Nigel Lythgoe’s Guide to Turning Other Folks’ Tragedy into Ratings Gold

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nigel Lythgoe is a ratings wizard, spinning mountains of gold out of reality competitions like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that the man can’t open his mouth to speak about gay people without making us cringe.

There was the time on SYTYCD that he told a pair of male ballroom dancers: “I think you’d probably alienate a lot of our audience. We’ve always had the guys dance together on the show but they’ve never really done it in each other’s arms before. I’m really one of those people that like to see guys be guys and girls be girls on stage. I don’t think I liked it, to be frank.” And the other time on SYTYCD that he told a male dancer that he danced like he’d been violated with a broomstick.

Lythgoe’s most recent ridiculous comments were aimed at The Voice’s Adam Levine, who complained to Out magazine that American Idol forces its gay contestants to stay closeted.

Lythgoe responded:

To be frank, I didn’t understand why we’re talking about contestants being gay or not gay. I don’t go into my dentist and say, “Are you gay?” I don’t say to contestants on So You Think You Can Dance, “Are you gay?” What does it got to do with me? What does it got to do with anybody? When does privacy stop in this country?

Ah yes, personal privacy, something Lythgoe has always respected as much as he respects people all over the gender and sexuality spectrum. In fact, he’s written extensively about the subject in his book:

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from Lythgoe’s book:

“A tear shouldn’t fall without a camera to catch it.”

When I was growing up, people mourned over lost loved ones at home, with family and dear friends. Even as a child, I remember feeling quite frustrated that my family was crying in private while I was sitting around not getting richer. And that’s when I decided that grieving should become a public — nay, an internationally televised — affair. Nothing rivets an audience so much as personal tragedy, the more tragic the better. Ill wife? Good. Dead wife? Better. Wife who will die during the finale? Awesome!

“Can you tell us exactly how your opposite sex husband died?” you might ask. “Were all the body parts able to be recovered or was the axe murder so horrific that your husband’s head is still missing?”

It is also important to understand how tragedy shapes talent. “What does it mean to you, performance-wise, that you will be dead from cancer in a matter of months?” Or, perhaps, “Do you feel like your dead daughter can hear you singing to her up there in heaven?”

Remember: Everything is your business. Everything. Every single thing in a person’s private life is your — and the audience’s — business. Except for “gayness,” which we don’t talk about out loud, ever.

“Eww, your man parts almost touched each other!”

There is one exception to the “gay” rule: It’s perfectly acceptable to show “gays” on TV if you’re playing it for a laugh. Because how funny is it when two men or two women dance together? It’s hysterical! The first thing you do is let the “gays” know how hilarious you think they are. Guffaw a little bit. Slap your knee with your hand. Have the editors play “It’s Raining Men” when you first show the gay people in question.

And then get down to business: Explain the unnaturalness of same-gendered people dancing together — How do we know who’s in charge if there are two men or two women?! — and then properly chastise them by telling them how grossed out you are and how their parents couldn’t possibly love them.

Pro tip: If you’re quick on your feet you can land some pop culture jabs. I once used “Brokeback Ballroom” and “Blades of Glory” in one sentence!

“How to talk to young ladies.”

It has been said on occasion that I am “the greatest judge of dance talent in the known universe,” and as such, it is often my obligation to critique tens of thousands of young ladies. My experience is that women don’t simply want to know my opinion on their pirouettes; they’re also interested in my feelings about their bazoombas.

Sometimes a simple leer lets a young woman know how delightful you find her tits in her top. Other times, you must add in a wink accompanied by aggressive lip-licking. It’s one of the most elegant compliments a young woman can receive.

I also enjoyed the chapters “Morons Out There in Twitterland,” “GLAAD Makes Me Mad,” and “Dirty Old Man Olympics.” I give Auntie Nigel’s Conversation Companion five stars just for being classy. 

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