Situation comedy takes on new meaning in The Gayest Show Ever. But rather than recurring characters that have a weekly airing of persona development and challenges, this show is a regular outing, probing and detailing of all things queer. Friends of Dorothy (and their legions of admirers) will feel right at home as the tightly edited episodes unfold.
Gluing everything together is host Elvira Kurt, employing her lesbian pedigree, wry tone and comedic timing skills to excellent effect. The frequently up-angle camera on her pithy introductions never have an iota of speaking down to anyone. And she’s not shy about getting into the act: the song “Lesbians Love Their Cellphones” (closing out episode three) is a welcome addition of home-grown music theatre which, hopefully, will reappear in future installments.
The feature guest-list is impressive. Kicking off with “filth elder” John Waters immediately sets the bar high for outrageous commentary (who better to advocate for Anilingus Week where one of the imagined activities would be face painting for rimmer children …) and insight (“all humour is politics”). More live than undead is agent provocateur Bruce La Bruce—here a master of understatement: “Art isn’t meant to be politically correct.”—yet it’s strangely disconcerting (as happens throughout the series) that his more colourful language gets bleeped out. The show purports to tell it like it is, so why dilute the language?
Activists are not in short supply. Cyndi Lauper (some fine split-screen shots putting her on-stage antics alongside her “daytime” demeanour add visual relief), “I’m your extended family,” is clearly delighted with her gay fans and has no intention of dropping them to placate her devoted breeders. She goes even further at condemning the religious right by opining “It’s [humanity] a quilt, not a uniform white sheet.” Porn star/educator Buck Angel has no qualms about describing his journey from officially female to nearly all male (his mangina has brought him fame, a bit of fortune and the ability to demonstrate to others feeling uncomfortable in their gender that life altering transitions can be made successfully). Self-described ugly drag queens get their time in the spotlight through a segment devoted to the Danish theatrical troupe Dunst. Stage personas such as Ramona Macho, Hiebling Siebling and their colleagues specialize in performances that know no bounds: who wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with an alcohol fuelled enema and then dance on the same floor as the resultant “fountain”? Curiously, during the feature on Christiania (Copenhagen’s abandoned military base turned into a largely gay-hippie compound) the expulsion of Dunst from the commune in 2003 after complaints and threats from residents wasn’t mentioned.
To add spice and variety between the longer interviews and profiles, each episode has a recurring gag. Happily, “Project Dumpster”—featuring DQs Sienna and Jasmine as they attempt to makeover Kurt into a sassy whore—did not get an encore. The Asexuals bits fared much better. What fun to witness loving lesbians extolling the virtue of abstinence while slipping over to the damp side …. The PFLAG mother (with a faint echo of Lily Tomlin’s “one ringy dingy” tone) was hit and miss; the woofing Bears’ unabashedly comfortable in their fur and bulk provided much-needed balance to the stereotypical hotties that are generally extolled by gay men everywhere.
Speaking of which, is there any sex? Well, yes and no. Some of the entertainers featured offer teasing glimpses of buff skin and bouncing booty (notably Big Freedia whose shaking tush becomes a lesson in itself for the unflappable host) but there’s no R-rated snippets to report. On the other hand, the ever-controversial issue of bareback sex is covered (often uncovered with a few discreetly blurred clips) over two shows. The attitudes of working porn stars and their producers are mixed. Sage Daniels, the poster boy for on-camera unprotected sex, willingly risks his life at every, er, shoot content with the knowledge that his partner’s HIV paperwork is in order. But when Kurt asks the professional fucker if he wasn’t concerned about being a role model for others, he was unrepentant, most certainly belying his given stage name. Sadly, Daniels allowed that for young men coming of age and coming out, going bareback was “a rite of passage these days.” Little wonder infection rates are creeping up again.
Three cheers for creator/executive producer David Walberg and his crew for having the tenacity to develop an engaging and entertaining look at all things queer in the 21st century. One can only hope the show eventually comes out of the OutTV broadcasting closet and takes its place in the mainstream where those who face difficult questions might find a safe haven for answers that dare not speak any shame. JWR