If only tragic female characters in literature had a “Sassy Gay Friend” to bolster their confidence, admonish their boy-craziness, and prevent them from making life-ending errors. As a scarf-flipping interventionist, Brian Gallivan portrays that hypothetical hero in a series of YouTube videos by Chicago’s Second City comedy club.
Tomorrow night, the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone (EAGLE) will co-sponsor a performance by this viral sensation, whose videos have amassed a combined viewership of almost 15 million. His show in the Cabaret is sponsored in conjunction with Multicultural Student Affairs as part of EAGLE’s Queer Spring series.
At a ticket price of $5, the event’s 94 seats sold out well in advance — over 80 Emerson students chose to take spots on a waiting list.
Peter Rosati, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, was disappointed to hear the tickets had sold out. “He’s a funny guy. I think of him as my own sassy gay frien; it’s like there was a big Sassy Gay Friend party and I wasn’t allowed in.”
In a phone interview with the Beacon, EAGLE President Adriana Guida said Gallivan’s popularity on campus will bring attention to their full Queer Spring lineup, which features a combination of informative and entertaining events.
“First and foremost, he’s very popular. Everyone has an idea of who he is,” said Guida, a junior double majoring in political communication and writing, literature, and publishing.
According to Director of Student Activities Jason Meier, EAGLE put forth $1500 — half of Gallivan’s performance fee. CAB will fund the rest, including the comedian’s rider and promotion for the event, which Meier estimates will total approximately $1800.
Gallivan’s brief satirical sketches deliver comic wake-up calls to would-be literary heroines, and ostensibly celebrate the power of gay men to talk sense into their female comrades — from the biblical Eve to The Giving Tree. His signature catchphrase is prominently displayed on posters around campus: “What are you doing? What — what — what are you doing?”
His videos riff on the pop cultural trope of “gay best friend” made famous by characters such as Jack on Will and Grace and Stanford, Carrie Bradshaw’s friend on Sex and the City.
The series of web videos has garnered mixed reviews from cultural critics. In an article for Salon.com, blogger Drew Grant suggested that the videos “exist in an uncomfortable space where you aren’t sure if the character of the Sassy Gay Friend is a commentary on how our modern culture views homosexual men…or if they were just banking on a gay stereotype to get laughs.”
Gallivan responded to such criticism in an interview with Edge Philadelphia, an online hub of the city’s GLBT community. “I know many wonderful gay men who talk and move like Sassy Gay Friend, and would anyone say those actual men are detrimental to the LGBT community?” he asked. “I hope not. Sassy Gay Friend is smart, fun, and loyal. And he tries his best to help his ladies.”
Emerson students will appreciate Gallivan’s comedic style, said Guida. “Sassy Gay Friend is a character — people recognize that and he plays on stereotypes,” said Guida. “He wears scarves, he’s sassy and effeminate, and it’s funny. It’s important that as a community we can play with stereotypes and turn them into comedy.”
Freshman Megan Mitchell says she’s number 62 on the waiting list for tickets. The freshman broadcast journalism major believes the routine portrays gay men in a positive light. “It’s important to have a sense of humor about the situation — I mean, he’s technically saving all these girls’ lives,” said Mitchell. “Even if it’s perpetuating a stereotype, the character is always doing a good thing.”
In addition to his representation of a ubiquitous gay stereotype, Sassy Gay Friend parodies the weaknesses of female characters in the literary canon. For example, he questions Juliet’s wisdom in the third act of Shakespeare’s tragedy, and scolds, “You took a roofie from a priest!”
According to Sam Tang, the social chairman of the CAB and writing, literature, and publishing senator elect, that playfulness with classics will make Emerson students particularly receptive to Gallivan’s brand of humor.
“I’m a WLP so what he’s parodying is amusing to me because it’s a lot of classical lit made modern and funny,” said Tang, a first-semester senior. “Emerson is about taking the old and making it new.”
The Sassy Gay Friend performance will take place tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the Cabaret. Tickets are sold out.