Gay sketch comedy launches third season, comes to Philly

Logo’s comedy powerhouse, “The Big Gay Sketch Show,” is back for the third hilarious season, with most of the cast favorites back on board and Rosie O’Donnell producing. This season features guest appearances from stars like Sharon Osbourne, Julianna Margulies and Rachel Dratch, among others.

And on April 17, their chuckle-inducing antics of the sketch show are set to jump off the screen and into the faces of some lucky spectators when some of the cast members judge and perform at Mr. Gay Philly.

Cast members and performers Jonny McGovern, Nicole Paone and Kate McKinnon talked to PGN about the new season and all the action that happens on and off the show.

PGN: Are there any particular individuals, groups or topics the show is taking aim at this season? JONNY MCGOVERN: The world, honey! I think we’re really playing with a broad stroke. We’re jumping out of just doing gay topics and hitting all of pop culture. Some of my favorites are, I get to play and interact with a bunch of my favorite pop-culture icons. I get to play Karl Lagerfeld this year, which is tons of fun. I’ve been trying to do that on the show for a couple of years now. We even have André Leon Talley, the [former] editor[-at-large] from Vogue, come in and do a sketch with me. We hit up a lot of celebrities. Nicole really rips a new one for Glenn Close. We also do a version of “The Hills” set in Afghanistan. The show is sharp like Ginsu this year. NICOLE PAONE: I think we went after everyone this year. We’re going to have a fatwa on our heads because of the Afghanistan sketch. Mother Theresa is going to be pissed at me. We’re going to have a lot of curses on us after the season airs. KATE MCKINNON: We widened our focus from just gay things and just approached it from a gay sensibility.

PGN: Even though the show is on cable, are there certain things you can’t get away with content-wise? NP: There are some things. We can’t really talk about any sort of sexual act. We can abbreviate or imply it. We have had to cut out some of those things. But as far as swear words and cursing, they beep it out, which is nice. Sometimes all a sketch needs is a good swear word. KM: A lot of our fans really enjoy that on DVD they can get the uncensored version. It’s happened a little bit more every season. The first season was clean as a whistle. I could show the whole season to my grandmother without any problem. But as we’ve progressed, all of our dirty minds have come up with more and more inappropriate things. And this season is no exception. They’ll be certainly naughtier and juicer things on the DVD.

PGN: What would you say are the show’s most popular characters so far? JM: Hard to say. Everybody in the cast has their one piece that’s extremely popular that they get a lot of response from. I tend to find that people love “Tranny 911” where I play Chocolate Puddin’. But I also get tons of love for playing Fitzwilliam’s father. NP: I hear all different things. I hear Fitzwilliam. I’ve heard Chocolate Puddin’. I’ve gotten a few of mine like Elaine Stritch. It depends on who you’re talking to. It’s great because it appeals to a lot of different people.

PGN: Are the guest stars easier or harder to work with than the regular cast? JM: They’re all pretty dreamy. They come in and shine their superstar light on us for a day. So everyone is so excited to be around actual celebrities. It’s super-fun and super-easy. Our schedule is tights as it is. We film the whole show in a month. They’re there for a quick amount of time. We’re just in there, do it and say, “Bye! Let us take a photo with you.” Although when André Leon Talley came in the first time, he did not like what he was wearing and we had to reschedule him. He ended up coming a few days later wearing a couture muumuu and necklace that he had just worn to the Met Ball the night before. But he’s André Leon Talley: He can do whatever he wants. NP: It depends on the sketch, obviously. But it’s fairly easy to work with celebrities and guest stars because they’re always so willing to play as opposed with the regular cast, which is amazing as well. We’re definitely more familiar with each other. So we’ll take risks. I don’t know if I would take a risk with a celebrity because you want to maintain your professional reputation.

PGN: With shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” showing up on networks like VH-1, do you think mainstream networks are becoming more open to shows like “The Big Gay Sketch Show”? JM: Bit by bit, cable is more and more open than ever. Even networks are starting to show you more realistic and fun versions of gay that aren’t just making people over. We’re all crossing our fingers that it’ll get bigger and bigger because as a gay artist, you want more and more jobs. I’m praying to gay Jesus that that is the case. NP: “The Big Gay Sketch Show” is one of the few shows on Logo that can cross over. On season one, not that my uncle in Florida should be our target audience, but he had a bunch of people in his condo community gathering around to see the show. It was great to hear. In season three, we eased up on going after any target [audience] and wrote what was funny. That has more mass appeal than having a gay character in a gay situation talking about being gay. I think this could be our breakout season as far as mainstream viewers. KM: I would love if it did [become a breakout hit]. This year it became more than “The Big Gay Sketch Show.” It’s like a big sassy sketch show. We should call it that.

PGN: Most sketch comedies are like boy bands, where everyone is talented but there’s one person who seems to be ready to blow up and go solo. Who on the cast of the show is that person?

KM: Oh, I can’t do that. You never know. Success is just a strange thing and you never know. JM: I think we’re all solo superstars in our own right. Everybody has their own flavor that will take them to the next level. Everybody does projects out on their own. Stephen Guarino has been in a couple of movies. Julie Goldman, I went on a cruise with her. If you ever see Julie Goldman in front of an audience of a hundred lesbians, you’d think you’d seen Christ rise again. NP: I would say Stephen. During the first season, I felt like I was watching the beginning of something special. I think we’re all going to break out in our own way. Colman is a Broadway star. Jonny is dynamic. Stephen is definitely going to make it in Hollywood. That’s sort of starting to happen already.

PGN: How involved is Rosie O’Donnell in the creative process of the show? JM: The first season, Rosie was really involved. She cast us all and she was really involved every step of the way to set the tone of the show. At the beginning of this season, she was still there to make sure that the right team is together. But I think in the last two seasons she let us do our thing. She really trusted in the staff, the writer, the producers and, of course, us. KM: She was very hands-off the last two seasons. She made sure the tone was right and it wasn’t too bitter. We were just having fun poking fun at pop culture in a gay way. NP: She was very instrumental in what the show wasn’t going to be, which is clichéd, what the mainstream viewers in America would think a gay show would be. But for season three, she showed up, did her bits, wished us well and is getting the word out about the premiere. I think it’s great of Rosie to let us have fun and do our thing.

PGN: Jonny, you’re scheduled to judge Mr. Gay Philadelphia on April 17. Are you going to perform at the event? JM: [Fellow cast member] Paolo [Andino] and I are both performing little segments. We’re working up something fun. I’m also working up one of my dirty gay hits. I want to impress all the contestants as well.

PGN: Are you working on any more music CDs? JM: I’m working on my new record right now. I just released the last single, “Bossy Bottom,” from the “Gays Gone Wild” album. That’s another I probably won’t play for my grandmother but the gay teens of America seem to love it. I’m now back in the studio working on new music. The first single will probably be a song called, “I Saw Your Cock on Craigslist.”

PGN: How do the rest of you occupy your time between seasons on the show? NP: I do a lot of standup and a lot of live shows around L.A. and the country. I just finished a screenplay and worked on a pilot for CBS. It’s just acting and writing all year round. I was just in “Funny People” with Adam Sandler. KM: I started doing standup because I thought I should. It took a couple years but I think I got the hang of it. I prefer acting in a sketch, but it’s a good way to practice being on stage. I perform a lot at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in New York and I do cartoon voices for Cartoon Network.

Season three of “The Big Gay Sketch Show” premieres at 10 p.m. April 13 on Logo. For more information, visit Jonny McGovern and Paolo Andino guest judge and perform at Mr. Gay Philly, 8-11:30 p.m. April 17 at Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St. For more information, call (215) 735-5772. n

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].