Here’s a bitchy theory that I might believe in: Straight men usually aren’t very socially intuitive thinkers, so they rarely relate to comic performers who don’t, to a certain degree, resemble them. I notice in standup and on Twitter that a majority of straight male comics build their fanbase by specifically proving they relate to their fans, who are largely also straight and male. This, I feel, is the opposite tactic of the comics who are more often adored by gay men and straight women. We tend to like standout performers who represent themselves first and seem to say, “F*ck you if you don’t relate to me.” We value independence over like-mindedness, and that’s why defiant personalities like Madonna, Kathy Griffin, and Bette Davis can be catnip to many of us. (I certainly subscribe to all three of those dames.)
In our new feature “Gay Icon Nominee,” we’ll select a modern-day pop culture figure who hasn’t yet ascended to, say, Oscar Wilde/Barbra Streisand‘s ranks of idolatry and suggest why he/she might be next in line. This honor doesn’t imply that a celeb is only interesting to homos or not interesting to heteros; it simply acknowledges that a celeb exhibits a certain independence, self-ownership, talent, and flair, those qualites that perenially impress and inspire LGBTers. I’ll start with the kickass Julie Bowen, who won an Emmy last year and is again nominated for her work on Modern Family. Feel free to vote for or against my picks (and nominate your own, too), because I believe we should have a say in which celebrities Wikipedia will label as “gay icons.” Let’s take control.
1. She’s the most realistic and hilarious character on Modern Family.
It’s nice that Bowen won an Emmy for her work on Modern Family, because her character Claire Dunphy is both a thoroughly real-seeming matriarch and a straightforward forum for the show’s best jokes. Remember when she told Phil, “Oh, honey. Don’t take this the wrong way… but I have almost no faith in you”? Riotous. She’s also the most realistic character, which would seem like a thankless achievement alongside the silliness of Phil Dunphy or the theatrical flair of Gloria and Cam. Bowen is simply doing the hard work of delivering raw laughs and making it look easy. She’s got the knockaround flair of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the knack for damning punchlines like Cynthia Nixon. A perfect combo.
2. Her Twitter is totally funny.
Twitter is the most efficient way to see if the funny people on TV are remotely humorous — or even tolerable — in real life. Bowen makes good on her potential.
Thank you, 3 children, for keeping me so grounded after an Emmy nom. The glamour of the Santa Barbara ER will not soon be forgotten.
— Julie Bowen (@itsJulieBowen) July 21, 2012
3. She is a killer talk show guest.
She lit up Conan O’Brien‘s first week on TBS with her sputtering candor, relaying a tale of how one of her children threw another into the dryer. She’s been a delight on Jimmy Fallon‘s show. And in this George Lopez appearance, Julie Bowen turns a breastfeeding photo into high art and practically scat-sings hilarious jokes. It’s so rare that we have fine talk show guests anymore. Actors don’t value wit. Or sincerity. Here, we get huge helpings of both.