Bryan Safi, as regular readers will know, is the creator and host of Infomania’s “That’s Gay,” a smart, comedic take on issues that affect the LGBT community. In addition to being a writer and performer for Infomania, the show responsible for bringing us the comedy gold of Sarah Haskins and Erin Gibson, Safi also performs at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles and blogs at the Huffington Post.
We here at Feministing are so grateful for Safi’s ability to shine a funny light on important issues, taking on everything from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to why we see women quite a few straight women making out on TV, but very few lesbians. I personally loved his analysis of media coverage of American figure skater Johnny Weir, and particularly his observation that many commentators were incapable of even calling Weir an “athlete” presumably because they were uncomfortable with his ambiguous sexuality and willingness to play with gender.
Safi did a “That’s Gay” half-hour show last month, and for those of you out on the West Coast, he’ll be performing a “That’s Gay” live show called State of the (Super Gay) Union this week at the Out and Loud festival in San Francisco. Details and tickets are available here.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Bryan Safi.
Chloe Angyal: How did you get started in comedy, and how did you come to focus specifically on the portrayal of gays and lesbians?
Bryan Safi: I come from Texas. My family is Texan so many generations back, so they’re all very conservative and crazy in a lovely way. But I think I recognized from a young age how nuts they were, so I used to imitate my mom and my grandmother in line at the bank or in line at the grocery store getting really frustrated, and that would make them laugh and I liked that. So it started like that. I went to college for acting and any serious thing I did was a joke; I got laughs from people when I didn’t mean to. But I got really involved here when I started working on the No on Prop 8 campaign, and I started paying more attention to stuff to how the media was pushing out representations of gays and lesbians – scripted , unscripted, everything. At Current, I was watching that show The Millionaire Matchmaker, which is this really trashy show on Bravo, and I noticed how she kept saying, “the gay,” or, “I love the gay,” and “are you a bottom or a top?” She was being so inappropriate, and I just felt like this was everywhere, and it was.
CA: Who are your favorite fictional heroines, and who are your heroines in real life?
BS: I love Margo Channing in All About Eve, for sure. I love Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence. Because everyone who has shaped me in my life – my mother, my grandmother, my great aunt – are women who dress up and who, in a way, really wear the pants in the family. Most of the women in Texas do.
From a young age my favorite heroine ever was Courtney Love. I just love her. She really brought out something in me from a young age. She has this humorous anger, and I think she knows what she’s doing and she’s really hilarious. Courtney Love and Dolly Parton were my favorite people growing up. My parents and grandparents listened to Dolly Parton when I was growing up, and she has this larger-than-life, extreme femininity, but she’s also very powerful, and I always loved that about her. The joke that no one heard, she was the one making it.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
BS: I touched on this in a recent episode, actually: Focus on the Family kind of a crazy organization, but there’s still this idea that gay men and women infiltrating schools with an agenda and teaching kids about anal sex at the age of three. That makes me really angry. And the ones that are always there, of course, are “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and marriage equality.
CA: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
BS: I think it’s that it’s still considered a bad word, and in a different way than it used to. The women in my family are feminists, but they would never identify as feminists, and they would also probably never vote for a woman. It’s really strange to me and I don’t fully understand it, but I think there’s a weird stigma that if you’re a feminist then you’re also a left-wing nut. We’re just gotten to a place where you’re one or the other – you’re with us or against us. And there’s no wiggle room left in any definition: You’re a Democrat and people think this, you’re a Republican and people think this. You’re from the East Coast you do this; you’re from the West Coast, you’re… you know, a hippie. We’re in an era of one or another and there’s no wiggle room at all. And I think that feminism connotes something that women are afraid of and that men don’t like.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
BS: An old-fashioned, tabouli and Bjork. Because every day, I’d be entertained and irritated.