By Phil Anderson
This week’s episode of 30 Rock had well-organized gays protesting NBC, TGS and Tracy Jordan after the character made a bad joke during a stand-up routine: “If I got turned into a gay, I’d sit around all day and look at my own junk.”
The show was, of course, lampooning the controversy that surrounded Tracy Morgan after the star joked about stabbing his hypothetically gay son on a Nashville stage back in June. While some critics have suggested that they need not address anything as six months and a handful of apologies came and went, the joke and the apologetic aftermath remained in conversation, at least among comedians.
In November, Chris Rock and Marc Maron discussed it on Maron’s WTF Podcast, agreeing that Morgan’s style of stand-up is unpredictable, and “it blew up in his face.” Maron lamented, “You’re never going to know what happens with Tracy… in conversation with him or when he’s on stage.” Rock agreed, calling the fellow SNL cast member “the last mad man.”
Louis C.K., whose show Louie deftly addressed homophobia in stand-up in its first season, defended Morgan’s joke on Nightline as recently as December. C.K. suggested that the joke in context stemmed more from the idea of masculinity, and he believes the resulting apologies created a “wasted opportunity” for the gay community to open a dialogue with Morgan regarding the cause of the homophobic joke.
This episode did not necessarily reopen the conversation, but instead put a bow on the controversy by apologizing again (Liz Lemon tells the crowd of protestors, “I’m sorry about Tracy, he really is a good a person!”), and by keeping gays as fair game for comedic play: The protestors chant “NBC? OVER IT!” while holding signs that read “I’m not gay / gay meaning happy / sorry for the confusion”; “(disdainful eye roll!)”; and a vague sign that says something unseen with this postscript: “except for The Voice!”
And when Liz Lemon asks them, “do you think I’m pulling this hat off,” the crowd gives her a resounding, “NO!”
But Tina Fey and 30 Rock are pulling off these gay jokes.