It probably is worth noting that those are the immediate reactions of gay men on social media after comedian and King of Staten Island star Bill Burr’s Saturday Night Live monologue, which went after cancel culture, the hypocrisy of white women being woke, and then an extended bit about not knowing what Gay Pride Month was in New York City.
The extent of the bit is that he was shocked to learn that the month existed, and that it lasted for the entire month of June, when other more aggrieved minorities aren’t afforded as many days of respect.
“Tank tops! Zero percent body fat! Two guys kissing! I didn’t know that!” is what Burr said when talking about his last trip to New York and being shocked by how many people were around. Apparently he was there during that year’s Pride Parade. “That’s what I learned, the month of June is Gay Pride Month. That’s a little long, don’t you think? For a group of people that were never enslaved?”
There’s a kernel of a smart joke about representation discrepancy there that Burr is making...that Burr, a straight white guy in his 50s, is making after mocking white women and decrying cancel culture in the first 60 seconds of his SNL debut.
“How did they get all of June?” he continued on about the gay men who he was so shocked to see celebrating. “Black people were actually enslaved. They get February! They get 28 days of overcast weather. The sun goes down at four in the afternoon. Everyone’s shivering. Nobody wants to go on the parade.”
There is very tepid, nervous laughter at this point in the audience.
“How about you hook them up with July? These are equator people. Give them the sun for 31 days. These gay Black people, they can celebrate...61 days of celebrating.”
I get the joke. The time we’re in can seem like the oppression Olympics, and it can make people not used to the demand for recognition from minority and ostracized groups disoriented. From that perspective, there is something to say about the discrepancies between Pride Month and Black History Month. Maybe it’s a dangerous joke. Maybe it’s a salient point. Maybe now is not the time.
This is the first episode of SNL, an influential cultural institution that given the intensity of this political moment has more eyeballs on it than it has in years, to air in the week since it became clear that LGBT+ rights are on the line with a more severe reality than they have been in years with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
As Vulture critic Jen Chaney tweeted after the monologue, “There is no real 'time' for that Bill Burr monologue, but I'll tell you what, now is NOT IT.”
Another Twitter user, @dilfoyles, wrote, “bill burr makes comedy for contrarian white boys who think they’re making smart commentary on the world when they’re just homophobic.” (Search “Bill Burr” and “homophobic” on the social media to see just how many instances that characterization of the material was invoked.)
Civil rights are in danger and, with no peg whatsoever (as Burr said, Pride Month was in June...and the parade was canceled this year because of COVID), he is mocking the celebration? Arguing—though again, with a sharp point about inequity in cultural celebration—for a minimizing of that annual validation?
Given that the monologue began with a groan-worthy invoking of cancel culture, it’s likely that this kind of furious response, which flew fast off the keyboard, is what Burr was courting or interrogating. But that doesn’t change the fact that the point bombed more in real-time that I’ve witnessed in years of watching SNL and tracking its online reaction. And that doesn’t change the fact that a contingent of Americans whose rights are vulnerable are appalled.
For what it’s worth, here is what Burr had to say in a podcast interview with my colleague Matt Wilstein when asked last year about “outrage culture”:
“Outrage culture is one of the most misrepresented things out there, how they will make such a small percentage of people seem like they’re three million people. And it’s not even necessarily because they believe in their cause, it’s just that where the money’s at is eyeballs and controversy and people arguing and being offended and watching somebody get in trouble makes people stop on your website or your TV channel and watch. But it’s just not an accurate portrayal of where people’s heads are at. It just isn’t. It feels like Chicken Little. You go on stage and some nights you’re going to do a bit and you go, should I say this? And it’s like, what is going to happen? It’s just a joke. And 99 percent of the people there—100 percent most nights—realize they went to a comedy club and everything you’re saying [is a joke]. You’re not watching legislation being written, it’s not going to change anything, it’s just somebody screwing around.”
For more, listen to SNL host Bill Burr on The Last Laugh podcast.