Perhaps a reflection of where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are heading, fringe entertainment is always going to be an ongoing process. For example, the best LGBTQI comedy taps into current popular culture, political awareness, and social commentary. Often smart and enlightening, it also has a way of teaching audiences without being overbearing.
In the late nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde was known for writing such plays as ‘An Ideal Husband, ‘Salome, and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Living at a time in Victorian England when homosexuality was punishable by criminal law, whilst Wilde courageously stood firm by his lifestyle, he subsequently served two years of hard labour in prison.
Over time, gay artists have combined quick wit with an innate sixth sense to push buttons and expand conventional boundaries. British legends like Dick Emery, Danny La Rue, John Inman, and Julian Clary gained mainstream momentum and acceptance by smashing through the pink ceiling. Since then, some of the most well – known talk show stars are Graham Norton and Alan Carr.
American television continues to break new ground with mainstream network and cable offerings like ‘Grace & Frankie’, ‘Looking’, ‘Modern Family’, ’Orange Is The New Black’, ’The Real O’Neals’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. There is even talk of producing an all – male version of the hit reality series, ’The Bachelor’.
Closer to home in Australia, Josh Thomas, headlines his own internationally – acclaimed sitcom, ‘Please Like Me’, which, having been sold to countless countries around the world, is now in its third season. Further, local cabaret singers with a comic bent include Michael Dalton’s Dolly Diamond and Mark Trevorrow (better known as Bob Downe).
The list goes on.
Since 1993, The Butterfly Club has been one of Melbourne’s leading, full – time performance spaces.
For almost twenty – five years, this intimate city – based venue has staged more than one thousand new shows, hosting everything from stand-up comedy, game shows, karaoke events and even improvised farce. It has also jump – started the careers of Tim Minchin and Eddie Perfect, Andrew Strano and Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer, and more recently featured established stars such as Amanda Harrison, Jemma Rix and Kurt Phelan.
Playing for a strictly – limited season, the club’s latest offering is ‘Peter Rugg’s Big Gay Adventure’.
His show’s overall theme is a tongue – in – cheek glimpse into modern dating, where, as he puts it, mobile phone applications like Tinder and Grindr are a way of life. Rugg’s language is also very much of this century’s millennial generation; where texting and short – cutting word play is second nature. For example, dressed in a sparkling dinner jacket with lipstick, eye shadow and nail polish to match, he ironically labels himself ‘masc’ (short for masculine).
Adhering to the standard cabaret template, Rugg’s hour – long set consists of quick tips and short stories interwoven with a handful of popular and novelty songs. One highlight was Brittney Spears’ ‘Oops! I Did It Again’, reimagined in a show tune style. It should be noted that Rugg also had a playfully genuine rapport with his piano accompanist, Raynor Pollard.
For the most part, the evening’s tone was light, fun, and a wee bit educational.
We even learned that gay men are divided up into specific types with labels like ‘twink’, ‘cub’, ‘bear’ and ‘silver fox’. Rugg considers himself an ‘otter’, which for the record, is a guy with a hairy chest.
Later, when the routine inevitably turned to sex, who knew there were two ways to lose your gay virginity? Rugg also gave his material light and shade when he touched on more serious topics such as HIV and The Big P (which isn’t what it implies but slang for a kind of AIDS prevention medication).
Rugg excels when he jokes and interacts with the audience.
It takes a special person to not only warm up and ‘work the room’ as it were, but to improvise ideas and think on one’s feet at the same time. Rugg’s r – rated material is adult without being overtly shocking, and some of the questions he asked punters on the night this review took place, generated some amusing and quite unexpected results.
‘My Big Gay Adventure’ is a format which shines as a stand – alone club entertainment, but could potentially feature as part of any alternative, comedy or cabaret festival line – up as well.