinner. Fifth-grade Mikala was in awe. We have an amazing picture somewhere. There’s a natural attraction between strong funny ladies and gay men. A silly sense of humor is necessary for any friendship I build, and I’ve just found a lot of silly ol’ queens out there.
Since their debut on March 10, the Disappointing Gay Best Friend videos have already been featured on a number of major blogs. What doors do you hope that recognition opens?
I have simple dreams: Meet RuPaul, be on Bravo, and have my own float in a gay pride parade. Really, I’d just love to keep telling jokes that make people happy. And also to be so famous — or gaymous — it hurts.
You’ve posted other comedy videos on your YouTube channel in the past. Why do you think Disappointing Gay Best Friend became such an overnight hit?
I think people can identify with what we’re doing. And they’re short. People like short things.
What was the moment that you realized you were onto something special?
When the videos were posted on the Manhunt blog. I’ve never been featured next to an advertisement for a live sex show.
The comments section of a gay blog can sometimes be a vicious place. What’s the feedback been like from the gay community?
The comments have been really nice. Well, I got a little heat for saying “hot tranny mess” in one video, but I was making reference to Christian Siriano’s catchphrase on Project Runway and trying to get Tyler to do that whole catty queen thing with me. I love transgender people. I love all people. And animals. And all the other things that might make you mad if I didn’t like them. Oh, and people also keep saying that my face is annoying. I’m like, It’s my face — I know!
Have you gotten any negative feedback from conservative viewers because of the gay angle?
Nope. Maybe they all came to their senses. You’re welcome, America.
Have sassier gay men applied to be your friend? Fear of being replaced might scare some sass into Tyler.
Nah. I’ve got sassy gay friends in my life, and I love them all. But I would love to see Tyler get a gay makeover. He would look amazing in a sheer shirt.
Can you give us a preview of some upcoming disappointments?
Girl, you’ve got to watch!
By the way, Sassy Gay Friend is now using his videos to push a new water enhancer that sponsors him. Which brands should approach Disappointing Gay Best Friend for an endorsement deal?
Actually, Tyler will be drinking Snapple in every future episode, and I just got the cutest Pepsi logo face-tattoo.