“Gay or Just ‘Gay’ on the Sarah Silverman Program”

Curator's Note

They've been described as "geeky," "schlumpy," and, in the words of their creator, "big, orange and gay." Brian (Brian Posehn) and Steve (Steve Agee) are the distinctly different 'gaybors' on the Sarah Silverman Program. It's no surprise that the way Silverman portrays homosexuality on her program is controversial. She mines some gay bit in every episode. At one point she decides she’s gay, then pouts when her friends laugh at her: "As a lesbian, I resent your laughter." And of course, when she uses 'gay' as an epithet, she qualifies: "I don’t mean gay as in homosexual …I mean gay as in retarded." Is Silverman criticizing homosexuality, or typical TV portrayals of gays? Is she simply milking the anti-PC humor she’s known for, or trying to say something deeper, more important? Brian and Steve are certainly an appealing change up for network television. Chubby, bearded, wearing glasses, they are as far from Will & Jack, and the Fab 5 as TV can get. In fact, their sexuality is so understated that the actors themselves claim they weren’t sure that their characters were gay until after the pilot and first episode were filmed. Silverman, whose 'Program' was quickly renewed for a 14-episode second season, takes a sarcastic look at love throughout the show – her (real life and television) sister is regularly heckled for dating a cop. And her own quickie with God ends when he wants to cuddle and she just wants him to leave. But there is something unnerving about characters which must have their sexuality introduced for them, rather than emerging naturally. And stranger still is any couple whose most intimate moments are marked by fist bumping. Are Brian and Steve a triumph, "better than any sitcom gays ever," as The Advocate's Dave White proclaims? Or are they just another vehicle for, admittedly non-traditional, gay jokes? Gay and proud, or just 'gay'?


Hi Kyle, this comment comes several weeks late, but I just wanted to mention that one of my students was working on a project on Sarah Silverman and found your reading of Silverman's show especially helpful. Silverman's treatment of the discourse surrounding representing gays and lesbians is incredibly complicated, and I think it helped my student to recognize that others were struggling with those complications.

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