This blog I’m sharing something I’ve been chewing on.
A little over a month ago I was in a show and there was a scene in which two men kissed. The audience was laughing loudly at the kiss. In contrast I found myself mentally sighing. At the time I thought I had that reaction because I had seen this gag before.
Then I began to think about it. Yes, I had seen the gag before. Many, many times before. My sigh was a result of the repeat gag, but also the repeat audience response.
The laughter was not coming from the situation, the characters or the scene. It was simply because we were watching two men kiss. It was two male improvisers, both milking the awkwardness of having to kiss another man.
The audience does not respond the same way to a guy / girl kiss. If it’s a guy and a girl improviser who are both milking the awkwardness of kissing the other, the audience often applauds, cheers or goes ‘aw’ when the kiss happens.
Why is it a different response for two men? Could this be a subconscious homophobic response? A nervous tension, created by the mere suggestion of male sexuality, released through laughter? If it is some sort of homophobic undercurrent, are we validating or making it acceptable by seeking out this response?
Then, a few weeks ago, I was in a show and my character was being hit on by another female character. It was great, truthful and added to the story. It made sense that my character, who had been rejected, would have the possibility of romance. To my surprise the men jumped up on stage swarming around playing the eagerness to get a glimpse of the possible girl on girl action.
Again, I mentally sighed. It was a gag played a thousand times over and with predictable audience response.
The two female characters were in the blush of a new passionate romance. The guy’s response immediately changed it from two people meeting and falling for each other, to sexualizing us as females for male viewing pleasure.
This did get me thinking how many times I’ve been in, or seen, a female same sex scene which ends up with some form of girl on girl action gag added to it.
Isn’t this belittling women and women’s romantic relationships with other women?
Could the following be true?
If you play same sex male kiss you’ll be laughed at
If you play same sex female kiss you’ll be sexualized for straight men
If you play gender mixed kiss you’ll be cheered and applauded
I don’t think this relates as strongly in Europe. In Europe I was delighted to see, and be in, many same sex relationship scenes where the humor came out of the scene, the situation, or the relationship NOT the gender.
I loved that in a workshop I’d say ‘I’d like two people to be a married couple’ and people got up played the scene, regardless of gender. In Canada and Australia I’ve had people go back and sit down if they saw it was two guys or two gals. As if it same sex was wrong or unacceptable.
What’s your experience?
Do you find that same sex kisses usually fall into one of the examples above?
Do you think we are encouraging negative responses or reactions to same sex relationships?
Do you feel playing these gags are fine, or should we stop them?
Personally I think we need to have a think about our approach to same sex relationships in our improvisation work. I feel the scenes focus should be about the people and their relationship or situation. It’s time to stop relying on these old, old gags. It is time for same sex equality in our scene work.