Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jay Leno Asks For Ryan Phillippe's "Gay Face"

Regular OS reader Sammy pointed out this recent Jay Leno segment where he's giving Ryan Phillippe a hard time for having played a gay teenager. Oh, of course, it is all in fun, right? has the transcript, as well as the video:

JAY: Can you give me like -- say that camera is your gay lover -- number two --

PHILLIPPE: Wait a second. Wait a second.

JAY: Can you give me your gayest look? Say that -- say that camera is Billy Bob -- Billy Bob has just ridden in shirtless from Wyoming.

Jeff at Whitless comments:

"So naturally you homed in on how WEIRD and HILARIOUS it was that he played a GAY PERSON -- while Phillippe reasonably tried to shift the conversation to the larger issue of how weird it was to be on a soap opera. But you couldn't be stopped! You went for the comedy gold!"

I'm not saying Leno is a monster for telling this "joke." But, he just wasn't that funny. Some may cry "this is the PC police!" and all that, and assert their right to laugh at his routine. Of course, anybody has the right to laugh at whatever. But the routine is built around the premise that gayness is a punchline in-and-of-itself. And these jokes are told with the implicit understanding that the audience "gets" that punchline, shares those cultural cues.

For another exploration of when pop-culture makes these often offensive assumptions, read Adrian Tomine's "The Donger And Me" webcomic on NPR. It's a good companion piece to the piece, I think, focusing on how the author of each confronted the offending celebrity.


  1. But here's something that's also important: Jay Leno, making gay jokes or not, is not funny. He's actually anti-funny. Bizarro-funny. So this doesn't really surprise me, disappoint me though it does.


  2. Got to agree here. I haven't felt The Tonight Show has been at all funny since Carson left. Leno is a hack who isn't fit to brush the tangles out of Krusty the Klown's hair.

  3. I've never understood the premise that gay men are funny just because. I don't understand why straight guys pretending to be gay are supposed to be funny either (Which is why I didn't saw that Adam Sandler movie with the firefighters).

    Of course, I don't understand why Leno is still employed either.

  4. "(Which is why I didn't saw that Adam Sandler movie with the firefighters). "

    I didn't want to see that one, either.

    Though I did see "Wild Pigs" or "Wild Hogs," or whatever it was called -- and it had plenty of that humor in it too.

  5. I'm surprised Leno didn't try and insert some sort of "brokeback" reference in there just for good measure.

    this guy is all about the lowest common denominator, which is more of a sad reflection on where a large portion of society than an indictment on how unfunny he is.

  6. For late night talk, I go with Craig Ferguson. I haven't watched Leno in years.

  7. This reminds me of one time when Owen Wilson was on the show promoting one of the Shangai Knights films. Leno was trying really hard to make a joke about Jackie Chan being a bad driver because he's Asian. Wilson just kind of grinned politely, but when Leno kept going, Wilson said "He drives just fine," and moved on to the next topic. Leno really seemed oblivious to Wilson's discomfort.

  8. My dad called me last night to switch on Leno because he had footage from Wizard World LA.

    Turns out it was a for a segment called "Don't Quit Your Day Job." A crew gave the mic to various cosplay folk (including Fat Momma from Who Wants To Be A Super-Hero), Jay would stop the tape, make a few LCD jokes at the subjects' expense and then have the audience guess the day job of the cosplayer.

    Glass house car-boy. Glass freaking houses.

    Letterman may have done a few Star Wars geek, comic-con, etc gags in the past, but they were usually general gags using B-roll. This was a focused bit making fun of specific people.

  9. Gay face?

    So when Denzel Washington comes on, does Jay ask him to eat some fried chicken?

    It's ridiculous.

    It's mostly because Jay's audience are white men over the age of 60 living in Kansas and date rapists.

  10. I am a Letterman fan, so I am naturally pre-disposed not to like Leno. But am I just being cynical or did Leno do this just to get peopel talking about his show. I mean, people are talking about his show.

    There is no such thing as bad press.

  11. Anonymous11:23 AM

    As bad as Leno's stuff is, keep in mind he consistantly beats out all the other late night hosts in the ratings.

  12. I'm a die-hard Bill Hicks fan, so Leno is, to me, the epitome of sell-out, especially in the comedy business where the very definition of success is selling out. I was watching Friends reruns the other day and noticed a lot of that homophobic humor there as well, but they also had that ep with Steve Zahn as Phoebe's gay husband, so I have a hard time condemning Friends just because they went for that cheap shot on average every ten episodes or so.