Good comedy is born from the antithetical—situations that are so opposite what we expect that they catch us off guard. (Conversely, “bad” comedy is bad because it’s predictable.) This surprise factor yields discovery and an appreciation for performers who do it in a way we’ve never seen. In the age of web content, harvesting originality has become harder and harder and the unexpected almost doesn’t exist, at least not outside the realm of shocking Japanese porn imports.
But this week, some Homo Thugs took me by surprise.
The first time I watched, I was in bed, hungover, squinting the morning crust out of my eyes after reflexively pressing my finger against a link a drunk friend SMS’d me at 4:23 that morning. As episode #1 streamed, I braced for regret. Then it dawned on me that the series’ hoodtastic protagonists were…gay, and I turned up the volume.
In a recent interview, DJ Vlad asked rapper Fat Joe if he thought he’d ever worked with a gay rapper. His answer: “yes…niggas is gay” — not surprising at all if you think about it, but initially shocking because of the relentless machismo, the “suck my dick, bitch” bravado so many of the genre’s artists employ to sell records. The notion of rappers being outtable is the ultimate contradiction and, more, an implicit recognition of homosexuality as a natural preference, not one to be mocked as it so often is in rap. Homo Thugs, created by and starring New York comedian/actors Jermaine Fowler (CollegeHumor, The Eric and Andre Show, In Living Color) and Kevin Barnett (MTV’s #FAIL, CollegeHumor), taps into this electric incongruity and turns it into a goofy project with real staying power.
I had a chance to catch up with Fowler and Barnett. Here’s what they had to say.
What did you guys do before this?
Kevin: We’re both stand-ups. I did a lot of things before that, that I either failed at or was too fat for. I was a musician, martial arts trickster, BMX rider, and personal trainer. I was confused. I’d kind of been dabbling in comedy since high school, and then moved to NY to pursue it when I decided I didn’t care about love, and meaningful relationships.
Jermaine: Before I was living in Hyattsville, MD. You know THE HOOD! I was busy skateboarding, hating community college, and watching porno at the library.
Who first had the idea for Homo Thugs and what inspired it?
Kevin: We love to make fun of ignorant/intolerant people. There are a lot of things you see/hear in the streets that are so insane, and hypocritical that it almost needs to be pointed out and made fun of. We love to make fun of ignorance, and feel like it’s necessary in a way. Also one time we saw some MMA fighters wearing tight spandex shorts and we ain’t gay but we respected them butts.
Jermaine: There’s so much comedy amidst all the hate. I’m typing all these answers with Bane’s voice in my head. I AM GOTHAM’S RECKONING!
3. What are your hopes for the show?
Kevin: Hopefully it grows more, and people like it. Maybe it helps some of the really homophobic people to see how ridiculous they’re being. Ain’t no reason to hate cause a nigga like a nigga’s butt. What if that nigga had a really good butt?
Jermaine: Yeah like so what if a dude like man-butt? How is that hurting your butt?! *Bane voice*
4. What else are you working on?
Kevin: A bunch of things. Writing on some TV shows, on camera for a couple others, more web, stand-up. But really we are working on our beautiful friendship, and also I’m trying to figure out how to holler at Puerto Rican girls. #butts
Jermaine: I’m working on a few television projects, but right now I’m trying not to get caught uploading this new Bangbros scene at the Apple store. My girlfriend is half-Puerto Rican and I must say they cook the shit out of rice! RICE!
5. What’s the key to making a successful web series?
Kevin: Get a guy who understands comedy. A bad camera/editor can really drain all the funny out of a good script/good acting. Our guy, Kenji, is a beast! He has great timing with editing, does great camera work, and is passionate about what he does. Don’t let a good idea be ruined by lazy edits/camera work. A 4x1 is only as fast as its slowest sprinter, a great guitar solo can be ruined by bad drumming, and strippers can’t grab poles without hands. The team is important. Also you should work out a lot and get mad stretch marks.
Jermaine: Agreed. A dope director can make your comedy translate to your audience seamlessly which is what our half-white and Japanese slave, Kenji, does very well. We pay him in promises. Also, cocoa butter is good for stretch marks, but Kevin is Jamaican so I think they believe it’s food.
And now, your three reasons to watch.
1. Social commentary
Society should only ever make fun of people who make fun of gay people, and Homo Thugs gets that.
We’ve seen bits of the Wayans brothers playing with the idea of gay thugs before, and we’ve seen this tenuously related MADtv sketch, but never have we seen such textured commitment to the theme.
I hope to see Fowler and Barrett doing more together, because their chemistry is impeccable. Homo Thugs episode #3 would be a damn fine start.
Episode #1: “Soft in the Paint”
Episode #2: “Tip Drill”