Ten years ago last week, comedian Andy Milonakis sat down, grabbed a guitar, aimed his video camera at himself, hit record and began singing a three-minute, 20 second improvised comedy song called “The Super Bowl is Gay.” The result was one of the first true viral videos, one that came more than a year before the launch of YouTube.
The video, originally posted to a comedy website called Angry Naked Pat, features Milonakis repeatedly strumming the same chord on a guitar, while calling the Super Bowl and the teams in it that year- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders- “gay.” He goes on to refer to a long list of other things as gay, including everything from shirts to cologne to McDonalds and KFC to orange juice:
Indeed, there have been many musical viral videos in the last ten years, but only one of the them built to the lyrical crescendo “orange juice raped my father.”
Throughout the song Milonakis is clearly looking around his apartment for different things to call gay, name-checking such hilariously anachronistic technologies as scanners, CD burners, CDs, zip drives and even Kazaa. Milonakis appears to have upgraded his electronics in the years since; he posted an Instagram photo Sunday night of himself watching both the Super Bowl and Downton Abbey on different devices at the same time.
The now-37-year-old New York native, who due to a congenital growth hormone condition appears significantly younger than his age, has parlayed the video and others like it into a minor but durable celebrity, which included appearances in the early days of Jimmy Kimmel Live, an MTV variety show that ran for three seasons, roles in more than ten movies and occasional TV work, including an appearance last month on Comedy Central’s new Kroll Show. His very entertaining Twitter feed has over 400,000 followers.
According to a March 2003 New York Observer article by a reporter named, yes, Jason Gay, Milonakis recorded the video on a whim on Super Bowl Sunday, in lieu of attending a friend’s Super Bowl party. Milonakis told Gay, now a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal, that the video didn’t go viral until a couple of weeks after he posted it.
Was the video homophobic? Milonakis at one point uses the word “faggot,” but later admits that “everything is gay that I know,” before stating that he is himself gay (I have no idea if he actually is.) I always had the impression he was being more purposely absurd and silly than in any way malicious- and homophobes aren’t known for using the phrase “I also like penis- so I guess I’m gay gay gay gay gay.”
I choose to interpret the video as a riff on various shock-jock radio shows popular at the time, in which the hosts endlessly call each other gay, but seem practically obsessed with the topic of homosexuality, to the point where you really have to wonder. Howard Stern’s show was long like this, before Stern, in more recent years, became a vocal supporter of gay rights.
Then again, the video also shows just how much attitudes towards homosexuality have changed in just ten years. In 2003, the legalization of same-sex marriage in the first state, Massachusetts, was still a year away. According to the Observer article, Milonakis “mostly used [the word gay] in the adolescent sense-e.g., That TV show is so gay”- something that wasn’t nearly as taboo ten years ago as it is today.
Even the Super Bowl itself has become more gay-inflected than ever, with multiple players in this year’s game making news for controversial statements both for and against gay rights. The Huffington Post even went so far as to publish a Gay Guide to Super Bowl XLVII, written by the cofounder of the website Outsports, Jim Buzinski.
It may be a silly song that says shirts, CD burners and two top NFL teams are “gay.” But “The Super Bowl is Gay” does have a special place in Internet history.