I just got finished not watching the Comedy Central roast of James Franco.
I didn’t watch it, because I’ve seen other roasts, and I know that they are sometimes funny, always mean, and littered with jokes about men having sex with other men. I have also seen “This Is The End,” a Seth Rogen movie that is so self-involved and so focused on the possibility of James Franco having sex with men that I had to leave early. Not because I was offended, but because I was bored.
And I have generally liked Seth Rogen. He’s very likeable. He’s a good writer and a good actor. But this whole “Gay Panic” thing that is at the center of so much of his comedy (and sometimes drama) feels so … old, doesn’t it?
You see, there was a time, not long ago, when it was a thrill for us gay people to be named at all. When straight guys pretended that they might have sex with another man, and half of the joke was about how gross that is, we watched and thought, “Hey! You know I exist! Thank you!”
But this is 2013. The world is quickly learning that some people are gay and some people are straight, and so what? I am guessing that of the comedians that took part in the roast of James Franco, there’s probably not a homophobe among them. They probably have tons of gay friends. So they’ve evolved and we’ve evolved. So why hasn’t the material?
This roast of the roasters by Totally Biased comedian Guy Branum took the words right out of my mouth, and said them funnier than I could have dreamed of saying them. And I can be kinda funny.
I love what Branum says because it’s a pathway to where we need to go next. We need to evolve, and we need our allies to evolve along with us.
And we have evolved, and I know that. Compare Rogen and Sarah Silverman, for instance, to Eddie Murphy back when I was growing up. Murphy had so much clout. I remember my classmates walking around saying “Faggot ass faggot,” because Murphy said it on his famous comedy album “Delirious.” He influenced a generation of young people to think that gay men were sissies, and gay sex was disgusting and funny.
With the Rogen clan, it’s clear they know better. They aren’t rabidly homophobic, as one might assume Murphy was from his act 30 years ago. There are bromances throughout Rogen’s work, and often there’s a sense of sexual longing and confusion for the characters. But then comes the panic. There’s always the panic. Silverman only plays a character who is vacuous and racist and homophobic. That’s different than Murphy, who was playing himself.
I just hope that the comedians of our day recognize the power that they have. And maybe come to the conclusion that this gay panic thing is over. Because it should be. Gay sex is basically a lot like straight sex. And as Branum says, “If you think gay sex is funny, you’re doing it wrong.”