Lesson Not Learned? Another Comic Makes Anti-Gay Cracks

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday August 17, 2011

It may be hard to credit after the flap comic Tracy Morgan's anti-gay riffs caused earlier this summer, but another comedian has crossed a line by declaring that LGBTs should use a new acronym -- YUCK -- and asking of the trans population, "When did we start to give a shit about these people?"

The results were predictable, though, evidently, not to comedian Adam Carolla, who made the inflammatory comments during an Aug. 12 podcast. In the course of his program, Carolla took on a fan campaign to see "Sesame Street" Muppets Bert and Ernie, who have long been rumored to be gay, tie the knot. Carolla's riff turned into a broadside against gays, whose efforts for full legal equality, Carolla wisecracked, were "ruining" his life.

The joke might also be taken as a pointed critique of homophobia, however. Opponents of marriage equality posit that gays marrying one another might ruin marriage for heterosexuals through some mysterious means. Indeed, Carolla seemingly endorsed marriage equality, albeit in a backhanded manner, saying that gays ought to "get married and shut up," noted the Advocate.com in an Aug. 15 posting.

In his cracks regarding trans people, Carolla mentioned Chaz Bono, the transman whose mother is Cher. Bono recently completed his transition, and has written a memoir about being transgender.

"Every time I see Chaz Bono, my cock looks at me and says, 'What?'" Carolla joked.

Media watchdog GLAAD, which tracks media representations of GLBTs, lost no time in jumping on the comic for his remarks. The group issued a statement on Aug. 15 condemning Carolla's comments as an example of "gross intolerance," according to Entertainment Weekly's website.

The comedian issued a statement of his own to Entertainment Weekly.

"I'm sorry my comments were hurtful," Carolla said by way of a publicist. "I'm a comedian, not a politician."

Tracy Morgan issued a similar apology after his anti-gay comments sparked an uproar in June. The fracas began after Kevin Rogers, a member of Morgan's audience in Nashville, Tennessee, blogged on Facebook about the comic's shocking jokes, which included a line about stabbing a gay child.

Within a few days, Roger's posting was all over Facebook, forwarded from user to user. Then the account went out to the wider Internet community, first via the website for Truth Wins Out, a group that works to counter the so-called "ex-gay" movement, which claims -- as Morgan reportedly did -- that homosexuality is something that can be chosen or left behind.

A contrite Morgan tendered his apologies within a matter of days. "I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville," Morgan said in a statement, Entertainment Weekly reported on June 10.

"I'm not a hateful person and don't condone any kind of violence against others," Morgan continued. "While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context."

But a June 10 Business Insider article questioned the sincerity of Morgan's apologetic sentiments, saying, "Morgan's standup is largely a rambling, disorganized rant -- and it's been hovering near straight-up homophobia for a while now."

The article went on to say that Morgan's anti-gay remarks are not "so much jokes as... angry missives.

"In fact, it's been a staple of Morgan's act for months now to simply point out he doesn't believe people can be born gay," the article added. "There's no set-up. There's no punch line. And when he says it, you can see the hairs stand up on the necks of the people in front of you."

Similarly, GLAAD expressed doubts about Carolla's apology.

"Given his history of anti-gay and racist comments, networks and advertisers should know what their money is supporting if they choose to hire Adam Carolla," Entertainment Weekly quoted GLAAD's Herndon Graddick as saying. "The gross intolerance that he tries to pass off as comedy should not have a place on our airwaves."

The article noted that Carolla has, in the past, said that same-sex parents are "not as good as" mixed-gender parents.

That is a common assertion among anti-gay groups, but studies refute the claim. Though some anti-gay groups slam same-sex parents with data generated by studies on how well the children of single parents fare, studies that look at two-parent homes in which both parents are of the same gender note that children from those households do just as well, and in some respects better, as children of two-parent homes in which the parents are of opposite genders. The key, such studies indicate, is not to have a mother and a father, but to have two parents of any gender combination so that children receive adequate attention and guidance.

But Carolla has also been a supporter of GLBT equality. In 2010, the comedian was one of a number of high-profile individuals who appeared in the "No H8" campaign, in which celebrities were photographed with duct tape over their mouths to symbolize the lack of political leverage that hobble the efforts of sexual minorities to win full and equal recognition before the law. The "NOH8" logo was also stenciled on Carolla's cheek.

The anti-gay jokes and subsequent attention didn't seem to have much of an impact on Carolla's career plans. A day after GLAAD's statement, Carolla's people made an announcement that the comic would be headed to the Royal Oak Music Theatre in Detroit this coming December, where he will perform as part of his Hates the Holiday Tour.

And Carolla's apology was accompanied with a bit of pushback: "It's pretty ridiculous that we're now holding people accountable for every syllable they say onstage," Carolla told the head|Detroit Free Press in an Aug. 13 interview. "For God's sake, is there no sanctuary?"

Added the comic, "We probably do need to be more conscientious... but we're comedians and these are our shows and our fans."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.