Gay Male Student #1 (Ep. 149 - Carol Burnett)

This Week's Guest: Justin Root

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It's a Hollywood cliche -- the pretty young face that moves to LA with no plan other than to get into the motion pictures. And yet it happened to this week's guest, Justin Root. He was a shy Ohio kid who feared the spotlight until he discovered how good it made him feel to be in it. A few weeks after graduating high school, he'd moved to LA. A few weeks after that, he was in movies. And not long after that, he had a recurring role on TV. It didn't take long for the entertainment industry to discover Justin, but it took another decade -- and some terrified cruising in the local video store -- for Justin to find himself.

We'll have that conversation in a minute -- but first, a reminder that starting in February, I'm going to be making monthly bonus episodes of Sewers of Paris, with bonus livestreams and new YouTube videos about LGBT entertainment. Mark your calendars now for a kickoff livestream on February 10th, where I'll be chatting live with Sewers of Paris listeners about the entertainment that changed your life -- I'll have more details soon about how you can join that.

To everyone already supporting The Sewers of Paris on Patreon: huge thanks. And to everyone who hasn't pledged yet, February is going to be a great time to start. Just head to SewersOfParis.com and click "support the show on Patreon." 

If you're not able to support the show financially, there’s other ways you can help -- just by listening, tweeting about the show, following The Sewers of Paris on Twitter and Facebook, and by writing reviews. All of that is a huge help and I'm very very grateful. And you can also write in to sewerspodcast@gmail.com. Listener Bojan Djordjevic writes that:

"Movies and TV shows have always shaped me, for better or worse, and they have always been a way for me to feel closer to the gay world ... the podcast helps me see how we've always been here and we've always been relevant whether others knew it or not."

Bojan also writes,

"My first idol was Lucille Ball. ... I didn't sleep much as a child and I had a TV in my room so I would watch any sort of old black and white movie on at 4 am. ... I remember a movie with Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance. It was in color and it was about them on the run and that's about all I can remember. I can't find it online."

So, listeners, if you know what movie he might be talking about, get in touch @sewersofparis on twitter or sewerspodcast@gmail.com. Let's reunite Bojan with that movie.

This Week's Recommendation: Two moments from the Carol Burnett Show

Big thanks to Justin for joining me. I cannot endorse his opinions on Judy Garland. But I absolutely agree that there are delights to be found in the Carol Burnett show. For my recommendation this week, take a look at my two favorite moments from her show. The first is the famous "Went with the Wind" sketch, particularly the moment when she enters wearing a dress made out of drapes.

It's a funny sight gag, but what's even more pleasurable is the audience reaction. They absolutely lose control, so much so that the show had to edit some of the laughter out because it made the sketch run too long. It's fun to see the dress but what affects me most about that particular moment is how the laughter rolls through the scene like a wave, and even though you can't see them, the unbridled delight of the audience is totally contagious.

My second favorite clip is from a sketch in which Tim Conway tells a story about an elephant. The story is clearly intended to be very short, but Tim Conway takes control of the scene and keeps adding one absurd detail after another. The other actors are clearly ready to move on with the scene, but he just won't end his improvised speech, and the ridiculousness of the entire cast being held hostage in this way becomes increasingly ridiculous as the minutes pass by, and one by one the cast starts doing their best to keep from cracking up. Finally, there's a pause in Tim's monologue, and Vicky Lawrence interjects with a placid yet hostile dig that nobody on stage saw coming, and they all explode in laughter, literally falling on the floor.

Once again, it's a moment of unbridled hilarity, with everyone consumed with laughter that they had no idea was lying in wait for them. Professional comedians know how to craft jokes, wield humor, and control the laughter of those around them. But there's a point at which the laughter takes over, at which point it's really in control. That feeling of pleasure says "I'll take it from here," and for some reason, we always let it. It may not last long, but when it's happening, what a relief it is to relinquish command to that drive to laugh -- it overrides all self-control, and somehow we all trust that exists for only one purpose: To make you feel good. 

Stuff We Talked About

It's Worth it to be Passionate (Ep. 148 - Final Fantasy VII)

This Week's Guest: Johnnie Jungleguts

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When you need to get away from it all, how far do you go? My guest this week reached his fill of human interaction and so he did what so many of us have done: flew to South America to wander the forest for weeks while befriending a mountain lion. 

And just a reminder about what's coming up for The Sewers of Paris in 2018. Starting in February, I'm going to be making monthly bonus episodes, with even more personal stories about entertainment that's changed the lives of queer people. And on top of that, I'll be hosting livestreams that you can join, creating new YouTube videos about LGBT entertainment, and more. 

Of course, you'll still get a new episode of The Sewers of Paris every Thursday, just like always. The show's not changing -- there's just going to be more of it.

The Sewers of Paris is possible because of listeners like you who pledge a dollar or more to keep it going. Starting in February, those contributions will support even more content. There's also going to be rewards for people who pledge -- more information on that as we get closer to February.

To everyone already supporting The Sewers of Paris on Patreon: huge thanks. There'll be a few tweaks to the way pledges are charged, and I'll be in touch with you about that. And to everyone who hasn't pledged yet, February is going to be a great time to start. Just click "support the show on Patreon." 

If you're not able to support the show financially, there’s other ways you can help -- just by listening, tweeting about the show, following The Sewers of Paris on Twitter and Facebook, and by writing reviews. All of that is a huge help and I'm very very grateful.

This Week's Recommendation: Freaks and Geeks

This week we talked about outgrowing the safety of the suburbs, and so my recommendation is to check out the show Freaks and Geeks. Produced in the late 90s and set in the early 80s, the show follows the awkward lives of teenagers learning how to be human adults.

Like my recommendation last week, The Doom Generation, Freaks and Geeks leans heavily on the discomfort of living between childhood and adulthood -- the point in a person's life when they have the most freedom to make choices about who they are, and are also the least equipped to make them.

The characters of the show make the wrong decisions far more often than they make the right ones. And unlike My So-Called Life, where the struggles of the kids accompanies the struggles of the parents, the division between teens and adults in Freaks and Geeks is so pronounced they are seldom even able to comprehend each other. The world that they're approaching is befuddling and dangerous and hostile -- and yet they crave entry to it with a fearlessness that many of us lose once we've arrived in adulthood.

So I guess my recommendation here isn't just to watch Freaks and Geeks. It's to remember what it was like to be a freak and geek.

Stuff we Talked About

Glamorous but Homicidal (Ep. 147 - The Cure)

This week's Guest: George Alley

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My guest this week is George Alley, a musician and choreographer who paid his does on the mean streets of suburban Cleveland, where he was the secretary for a local street gang. The son of a Detroit blues singer and a demolition derby driver, George often felt anger at the world and at people who tormented him. That anger, it turned out, would be a crucial element that shaped his creative work today.

This week's Recommendation: The Doom Generation

Big thanks to George for joining me. And check out his latest single, "Just Leave me Dreaming." I'll have an excerpt of that at the end of the episode.

Let's talk about the 90s, since it did come up quite a bit this week. Particularly that uniquely 90s feeling of nihilism and ennui that nothing matters, everything's ironic, and there's life is lonely, boring, and dumb.

That's the thesis of my recommendation this week, which I'm recommending with a caveat. Greg Araki's film The Doom Generation came out in 1995 and is you might call "peak 90s." It's the story of three disaffected youths sneering their way through a grotesquely violent America guided only by their hunger, their libido, and brief cameos from folks like Parker Posey and Margaret Cho.

It's not heavy on story, and even lighter on any sort of resolution. So you could read a lot into this story depending on what sort of personal baggage you bring. To me, it's a film about early-90s queer HIV anxiety -- there's a line early on about AIDS, and throughout the film the characters are surrounded by images of death as well as a fascination and wariness about the consequences of their own sexual urges.

Your milage with the film may vary of course, up to and including the choice not to watch. It is an aggressive bummer, and though you'll likely walk away with lots to think about you'll also probably have plenty of dark rain clouds over your head. But if you've got the stomach for some deep dark 90s nihilism, The Doom Generation is a rewarding watch -- and not just because of the sexy flashes of male skin and the perfect portrait of men's gazes lingering on each other's bodies.

The film is a perfect capsule of a period of aimlessness, disillusionment, despair, and fear ... and at this point I'm not sure if I'm referring to the 90s or just being a teenager.

Stuff we Talked About