Didja Hear the One About the Gay Cowboys?

1_gore_vidal.jpg 2_gliphs.jpgGore Vidal, Historian, Author, Homosexual: "Essentially, since the dawn of recorded human culture, there have been Brokeback Mountain jokes. Some of the earliest examples can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphics. This one dating back to roughly 4000 B.C. shows two men, possibly farmers, talking. One compliments the other on his hair and the other replies, ‘What is this? Brokeback Desert?’ It’s a weak joke, but not as bad as many that would come later."
  The Twentieth Century
3_kearns_goodwin.jpg Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian, Amusing Chat Show Guest: “Brokeback Mountain jokes really came into their own in the Twentieth Century. Before that time, there were Brokeback Mountain jokes, but they were often of the hack variety, usually referencing chaps or ‘barebacking.’ With the end of the late Victorian period and the normalization of homophobia in the United States, Brokeback Mountain jokes entered their so-called Golden Age.”
  Turn of the Century
4_roosevelt.jpg Here we see President Theodore Roosevelt laughing at a Brokeback Mountain joke in 1908. Some believed that Roosevelt, the consummate outdoors-man and man’s man, had particular reason to be tickled by Brokeback Mountain jokes and editorial cartoonists at the time enjoyed depicting the president making love to his Vice President Charles Fairbanks in a tent.
  WW I

5_ww1.jpgMany consider this World War I era poster dating from 1914 to be an example of veiled Brokeback Mountain humor. Historians of the First World War also cite numerous instances of Brokeback Mountain-type jokes in letters home from GIs, like this one from Private Roger Martin of Ohio:

Dear Mother, Father, Grandpapa, and Suzy

First, I will tell you I am well and doing my part for America. But I am lonely here in the trenches despite the companionship of my platoon. Through scares and some close-scrapes, we have grown into a close-knit group, though not in a Brokeback Mountain sort of way.

  The Teens
6_will_rogers.jpg Will Rogers opened his “Follies” in 1916 with the joke, “I just got back from Brokeback Mountain, and man is my asshole tired!” Audiences ate it up and Rogers’ catch-phrase, “I never met a man I didn’t like” became shorthand for Brokeback Mountain jokes.
  The 1920s

Here we see Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, aka radio’s Amos ‘n’ Andy performing their Brokeback Mountain parody, Brokeblack Mou’tain:

Amos: I’s so broke, I can’t buy me no mo’ alchyhol to sit ’round and be ‘mo shiftless, Andy!
Andy: I’s know hows you can makes some money, Amos.
Amos: No thank ya! I knows what you have in mind, Andy.
Andy: You’s said you’s broke.
Amos: I’s broke, but I ain’t brokeback!
Amos: Oh, Andy. We’s just a coupla drunk, shiftless negroes! Let’s find us some white women and miscegenate!

  The 1930s
8_orson_welles.jpg In 1938 a young Orson Welles makes history when he performs a radio play he wrote based on Brokeback Mountain. His use of voices and sound effects is so convincing, thousands of listeners actually believe they are hearing two cowboys falling in love. Legend has it that dozens of people committed suicide fearing a wave of gay cowboyism. Three years later, Welles and his cowriter Herman Mankiewicz work a Brokeback Mountain joke into Citizen Kane but RKO insists that their reference to “stemming the rose,” be changed to “rosebud.”
9_hitler_mussolini.jpg Brokeback Mountain jokes weren’t solely an American phenomenon. Here we see Adolf Hitler telling Benito Mussolini his best-known Brokeback Mountain joke:

Q. What’s worse than two gay cowboys?
A. Two gay Jewish cowboys.

Historians believe Mussolini did not find the joke funny, but was laughing to be polite since Hitler was his ride home.

  The 1940s
  10_Bing_bob.jpgIn 1946 Bing Crosby and Bob Hope release Road to Brokeback Mountain.
  The 1950s
Here we see a cartoon from the Spring 1958 issue of The Harvard Lampoon. That issue’s cover featured the headline, “Gentlemen, Let’s Leave It To Beaver! (Get It? Get It? Get It?)” This cartoon’s author went on to receive a pilot and a first-look deal with United Artists.
Also in 1958, Tom Lehrer records his minor hit, “I’ll Be Comin’ Around Brokeback Mountain When You Come.”
  The 1960s
12_deputy_dawg.jpg In the 60s, several popular cartoon series made Brokeback Mountain jokes. In 1962’s Brokerock Mountainrock, Fred Flintstone tells Barney Rubble, “I just can’t rock quit you rock,” and in 1963’s Brokeback Dawg episode of Deputy Dawg (pictured), Deputy Dawg and Vincent Van Gopher go fishing together and fall in love.

July 24, 1963, a young Bill Clinton visits the White House with a delegation of the American Legion Boys Nation and meets President John F. Kennedy. Given a few seconds of face time with the president, future president Clinton shares a Brokeback Mountain joke:

Q. How many gay cowboys does it take to watch a flock of sheep, Mr. President?
A. Wanna find out? I’ve always admired you.

14_Lenny-bruce.jpg In 1964, Comedian Lenny Bruce is arrested for his infamous Brokeback Mountain routine at Cafe Wha? in New York:

“Everybody gets Brokeback, baby. Everybody. I don’t care who you are, you get outside the city, you leave behind the wife and kids and go into those woods and… you… become… gay. Everybody, baby. L.B.J. L.B.J. gets Brokeback. It’s a fact. He gets all in that rucksack, snuggles all up in there with Dean Rusk… Oooh, Dean. Ooooh, I love ya, baby. Brokeback President, baby!

He served three weeks in jail for obscenity and “baby” abuse.

15_buckley_vidal.jpg In May 1968, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley debate Brokeback Mountain jokes at a forum sponsored by Commentary magazine. Buckley famously tells Vidal, “Sir, if it ain’t Brokeback, you’d be cautioned not to fix it.” Vidal responded, “What’s broken, Mr. Buckley, is the system. But perhaps I’m making a Brokeback Mountain out a molehill.” Later that week, Buckley sued Vidal. Vidal counter sued and the cases finally made it to the Supreme Court in 1975.
In 1969, Neil Armstrong makes the first Brokeback Mountain joke on the moon to fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin: “Buzz, maybe we can start a little ranch up here, have a life together. Just like in Brokeback Mountain.”
  The 1970s
  At a press conference for his 1970 comeback fight with Jerry Quarry, boxer Muhammad Ali taunts, “I’m gonna send that white boy back to Brokeback Mountain!” He also recited the poem:

He will go down in two, or, Ennis, I’ll quit you.

16_Nixon_hope.jpg In 1972, Bob Hope shares a Road to Brokeback Mountain era joke with President Richard Nixon. Some historians believe the missing 18 1/2 minutes on Nixon’s White House tapes may have been one long Brokeback Mountain joke made by Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman.
17_Blazing_Saddles.jpg Mel Brooks releases Blazing Saddles in 1974. The film contains a record number of Brokeback Mountain jokes, including the famous scene in which Cleavon Little complains that he hates beans, just like “those Brokeback-ass crackers.”
18_jack_lemmon.jpg Jack Lemmon literally phones in a Brokeback Mountain joke at a press conference for The Golden Globes in 1975. Bob Newhart later sued him for phone gag copyright infringement.
19_redd_foxx.jpg At the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Frank Sinatra in 1977, Redd Foxx accuses Dean and his former comedy partner Jerry Lewis of being gay cowboys: “I know what you white people do in the woods. Can’t fool me! You stem the rose!” In the video of the proceedings, Lucille Ball is seen doing a spit-take.
20_carol_burnett_dick_cavet.jpg Carol Burnett appears on The Dick Cavett Show and wonders, “Can two women go Brokeback? Or would they just move in together, adopt some cats, and start an organic herb garden?”
  The 1980s
21_marlboro man.jpg

In March 1980, Marlboro unveils a series of print ads that many perceive to be a veiled Brokeback Mountain joke: “Come to where the flavor is.”

1982, Wilson Bryan Key, author of Subliminal Seduction released Media Sexploitation, devoting an entire chapter to Marlboro’s “gay cowboy ads.”

22_muppet.jpg The Muppet Show airs a segment called “Furback Mountain” in 1981 featuring Fozzy Bear and Rowlf.
The January 5th, 1981 cover of Time magazine features a picture of President Ronald Reagan and wonders, “Are We All Gay Cowboys Now?”
Lawrence Fishburn appears as Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in a 1988 episode entitled “Brokeback Pee-Wee.”
25_lyle.jpg Dana Carvey debuts his character “Lyle the Effeminate Heterosexual” on Saturday Night Live in 1989 in a skit called “Effeminate Heterosexual Mountain.” The skit is such a hit, every subsequent episode of the show contains a retread until Carvey leaves the show in 1993.
  The 1990s
26_letterman_carson.jpg David Letterman appears on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1991 and suggests the two of them go fishing after Carson retires. “That would be weird,” Carson replies. “Yes! Weird!” Ed McMahon says.
27_vilanch_whoopi.jpg In 1994, social critic Francis Fukayama declares “The End of Brokeback Mountain jokes” in his book The End of Brokeback Mountain Jokes and the Last Man. That same year, Whoopi Goldberg and Bruce Vilanch confer on some cutting edge Brokeback Mountain jokes at a dress rehearsal for the 66th Annual Academy Awards.
  In its October 13, 1997 issue, The New Yorker finally publishes Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” for the first time. Centuries of gay cowboy jokes finally make sense.
28_sex_city.jpg Sex and the City debuts on HBO in 1998, featuring a groundbreaking fifteen minute pun-filled riff on Brokeback Mountain including the following gem from Samantha played by Kim Cattrall: “Sweetie, you can never be too thin or too Brokeback.” Kristin Davis’ character, Charlotte, replies, “You are so bad!” And they all order more $14 drinks.
29_al_gore.jpg Al Gore claims to have invented Brokeback Mountain jokes in a 1999 interview with 60 Minutes‘ Ed Bradley.
  Times of Crisis
31_crouch.jpg 30_wtc.jpgStanley Crouch, Author, Pugilist: “After the tragic events of September 11th, many felt that the Brokeback Mountain jokes had to end. I remember at the time Graydon Carter declared ‘the end of Brokeback Mountain jokes,’ and it did feel like the end of an era.”
  On December 9, 2005, Focus Features releases Ang Lee’s film version of Brokeback Mountain. Americans regain their ability to tell hack Brokeback Mountain jokes again. First the bloggers, then the late night chat shows, then the President, then Willy Nelson. Somehow everyone understands that if they stop making Brokeback Mountain jokes, the terrorists will win.
The New Yorker
publishes William Haefeli’s Brokeback Mountain-themed cartoon in its December 26, 2005 issue.
Then, on its February 27, 2006 issue, they bravely make a Brokeback Mountain/Bush-Cheney joke on the cover.
  Someone mocks up a parody of Brokeback Mountain and Back to the Future and puts it on the internet where Brokeback Mountain jokes grow like kudzu—gay cowboy kudzu. Then someone else renders Brokeback Mountain in Lego—gay cowboy lego. Brokeback Mountain jokes enter their Silver Age.
  The Future
33_kreskin.jpg 35_jonstewart.jpgThe Amazing Kreskin, Psychic, Trivial Pursuit Answer: “No one knows what the future holds for Brokeback Mountain jokes, but with Jon Stewart hosting The 78th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, March 5th, we can only guess. A self-effacing joke about going on secret fishing trips with Tucker Carlson? A joke about how muscular and gay the Oscar statuette looks? Not even a psychic can know. But in a sort of Manhattan Project for Brokeback Mountain jokes, a group of comedy writers and scientists are working around the clock to develop newer, better, funnier gags—including gags about the word ‘gag’— in time for the Academy Awards telecast. The future of Brokeback Mountain jokes looks bright and is in no risk of bottoming out— like Jake Gyllenhaal. Get it? Get it?” Get it?