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Nonetheless, the small theater success of some plays made it clear to producers that general audiences wanted to see a new kind of sensibility onstage, and gay comedy moved to Broadway in the Tony-winning works of Harvey Fierstein. Torch Song Trilogy (1981) features a sharp-witted drag performer whose heart is sorely tested by his relationships with his mother, his lovers, and his adopted son, but who keeps his audience laughing.

William Finn's Falsettos (1992), which deals with the restructuring of a family with a gay father and husband, along with AIDS, baseball, bar mitzvahs, and everything else a cast of seven can handle, also moved from off-Broadway to Tony-winning success in the legitimate theater.

Eventually, gay-themed comic plays were written directly for Broadway. Fierstein's La Cage aux Folles (1983)--like Torch Song Trilogy the story of a stage transvestite with a straight son--based on the film of the same name, was mounted as a successful major musical.

And Tony Kushner's two-part Angels in America (1992, 1993), which deals with romance, loyalty, politics, mysticism, race relations, Ethel Rosenberg, and AIDS, evinced a healthy dose of humor and was the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Gay and Lesbian Humor on Film

Hollywood screenplays, with a few exceptions like the film version of Torch Song Trilogy, lag far behind the stage in the production of comedies made from a gay or lesbian point of view, perhaps because of the huge sums of money required to produce major films, but also because of the fear that audiences (who are willing to pay to see everything from Ninja mystics to Mexican magical realism) will not buy tickets to see funny homosexual films.

Gay characters have appeared as amusingly unthreatening friends and neighbors of the major heterosexual characters, but the only studio-backed films made by gay filmmakers have not been comic.

However, gay and lesbian filmmakers have been able to film their comic vision in an ever-growing number of less expensive independent films, such as John Greyson's Zero Patience, an AIDS musical, and Rose Troche's Go Fish, a Generation X lesbian romantic comedy.

The Gay and Lesbian Comic Essay

The gay and lesbian comic essay has long been a means of disseminating humor within the community.

Clark Henley's The Butch Manual (1982) is a satire teaching the inherently effeminate male how to adopt the masculinized "clone" image that became de rigueur in the 1970s: "Smiles are considered socially acceptable on babies. Smiles on gay people are considered desperate. A smile is an open invitation for rejection. The Butch safeguard against an accidental smile is a large moustache and a beard."

Boyd McDonald's humor is based on a shocking honesty about matters sexual. His film reviews have more to do with the actors' underwear than with their acting, but his opinions make his readers laugh with self-recognition.

Penny Perkins also satirizes gay and lesbian sensibility when she asks, "What is a Lesbian Date?": "A Lesbian Date is Something that Takes Place with Reservations."

Fran Lebowitz writes for a larger audience, both homosexual and heterosexual. In "The Primary Cause of Heterosexuality Among Males in Urban Areas: Yet Another Crackpot Theory" from Metropolitan Life (1974), she turns the usual complaint inside out and depicts the heterosexual woman in a bar in Manhattan's SoHo wondering where all the gay men are: "Why, she may ask, is this quarter of the city so heavily populated by young men to whom the name Ronald Firbank means nothing? To this query there can be only one reply--heterosexuality among males in urban areas is caused by overcrowding in artist colonies."

Cartoons, Comic Strips, and Illustrated Stories

A newer form of gay humor are the cartoons, comic strips, and illustrated stories by artists such as Rick Fiala, Donelan, Jennifer Camper, Alison Bechdel, Donna DiMassa, and Howard Cruse. Some of these appear in general-interest gay and lesbian magazines, such as The Advocate, and others appear in magazines devoted to same-sex cartoon humor, such as Gay Comix.

Although some of the material deals with the tribulations of being gay in a straight world, much of it is aimed at the foibles within the community, covering issues such as clothing, dating, domesticity, and gay male and lesbian political relations.

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