NY Mirror

The sickest entertainment on television—and I say that with love—is not "The View" or even "Once and Again," but "TV Funhouse," Robert Smigel's Comedy Central half hour that's been polluting my life so delightfully on Wednesdays. (The show's first season is winding into reruns, as the perv community, of which I am the mayor, prays Smigel will crank out tons more.) "Funhouse" is a dirty children's-program spoof on which a happy doofus named Doug (played by Doug Dale) introduces cleverly subversive sketches and cartoons amid the antics of his Anipals—a mixture of puppets and real animals, each with a smart mouth and a serious kink.

A recent highlight had the (fake) cat dipping his paw into Skippy peanut butter and fist-fucking a real poodle in the process of supposedly trying to remove Triumph the Insult Comic Dog—a bitter hand puppet—from the poodle's sex orifice. You don't see thaton Teletubbies—at least not this season. "It wasn't really fisting—maybe pawing," Smigel (of Saturday Night Live and Conan fame) claimed in an interview at his Times Square office. "It's the old 'peanut butter gets anything off' sort of thing," his coproducer, Dino Stamatopoulos, chimed in, desperately trying to rewrite fist-ory. Well, it certainly got meoff.

Whether the incident was a ribald sex act or an inspired good deed, the real shocker is that Morality in Media (not to mention PETA) hasn't lobbied to make peanut butter illegal. "That's because no one watches Comedy Central," said Stamatopoulos, smirking. Well, someonemust be tuning in because I hear the Skippy name will be blurred in future showings; insanely enough, that brand hasn't set its sights on the lucrative fisting market just yet.

Sick, sick, sick: TV Funhouse’s Robert Smigel and furry friend
photo: Gabe Palacio/Image Direct
Sick, sick, sick: TV Funhouse’s Robert Smigel and furry friend

The enforced cover-ups are nothing new for Smigel. The show's Porn for Kids segment—which had children gleefully enjoying an adult movie—was frantically recut by the network to become the less objectionable Porn for Everyone. But Smigel didn't mind, he said, because "we've gotten away with so much"—like a horse turd morphing into Sally Jessy Raphael and an animated two-parter with Stedman Grahamfleeing Oprah Winfrey's sex advances after grabbing stacks of her money. Oh, and there was Mischievous Mitchell, a cartoon in which an adorable little bigot acted out sicko pranks like offering free ham to Jews, as everyone went "Aw!" The point, said self-proclaimed "boring West Side Jew" Smigel, "was that the messenger unfortunately matters as much as the message. George W. Bushis cute and adorable and when he says he's a compassionate guy, half the people actually buy it! Well, nearlyhalf."

Smigel's message is welcome, but naturally there's been a price besides the blurring. The now defunct Pets.com sued him—it was settled—for implying that their sock puppet had ripped off Triumph. ("If it's illegal to say that someone ripped you off," responds Smigel, "then Little Richardshould be on death row!") TV Funhousedoesn't rip anything off except for veneers of taste and sanity, and that's what makes it so three-days-from-now-dotcom. There's just one problem: Choosy mothers choose Jif.


But let's move on to a more tasteful TV funhouse—from fisting to rimming, as it were—and assess what I hear on the street about Queer as Folk's representation of the urban gay bar culture. On the minus side, the characters are a bit vapid—not exactly big readers; as in Sex and the City, each one seems to have a single defining trait (predatory, vulnerable, desperate, etc.); their shenanigans provide sensational plays for ratings that a show about monogamous middle-aged gay couples in Vermont would never manage; and they don't exactly hang out with a diverse bunch of people outside of hustlers, chiropractors, and lesbians who can enrich their egos by using their sperm and dubious fathering skills. But—there's a but—this is indeed a visible part of the community (sometimes the only part I ever see) and they don'thang out with diverse people; the characters are striving to improve; and at least they're sexual and not just gay because they say so or buy Bette Midlerrecords. Case closed—two thumbs up the ass! But someday a gay character will combine sexual and smart and the world will absolutely explode.

Gay meat is the favorite target of late-night It-girl Penelope Tuesdae, as she revealed to me at her Friday-night party called GBH, in between hosting an enjoyably demeaning go-go dancing competition. Tuesdae said she compulsively flirts with all the muscle queens at the Roxy, but finds "they only want to take me home to do my makeup." Gee, usually they want me to do theirs.

Self-rouged queens felt safe at the Caroline's benefit for the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization whose hot line gives queer youths a hand, if not a fist. I applauded with two hands for the night's succession of brilliant comics, like Joy Behar, who said, "Remember when all Jesse Jacksonhad to worry about were pregnant chads?" and Kate Clinton, who noticed Vagina Monologues author Eve Enslerin the audience and cracked, "My vagina prefers dialogue. Talk to me!"

Comic Robert Kleinspoke volumes to the other end at a Gotham Comedy Club benefit for the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation—in fact, he belted out a Disney-style ballad that went, "A colonoscopy/a tiny TV camera four feet inside of me . . . " And the audience sang along—with their mouths!

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