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 that on 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 me off.
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, someone must 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.
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 Graham fleeing 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. Bush is cute and adorable and when he says he’s a compassionate guy, half the people actually buy it! Well, nearly half.”
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 — or implying that their sock puppet had ripped off Triumph. (“If it’s illegal to say that someone ripped you off,” responds Smigel, “then Little Richard should be on death row!”) TV Funhouse doesn’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’t hang 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 Midler records. 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 Jackson had to worry about were pregnant chads?” and Kate Clinton, who noticed Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler in the audience and cracked, “My vagina prefers dialogue. Talk to me!”
Comic Robert Klein spoke 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!
Back to gabby genitals, if Jim, the helicopter pilot-lawyer from ABC’s reality show The Mole, looks vaguely familiar, it’s because a few years ago at a club called Cake, he won the Prettiest Penis contest — several times. (ABC didn’t return a call for comment.) Performer Justin Bond, who MC’d the event, even has Polaroids, and says, “I think he’s the Mole. A gay lawyer? Sounds like a mole to me.”
My privates would now like to address the Golden Globe awards, which are much nuttier and faster-paced than the Oscars, at least until that tribute to a legend stops everything dead with bad hair and reminiscences of fourth-grade teachers. I loved the weird grab-bag categories (Vanessa Redgrave beat Megan Mullaley for something) and wacky behavior (like Liz Taylor reading off the teleprompter, “Elizabeth: Billy Elliot,” and later bellowing “Y’all, y’all, y’all!” — she had just the right who-gives-a-shit attitude). I even liked Billy‘s Jamie Bell seeming to mutter contemptuously to himself as that other child star, Haley Joel Osment, sang his praises.
But though I worship Sarah Jessica Parker — the vulnerable one on Sex and the City — she’s got to stop holding her head, looking faux-stunned, and saying, “I’m so ill-prepared” before droning into a 10-minute speech that’s clearly been rehearsed for months. And while Kate Hudson is cute enough — in fact, she’s so popular I’m dropping Kate Winslet from my Oscar nomination predictions in favor of her — I’m sure her costar Frances McDormand was thrilled when Hudson told her, “You’re such an inspiration to every young actress.” Just ram a fist covered in peanut butter up her ass, why don’t you?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2001