Andy Samberg Breaks Caricature
By Joshua David Stein
I Love You, Man is one of those funny, good-hearted bromance movies ushered in by 2007�s Superbad. It�s not going to win any Oscars -- it�s like The Break-up but in reverse and for men. There�s little revelatory in I Love You, Man, either in concept or execution. It will, perhaps, be called a �tender, modest story� by New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and he�ll be right. But beneath the modesty and tendresse, there is a daring notion at play: Samberg�s character is an unlisping, unfey, unqueeny gay man in a non-gay film. Groundbreaking, right? Sadly, in the conventional cineplex, it is. Samberg goes where no man has gone in mainstream comedy: He plays gay...straight.
�The reason I liked the character is because I know people like that,� says Samberg. �There is this guy I know who for all appearances is pretty aggressively straight but who is actually gay. When we do an impression of him it�s always like [slipping into the bro voice], �Fucking pounded some beers, fucking kick-ass game on the television, I�m going to go suck a dude�s dick. See you later!�
Samberg might be an unlikely banner-waver for a sophisticated and subtle take on homosexuality. His tenure at Saturday Night Live -- and SNL in general for that matter -- has been marked by accusations of insensitive depictions of gays. More accurately, for the past 34 years, Saturday Night Live has ghettoized gayness, making it nothing more than a punch line in sketch after sketch. It�s not unfair or completely inaccurate to say it�s a small step from punch line to punching bag. Of all the cast members in the history of SNL only one -- Terry Sweeney, 1985��1986 -- was openly gay. Does this have to do with Christopher Hitchens�s fallacious and phallocentric thesis (published in Vanity Fair) that a dick and a hunger for vagina is a prerequisite for funniness or is it just run-of-the-mill situational segregation? Samberg himself has taken a lot of the heat for the November 15, 2008, show, hosted by Paul Rudd, which was derided as a �gay minstrel show� by the blog Defamer. Proposition 8 had just passed and gayness was in the ether, but it doesn�t explain this:
Kissing Family: College student Rudd brings his roommate, Samberg, home for a family dinner. His family is very affectionate. The favorite mode of affection: a profusion of kisses on the lips. Father-on-son, brother-on-brother, but strangely little mother-on-son or father-on-mother. Samberg is shocked but, in the end, confronts his fear with a slobbery, open-mouthed kiss with the father. �That wasn�t so bad,� he concludes.
Everyone�s a Critic: Samberg asks Rudd, who�s highlighting his lines in his dressing room, �This is going to sound kind of weird but [pregnant pause] may I paint you?� Cut to: candles, sensual music, Paul Rudd naked, Samberg behind an easel. Think Titanic with Rudd as a very hirsute Winslet. �It�s cold in here,� says Rudd. �Could�ve fooled me,� says Samberg. The two switch positions. Later they attempt to auction off Rudd�s painting but are unsuccessful as the bidders gouge their eyes out at first sight of it.
Guys in a Car: A seemingly straight man tells a car full of his bros about the last time he had sex. The coitus occurred in the backseat of a cab with the cab�s male driver.
Backup Dancers: Samberg, Justin Timberlake, and Bobby Moynihan, dolled up in unitards and pumps, play backup dancers in Beyonc�s �Single Ladies� video.
Update: Snagglepuss: In the infamous �Weekend Update� in which Seth Meyers shushes audience members booing at the mention of Prop. 8 with a terse �Vote�s over,� Moynihan, dressed as the pink and seemingly gay mountain lion Snagglepuss, mourns the passage of Prop. 8 while becoming increasingly agitated at Meyers�s insinuation of his homosexuality.