If your taste in comedy leans towards the playfully raunchy, then you can celebrate this Independence Day as Here TV's gay-friendly romp Out West starts streaming on Amazon on the 4th of July.
Jennifer Elise Cox (of Comedy Central's Idiotsitter, and as the sweetly slutty Gina Spinks on Web Therapy) stars as Reno party girl Prissy Alcott, who tries to save the family farm by converting it into a dude ranch (and spa) - with the help of three gay friends.
The cast of comedy stalwarts includes Beth Grant (Sordid Lives) and Ray Wise (Fresh Off the Boat) as Prissy's parents; Paul Bartholomew as her gay ex-fiance; Daniel Baldwin as a hunky ranch hand; and the insanely hot Joel Rush (If Loving You is Wrong) as her love interest. Carla Jo Bailey plays her scheming nemesis Bonnie, with Lord of the Rings' Sean Astin as Bonnie's henpecked husband.
The film was directed and co-written by Lee Brownstein, who shared producing duties with Cox, his wife of ten years. The husband and wife team shared some behind-the-scenes insights during a recent exclusive interview with the Advocate.
"I love gay men so much, and I'm around them all the time," says Cox. "It bothered me that my gay actor friends couldn't play straight characters, but straight actors could play gay characters." This led her and Brownstein to develop a film in which actors of various sexual persuasions play characters of various sexual persuasions.
But the story itself was inspired by an experience that the couple shared. "We were on a dude ranch in Arizona with a sparkly spa," says Brownstein. "Jennifer said, 'Ooh, a spa,' and she sauntered off and spent the whole time there."
The film's over-the-top, occasionally raunchy comedy was inspired by one of Cox's idols. "I love John Waters, so the film is an homage to him," she says. While the bodily function sight gags are plentiful, they never detract from the sweet sincerity of this fishes-out-of-water comic tale of overcoming the odds.
But creating the independent film was not without its challenges. Brownstein found a perfect dude ranch as a location, but once the homophobic owners read the script, they passed. "We finally found a ranch that was truly LGBT friendly, so that was even better," he says.
"With an independent film, you have no money, and we made all the mistakes," he admits. "We had multiple locations, stunts, kids, and animals." These included "fainting goats" - who appear to drop dead at any loud noise. "They supposedly exist, but they really don't," he says. After several failed attempts to make real goats faint on cue, Brownstein relied on 3D animation to create one of the film's best sight gags.
Cox admits that there were initially challenges to being directed by her husband. "Lee is an amazing director, but it took a while for me to get past seeing his direction as criticism. Once I did, everything was fine."
"And she's an insanely talented actress," adds Brownstein. "Oh, start...!" replies Cox.
Cox's delightfully ditzy performance is the engine that drives the film, and she credits her comic style to some of her early idols.
"I wanted to be Carol Burnett," she says. "I grew up watching her show, and I wanted to do that. I loved all the Mel Brooks films, and I love Goldie Hawn. I grew up on her comedy which is so natural and sweet - and she proved that you could be cute and funny at the same time."
Coming up next for Cox is the web series The Bears, Comedy Central's Idiotsitter, and a lifestyle show that she and Brownstein are shopping around that deals with female comedians -- and shoes.
Of Out West, Brownstein says, "We wanted to make a fun, mindless comedy with characters who just happen to be gay. And we wanted to release it on the 4th of July because - America."
And what's more American than gays on a dude ranch?