Television viewers will soon need to fit in more sofa time. On Friday, Oct 7, The Gayest Show Ever premieres on Canadian digital specialty channel OUTtv. It is set to inject a dynamic combination of information and silliness into the channel’s fall lineup. Part news documentary and part sketch comedy, the program is multifaceted.
“We want to bring to light a lot of subcultures, lifestyles and rituals in the gay community around the world,” says David Walberg, executive producer of The Gayest Show Ever and Pink Triangle Press publisher and editor-at-large. And the title, while setting a high standard, fits like a Lululemon top.
“There’s been a big trend in media to try to show that gay people are the same as everybody else,” Walberg says. “Whereas the motivation here is that gay people are, in fact, really different from straight people and also from each other. The show is about the unfamiliar. We’re looking for what’s gayest.”
The Gayest Show Ever satisfies Walberg’s longtime goal of adding video news production to Pink Triangle Press’s list of media titles, which already includes Xtra. Walberg says The Gayest Show Ever represents an evolution from other queer news programs, such as Logo news by CBS, In the Life on PBS and the now-defunct QueerTelevision by CityTV.
“Those shows were pretty straightforward hard news programs with a current affairs sort of approach,” he says. Instead, he and his team have applied the Xtra model to television by mixing content. “Serious issues with gravity are getting their deserved attention, but comedy is something we thought would keep the show moving, lively, funny and fast-paced.”
Keen to avoid the pitfalls of comedy — “It can fall flat on its face” — Walberg cast seasoned comedian-turned-reporter Elvira Kurt as writer/host and fab columnist Paul Bellini as comedy writer. Bellini is an Emmy-nominated writer of the classic Kids in the Hall and This Hour Has 22 Minutes TV series.
Stories that Kurt covers, both playfully and more earnestly, include the effects of female-to-male transition on the lesbian identity, the controversy around bareback sex in gay porn and the life of the son of prominent American gay-hater Fred Phelps. The segments are seasoned with comedy to keep viewers watching. It’s Kurt’s specialty.
“Humour is a great way to reinforce a point or bring it to life from a serious situation,” Kurt says. “I’m inclined to figure out how I can make fun of what we’re talking about to help liven it up somehow with a lighter touch.”
The production team also includes former CityTV and CTV television producer Frank Prendergast.
Moments of humour, interspersed throughout the program, include lighter news stories and drag queen parodies featuring Daytona Bitch and Donnarama. The two buzz about, mocking everything around them in various sketches throughout the series, including back-alley makeovers, fashion reviews and a Dancing with the Stars takeoff.
The series also brings to television familiar personalities from across the Pink Triangle Press family, including Philip Lyall and Matt Thomas.
Neither Walberg nor Kurt admits to nerves about audience reaction to the premiere. “I love the show and I think it’s going to be great,” says Kurt.
Industry types agree. To Walberg’s delight and surprise, the pilot episode of The Gayest Show Ever picked up an award at the Banff World Media Festival last year. The pilot had its world premiere on NPO, the national broadcaster in the Netherlands.
With a UK distributor on board, Walberg hopes the series will receive global exposure through international broadcasters. To capture global trends, stories have taken the crew to the US, Poland, Denmark and beyond. General trends are covered rather than breaking news stories in an effort to extend the series’ shelf life and potential for repeat airings.