ABC has relented to objections from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and cancelled the unbelievably bad comedy “Work It” after only two episodes.
It’s my guess that with the protests from GLAAD gearing up, ABC felt it would be hopeless to try and defend (note to Canada, you can probably take Detroit).
It also bespeaks a certain prejudice inside of GLAAD who has never said a word about Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy (who was once known to be quite transvestite-friendly despite his transvestite comedy). Of course, GLAAD has never been terribly courageous about confronting the black community. Political correctness forbids crossing racial lines.
This might reveal a hint as to why GLAAD felt empowered to attack “Work It.” The plot revolved around two men who are forced into women’s clothing just to get a job. Don’t they know that only women are discriminated against in the workplace (and only make three-fourths of a man’s salary)? Perhaps the writers’ ignorance of Women’s Studies 101 made GLAAD think it had been written by conservatives.
“Work It” seemed more of a rip off of “Bosom Buddies,” an equally forgettable sitcom remembered chiefly for launching the careers of Tom Hanks and the other guy, whose name I can’t remember (I think it was Andrew Ridgeley).
I don’t take issue with ABC for pulling the plug. Only half the audience from the show’s premier came back for the second episode (personally, I didn’t even make it to the first commercial). But that doesn’t mean transvestites aren’t funny; they have been a staple of comedy for generations.
I imagine that the first man in a dress routine predated Milton Berle, but that’s all the further back my ambition will let me research (Berle’s tag was the biggest thief in comedy, so I’m quite certain it wasn’t original). The memory of Uncle Miltie trying to walk in high heels, while smoking a cigar, still makes me laugh to this day.
I know that He-Shes were a very popular portion of Circus sideshows and would probably still be today if television hadn’t killed the freak show.
Some of the great movie classics were based on the gender reversal. “Some Like It Hot” saw Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon playing remarkably attractive women. Writers would often find an excuse to put Cary Grant and Bob Hope in women’s clothing, and who can forget Gilligan insisting that he’s not going to dress like a girl? (“You can’t make me, you can’t make me…”)
Probably the funniest cross-dressers were the cast of “Monty Python.” Originally excused by the performers as a means to keep the show under budget, the female characters played by the all-male troupe were some of the show’s most comical moments. It started a tradition in television that inspired other great comedies like “Kids in the Hall,” “Little Britain,” and “Portlandia” here in America. Whereas the Pythons were farcical, modern men actually seem to have mastered the art of playing convincing women. Today, Eddie Izzard packs the theaters doing straight stand-up in full drag.
For the comedy geeks, the reason why drag is funny is because putting a man in a feminine role gives the performer the ability to illustrate the difference between the sexes. It is funny to the eye, but it also allows the performer to make a comic statement about how men and women are expected to act.
Ultimately, the Transgenders of America are tired of being laughed at. They think that if we raise enough awareness, a three hundred pound woman with an Adam’s apple will stop being funny. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case.