Soft-spoken, polite and extremely handsome, Q. Allan Brocka doesn’t seem like the kind of rabble-rouser who would make Playmobil toys do unspeakable things in the name of comedy, yet his hilarious Logo television show, Rick & Steve, The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World (the second season of which is now availableon DVD) does just that. Not that you’re likely to find a double-sized butch lesbian named Michaela or an HIV-positive sugar daddy in a wheelchair at your local K-B Toys.
Brocka is also a bit of a gay film trendsetter for the skillful and witty way he addresses gay sexuality in his films. Eating Out, Boy Culture, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and many other films have been frank without being strictly exploitation, which makes Brocka’s work some of the best GLBT material out there.
I spoke to Brocka by phone to get an idea of how he came up with the idea for Rick & Steve and whether there’s anything that’s off limits in fictional West Lahunga Beach.
Brocka explained that Rick & Steve started out as a film school project that took off on the festival circuit. They started out made of Legos, but are now completely original creations voiced by such talent as Peter Paige and Margaret Cho. Considering that Rick’s last name is Brocka and he’s also Filipino-American, I wondered how much he’s based on Brocka himself.
“Some of my experiences have made it into the show,” he explained, “but only in extremely exaggerated ways.”
I asked if there was anywhere he just wouldn’t go.
“There are no topics that are off-limits,” he said. “I look for topics that other people won’t touch. Like taking HIV-positive characters and making them funny. Most of my HIV-positive friends are really funny. I like to take a group that’s ignored and give that group a voice.”
The humor on Rick & Steve flies so fast and furious, it would take repeated viewings to get all of the sexual and gender-role political humor, which is why it’s great that both seasonsare on DVD. Brocka hopes that Logo will bring it back for season 3, as does anyone who is dying to know which guy fathered baby Dixie. I asked Brocka how political he is.
“I’m very political,” he said. “I’m not in politics, but I speak my mind and put it into my work. I’m pretty far to the left.”
I asked him what he thought of the whole Prop 8 fiasco, and he admitted he is hopeful. He’s worried about any attempts to change the constitution to deny people certain rights, and wonders how far it would go. Would people, for instance, vote to bar Muslims from flying planes?
“Shouldn’t (the Prop 8 supporters) be trying to outlaw inter-religious marriage,” he asked, citing their arguments that gay marriage undermines the institution. He’s gratified that polls show that Prop 8 would fail if the election were held again.
Brocka’s work is always very sexually provocative, and I wondered if he is that outrageous in real life.
“I’m a very quiet person,” he laughed, noting that what he writes is what he wishes he “was cool enough to say at the time.”
As to why his films address sex so frankly, he explained, “I’m really interested in sexuality. There’s so little discussion of it, but it’s at the base of any relationship.”
In addition to breaking taboos on Rick & Steve, Brocka’s is getting ready to film the third installment of his hilariously heartfelt and raunchy comedy trilogy, Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat. He couldn’t reveal cast members yet, but suffice it to say, it promises to be just as much fun as the first two, even if it won’t be filmed in Tucson (as was the original).
If his films have a common theme, he explained, it’s about “acceptance of yourself and of other people.” To think that it takes brightly colored little toys to break through barriers — Brocka’s just going where South Park fears to tread!
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.