If Paul Rudd isn't the funniest man on the planet, then he comes pretty damn close. His performance as the lovable loser in I Love You, Man is a miracle of comic timing, oddball ad-libs, and unrestrained awkwardness. (And, for the record, goddamn, he's hot.)
John Hamburg's I Love You, Man takes the concept of "bromance" - the intimate yet non-sexual friendship between two straight men - to its logical extreme in this age of metrosexuality. Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a real estate agent so in touch with his feminine side (he absolutely adores the Johnny Depp movie, Chocolat) that he has no male friends and, therefore, no best man for his upcoming wedding. His fiance (The Office's Rashida Jones) supports his decision to go on a series of "man dates" in order for him to connect with his inner dude and find a best friend.
What's particularly notable about I Love You, Man is that Peter's gay brother Robbie (SNL's Andy Samberg) has no trouble relating to straight men. Aside from picking them up at the gym in which he works, he knows them enough to give Peter "courtship" advice and he is best friends with his father. And because Samberg doesn't "gay up" Robbie and actually plays him "straight," he comes across as more "masculine" than Peter. It's an interesting twist in that it's unexpected in a mainstream Hollywood movie (which may speak to the sad state of the industry, but that's another story).
And now comes the part of the post that I wanted to avoid, but I feel the need to bring it up.
An episode of Saturday Night Live that aired last November right after Proposition 8 passed - hosted by Paul Rudd and featuring lots of Andy Samberg - was derided by some in the blogosphere, including Defamer, which called it a "gay minstrel show."
Defamer broke down the sketches in question:
- The fun starts with a sketch about an overly affectionate family that builds to Samberg making out with Fred Armisen for no apparent reason.
- Then there was a legitimately funny Digital Short in which Rudd and Samberg paint each other naked, that ends in what has to be the most violent scene in the show's history. (If the episode had a secondary theme, it would be guns blowing people's heads off.)
- Moving along, we have a carload of seemingly straight guys admitting shocking things in song, that--surprise!--starts with Jason Sudeikis admitting he had sex with a male cab driver.
- Here's where things get really interesting. Seth Meyers introduces the topic of Prop 8 on Weekend Update. The crowd boos, which annoys the anchor, who admonishes them by saying, "OK. Vote's over." What follows is an over-the-top flaming Bobby Moynihan as Hanna-Barbera character Snagglepuss, who decries Prop 8, but denies he himself is gay. He finally admits it, and says he has a "partner"--the Great Gazoo.
- A parody of Beyonce's "Put A Ring On It" video featuring backup dancers Justin Timberlake, Moynihan, and Samberg in high heels and leotards. They could have played this straight, and it would have been funnier, but instead they lisp and mince the way gay people do (that's supposed to be sarcasm for those of you currently wearing your fierce, Tom Ford irony-ray-blocking sunglasses), and it gets old kind of quick.
- Another direct reaction to Prop 8 features yet two more characters in the closet--tough guy parking attendants played by Rudd and Bill Hader. The humour derives from the fact that they are so in denial about their homosexuality, they act as if their random sex acts in bathrooms, and with each other, is all a joke. It ends with them proposing to each other and talking about how excited they are to have a wedding.
You can view video clips of several of the sketches here.
I think an interesting issue is whether the sketches are more about targeting gays as the butt of jokes or whether they're meant to play upon middle America's discomfort of homosexuality. And is the latter a legitimate source of humor - or does it merely stoke stereotypes for those who don't get the subtly of the commentary?
In the March issue of Out, Samberg (who graces the cover) makes his case: "It's bro-gay, which I love because dudes that are bros and super antigay are the ones who need to get it the worst. They're the ones we have the most fucking fun with." I understand that he's reveling in the comedy of discomfort, but isn't targeting homophobic straight guys an awfully narrow audience?
There is a lot to think about here, but I promise not to dig too deeply as long as I keep getting fed half-naked photos of Paul Rudd like the one above.