A few years ago I posted about this 1977 comedy album.
No doubt some folks will consider the material as old, possibly even stale. But is it all now just too politically incorrect? Bruce Vilanch, a producer and one of the performers on the album, suggested it might be when I asked him about it last Saturday (06/19) on Suzanne Westenhoefer’s internet talk show.
Although some of the cast and writers are LGBT/Queer, and reportedly had veto power, the material is clearly very much ‘of its time’. What we, collectively, find both humourous and acceptable has changed. Not inherently a bad thing- there are plenty of ‘jokes’ that I find offensive.
As an aside, the fact that something offends me doesn’t in itself mean someone should be ‘cancelled’ or sent to ‘celebrity rehab’. Being offensive for the mere sake of attracting some sort of notoriety is so last-century, but rarely a capital offense.
Comics often use offensive ideas to illustrate a bigger point, mock our hypocrisy, and to educate. Please read Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble* by Judy Gold for a great discussion of comedy and free speech. I’m reminded of something I believe that Robin Tyler (lesbian stand-up, marriage equality plaintiff, and fellow Canuck) was fond of saying: “If I’ve offended you, good; you probably needed it.” (if Robin cares to correct me, they have my Facebook info).
Turning to the material in this album, there’s one track with material that folks of Asian heritage might find offensive. It’s not my place to object in their stead; but to listen if they say they find it so.
I don’t believe any of the other tracks address racial or ethnic identities. Although The Fashion Show was, last century, often performed in drag it’s not done that way on the album. So, yes it pokes fun at a lesbian relationship… but also very much applicable to plenty of gay or hetero relationships I know.
Most bits present very stereotypical images of lesbian, gay or bi sexual identities; plenty to offend those looking for a reason to be, but nothing that bothers me. Some of that may well be the album’s ties to my history; this was an early form of representation. I honestly believe they were laughing with me, not at me. We humans are often humourous but Cancel Culture is too fundamentalist to appreciate subtlety.
And that ties in to what I call The John Fugelsang CIA Test:
C: Context of the word/statement;
I: Intent of the speaker;
A: Audience it was addressed to.
This is a comedy album. To quote from Billboard Magazine’s coverage at the time:
“Bob Booker and George Foster, producers of the hit comedy albums ‘The First Family‘ and ‘You Don’t Have to Be Jewish‘, have teamed with Bruce Vilanch to helm the first ‘above ground‘ gay comedy album, ‘Out of the Closet‘, released on Ariola. ‘Nobody had ever really looked at the gay community before in this fashion and we felt it was time to do it‘, Booker told Billboard. ‘The gay community is a minority community but is culturally rich and has its own special brand of humor.’” (see previous blog post for the source)
It’s my understanding that the current rights holder for the album may be difficult to establish; not that I think there’d be a huge demand for a reissue.
But I fall back on track B.1; Bedtime Story. It presents a strange future where every single word uttered has to be analyzed for every possible interpretation; what many people all these decades later often call ‘Political Correctness gone amok’.
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