Will Cult L.A. Podcast Throwing Shade Find Its Audience on Late-Night TV?
Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi
On a soundstage in Hollywood last week, dozens of young people waited in line all night to pay homage to a newly christened saint at her candle-adorned altar. The massive framed portrait sitting atop the altar showed a young woman with bleached-blond hair, a tiny upturned nose and big, raccoon eyes. She was, of course, instantly recognizable not as a religious figure but as Tiffany Trump, the 23-year-old daughter of President-elect Donald Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples.
But according to comedian best friends Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi, she might also be a radical leftist informant covertly infiltrating her father’s Republican administration. On the debut episode of their late-night talk show Throwing Shade, which premiered Tuesday night on TV Land, the two co-hosts dubbed her Saint Tiffany, suggesting she might be America’s only hope to fight against a Trump presidency. As evidence, the most mysterious Trump offspring is friends with Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter Kyra, they posited, and she brought her Democrat boyfriend, Ross Mechanic, to the Republican National Convention. She’s basically, as Gibson put it, “Bernie Sanders in black eyeliner.”
It’s not a theory that's likely to gain much traction, but it’s the kind of unexpected punchline that sets Gibson and Safi’s brand of gossipy humor apart from other late-night talk show hosts mining similar subject matter: Chelsea Handler on the Netflix show Chelsea and Samantha Bee on TBS series Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, to name a few. While comedians like Bee — who once tweeted that the closest Donald Trump would get to Tiffany was the New York City jewelry store of the same name — have long pitied Tiffany Trump, perceiving her as her father’s least favorite child, Gibson and Safi did the reverse, elevating her to mock sainthood.
“I think people underestimate her,” Gibson said backstage, having changed into jeans and a sweatshirt printed with the feminist motto “The Future Is Female” after the taping last week. “I know! I like her!” Safi chimed in.
It wasn’t the first time that the two left-leaning comedians attempted to embrace the softer side of a right-wing political figure as a means of parody on their new TV show, which is based on their weekly podcast of the same name. During a segment called “Bless Your Heart,” they channeled their Southern upbringings — both Gibson and Safi were raised in Texas — to politely infantilize Milo Yiannopoulos, whom they referred to as an “alt-right Annie Lennox cosplayer.”
A separate segment, dubbed “Why Hasn’t Anyone Heard of This Bitch?” took an alternate approach. Rather than slamming an already well-known Republican, it shined a light on an unsung hero of the Democratic party: San Francisco congresswoman Jackie Speier.
“We’re going to try to come at something from a different angle,” Gibson says. Alluding to the unverified dossier BuzzFeed published last week, which suggested Trump may have hired Russian prostitutes to pee on a hotel bed, she adds, “So I’m sure a lot of people are making fun of golden showers and specifically Trump, but hopefully we’re going to do it in a way that you won’t see on TV from somebody else."
Gibson and Safi tackled the juicy news by including golden showers in a segment called “The Shade List,” essentially a list of things they dislike — or more aptly, like to throw shade at. Other items on the list: The Netflix show The O.A. (The O.C. doesn't need a prequel, they joked) and wicker furniture (have you ever tried to clean trail mix out of it?).
Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson
“We don’t have to cover all of politics. We’re just looking at it through our lenses,” Gibson says. “So we can talk about specific stories and touch on bigger things, but we’re more interested in stuff that’s directly affecting us as a woman and a gay guy — which is soon to be a lot.”
The two UCB-trained comedians met in 2010 while working as writers on the set of another TV series, the comedy-driven news show InfoMania, which aired on Current TV, the now-defunct cable channel co-owned by Al Gore. Safi had been hired to cover LGBT issues and Gibson to talk about women’s issues, so when the show ended a year after they were brought on board, the duo decided to continue their shtick, this time by starting a podcast. Its tagline: “We take a weekly look at all the issues important to ladies and gays and treat them with much less respect than they deserve.”
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More than 250 episodes later, “Feminasty Erin Gibson” and “Homesensual Bryan Safi,” who also have since been hired to host a web series for Funny or Die, have become nearly inseparable — each says they see and hear from the other more frequently than they do their own partners. At this point, having finally achieved their own television show after nearly seven years of being writing partners, “Neither of us can die,” Gibson jokes.
But in an age when young people are increasingly cutting cable in favor of online streaming services, Gibson and Safi recognize that one of their biggest challenges might be beyond their control: ratings. Safi admits he’s installing cable this week just for the purpose of watching his own show. And on a recent episode of their podcast, Gibson suggested another tip for those without cable: Find a Tinder or Bumble hookup and then demand to watch the show at their place.
Still, that the duo serve as creators, stars and co-writers of their own cable television show is remarkable in a late-night landscape that until last year included zero women and still offers few opportunities for gay men not named Andy Cohen. “Until Sam Bee was on the air, there was nobody talking about women’s issues who had a vagina on TV in a comedy way,” Gibson says. “Hopefully this will change things." She pauses, cautious not to jinx anything, and adds, at least “for 10 episodes.”
For all other hopes and prayers, there’s still Saint Tiffany.
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