Does Johnny Knoxville have something he wants to tell me? Because, really, I'm cool with it. Personally, his eyes are a little too close together for my taste, but he's got a lot of spirit, and I'd be thrilled to see him settle down into a cozy relationship with that cute Steve-O or any of the other Jackass boys busy pulling their pants down and finding new uses for their orifices. Johnny and his crew have been wink-winking at the gay boys for years, so the only reason I mention this now is that Johnny's jolly, juvenile queer-baiting was the final straw in my tolerance for the homo hilarity that Saturday Night Live is increasingly making its stock-in-trade.
Knoxville's recent appearance on SNL exemplified everything that continues to keep that once daring, essential show from ever doing comedy that means something beyond a guilty (or not-so-guilty) guffaw at someone else's expense. The entire night appeared to be based on the creaky concept that queer or effeminate men are inherently hysterical—and, hey, they can often be pretty damn funny, I'll admit, though I don't believe that 90 minutes of a mincing Knoxville makes for particularly pointed satire. The icing on the fruitcake was a sketch in which Johnny played the flaming gay lover of Horatio Sanz's merry, mercilessly queen-sized take on Elton John, which led to SNL's current favorite gross-out gag: the sight of two men outrageously tongue-kissing each other.
It's a joke on which the show relies heavily of late; it also occurs whenever regulars Seth Meyers and Fred Armisen do their admittedly hysterical interpretation of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. Yet even the Charles and Camilla bit, however amusing, is a cheat: Though Meyers, Armisen, and company want to earn laughs from the general public bafflement concerning Charles and Camilla's burning desire, the punch line is built around the fact that we know Meyers and Armisen are male, so when they can't keep their mouths off each other it's actually—get it?—two guys in love! You can hear the happy revulsion in the audience: Eeeeeeeeeewwwwwww! Ha ha ha!
Before anybody tries to lecture me about the modes and methods of take-no-prisoners comedy, let it be known that I do not think mocking gay men or women is verboten. In fact, I consider many gay men and women to be in desperate need of derision. And sure, it's occasionally ridiculous watching a couple of dudes suck face. Hell, when I find myself kissing another man, I sometimes consider it ridiculous. But I don't think it's more ridiculous than the heterosexual public displays of affection that television and the movies portray with unending regularity. Gay people, in general, aren't ludicrous because we're gay— although I may make an exception where Liberace is concerned—so much as because, like everybody else on the planet, we have our own peculiar, absurd ways with sanctimony and self-importance. In other words: We can look like complete assholes, too.
So, fine, give me The Ambiguously Gay Duo, SNL's animated spoof of the unspoken homo subtext beneath macho superhero teams. There's nothing too harmful in giggling at a purposefully childish cartoon. I'm just a little tired of the kids' stuff parading as social commentary on the rest of the show.