It’s Tough Being Queer in America, So Enemies of Dorothy Want You to Laugh Until You Cry
There’s something funny about being gay. We’re told not to be gay so we can go to heaven with the homophobes. We mock our enemies by saying they’re secretly one of us. We’re proud of our inclusivity but dislike old people and bisexuals. We’re a wealth of contradictions, and it’s there that queer comedy troupe Enemies of Dorothy mine their humor.
The name is a play on the term “Friends of Dorothy” (an old-timey euphemism for gay men), and they’re building up a catalog of hilarious sketches on their YouTube page, tackling everything from dating conservatives to banning straight people from Pride. They’re also attracting the likes of other talented queer comedians like Michael Henry, and this month their work will be showcased at Outfest, L.A.‘s renowned LGBTQ film festival.
Enemies of Dorothy started partly because of Donald Trump
The troupe was founded in 2016 when Christopher Smith Bryant and Ryan Leslie Fisher, boyfriends of three years, wanted to voice their feelings following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Fisher had worked to get out the vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and felt surprised by how many LGBTQ people supported Trump.
Convinced that Clinton would win, Fisher initially sought to open up dialogue with the queer Trump-supporters he met. But after Trump won, both he and Bryant felt a need to comment on the political state of the country — to stand up, speak out and process their feelings of slipping backwards after all the LGBTQ social progress of the Obama years.
Bryant had been doing stand-up comedy — a particularly twisted brand of it — for six years, and Fisher had a background in acting.
“Christopher’s sense of humor is something that drew me to him right away. He would always post belfies on Instagram, butt-selfies, which are him in his underwear in highly feminine poses,” Fisher says. “And they would always have some random Bible verse as the caption or be photoshopped in with Martha Stewart or a grandma’s knitting circle. The absurdity really made me laugh.”
One of their earliest sketches (below) advertises a non-existent LEGO playset for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s ex-gay conversion therapy camp, a jab at Pence’s support for programs that “change people’s sexual behavior.” The LEGO playset has a campfire, a pool slide, a treehouse with a tire swing and an electrocution chamber where gay boys can be zapped straight. And it’s brought to you by the Westboro Baptist Church (y’know, the “God hates fags” people).
Here’s the Enemies of Dorothy sketch for Mike Pence’s LEGO conversion therapy playset:
Pence pops up in several of their sketches. In one, Pennywise the Dancing Clown and the Babadook announce their engagement, adding that Pence will officiate their wedding. In another, a man in devil horns shows a gay man around Hell, which has drastically improved since gays starting being sent there. Turns out that Hell has a great poolside bar and a literal Fire Island where two judgmental queens mercilessly mock you for eternity.
A lot of queer people and allies have called Pence a closeted gay man, particularly since he rose to the vice presidency, but why do we consider it a funny insult to call homophobes one of us?
“If someone as severely concerned with our sex lives as Pence isn’t secretly gay, then he’s just hateful, spiteful and truly evil,” Bryan says, “which is a lot harder to swallow, no entendre intended.”
He continues, “I could imagine one day, a group of gays welcoming him to brunch with an ‘Ooh hunny, you did wrong but it wasn’t us you hated, it was yourself. And since you’ve realized your mistake, you will help us make it right.’ I mean, I try and picture him as a future gay rights activist. That makes sense to me.”
Fisher pipes up, “Whenever I read a comment like ‘We don’t want him’ from the LGBT community, it always resonates with me.”
He continues, “If [gay is] thrown around as an insult, it’s automatically self-defeating. Yet that rebellious, crass nature has always been part of the queer spirit. I have always appreciated the irony of the headline ‘Homophobic Priest/Anti-Gay Lawmaker Caught in Gay Sex Scandal.’ There is so much truth in this. We’re taught shame from birth, so we want to relate to that in our oppressors.”
And yet, while Enemies of Dorothy are clearly in the pro-LGBTQ camp — their videos get flagged as political content by Facebook and YouTube constantly, Fisher says — they still treat their conservative characters with some nuance while also touching on shallowness and in-fighting amongst the queer characters.
In one of their funniest sketches (above), an Indian progressive goes out with a Trump supporter, torn between the Trumpster’s physical attractiveness and his political insensitivity. In another sketch, gay right-wing douchebag Milo Yiannopoulos dresses as a woman to push his book Dangerous in a book club, only to have a strangely humanizing American Beauty-style breakdown in the bathroom when all the fellow readers hate it.
And their humor cuts both ways. In a secret meeting to set “the gay agenda,” a domineering drag queen demands that the trans community get people to come out sooner. The drag queen seethes, “What do I always say? If they’re young enough to abort, they’re young enough to be trans.” In another video telling straight people how not to ruin Pride, a blond twink named JasperGender says, “Don’t be breeding all over our parade. Stay at home and make a gay person for us to celebrate with.”
Some of their funniest sketches have also been a hit among right-leaning viewers. In “Woke Scooby Doo,” the entire Scooby gang vapes weed, eats vegan Scooby Snacks and discovers that the flesh-eating zombie haunting the apartment complex is actually just a woman who lost her Obamacare. Fisher says, “Some of our commenters were truly convinced we were trolling them.”
In “Social Justice Strangers,” three liberal-leaning psychopathic murderers debate who is most socially oppressed while discussing whether it’s homophobic to not kill a couple just because they’re gay.
And yet, some people have disagreed about their handling of particularly sensitive topics. In “White History Month” for instance, a man representing “white history” crashes a weekly meeting of the representatives for black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian-American history months, nearly persuading them to let White History Month share February with Black History Month.
Though persuasive, the sketch ends with pretty much everyone else telling the white guy that “Every Day is White History Day.” The sketch explores a very real American tension surrounding racial pride, but some YouTube commenters have unsurprisingly criticized the sketch as being intolerant of white men.
Other sketches criticize the gay community for its own exclusion. In “The Bisexual Test,” an officious gay bureaucrat denies a bisexual women her “gay card” because she doesn’t conform closely enough to gay or bisexual stereotypes. In “The Gay of Christmas Past,” an older gay man visits a young, ditzy twink on Christmas Eve to tell him to stop calling Madonna “Instagrandma” and to buy a drink for any old guy he sees sitting alone at a gay bar.
Anyone who has ever heard a gay person exclaim that “bisexuality doesn’t exist” or who has seen queer elders be widely ignored in LGBTQ spaces will understand the uncomfortable and unflattering reality these sketches address.
Fisher says, “We definitely stand for unity and education of our viewers both in and out of the LGBT spectrum. … My goal was to open dialogue. Not to convince the other side but truly meet somewhere in the middle. Laughter is something we can all take part in. Our goal is to always go for the biggest laugh. No matter what, people will start talking to each other about it. And that is the goal.”
Bryant adds, “I feel like every time I read the news I want to panic, cry and scream at the same time. Comedy has helped me artistically deal with my emotions and can help others feel like they’re not alone. But we also want to delve deeper into the day-to-day. We like to say, ‘There’s something funny about being gay.’ And exploring that is a big part of our work.”
Right now, with the coming retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and LGBTQ rights seemingly hanging in the balance, LGBTQ people are in need of a laugh. To their credit, Enemies of Dorothy acknowledge and incorporate trans and bi actors in their sketches and strive to increase inclusivity and representation in their future work, not just as a way to appear “woke” but as a way of creating substantial political change.
“It was a discussion from day one that Ryan and I are two white cis men, both with brown hair and hazel eyes, looking to create work for ourselves — and how we must represent all LGBT people in our comedy,” Fisher says. “We are making a vehicle for our own work, but we actively seek out diverse faces, opinions and backgrounds to collaborate with. That is the only way we will create progressive momentum for the LGBT community, as a whole, with our sketches.”
“I feel bound to the stories I hear from different intersections of the greater oppressed community, not through my voice, but by amplifying those comedians’ voices,” Bryant adds. “I want to work with people of color, the trans community, the lesbian and bi community. And through that find the stuff that makes us laugh so hard we weep, and vice versa.”