A gay kiss between Anthony Scaramucci and the President punctuated a scene on Comedy Central’s The President Show this week because, for comedians, playing gay is still a punchline. The passionate kiss happened towards the end of a scene that served as a farewell to the Mooch, played by former Sex and the City actor Mario Cantone, and was definitely hilarious as long as you still find the sight of two seemingly straight people suddenly embracing in a liplock funny.
This gay-baiting, homophobic trope that Anthony Atamanuik’s television show lazily fell back on to get some laughs is nothing new. On SNL, Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer locked lips with Trump and, in an episode from last year, Trump kissed Vladmir Putin. It was the latter kiss between Trump and Putin that reflected an overarching and long-running “joke” that Putin and Trump are gay for each other.
It’s a narrative that Stephen Colbert used on The Late Show when he asserted that the only thing the president’s mouth was good for was being “Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” That homophobic line was met with so many cheers from the crowd that his subsequent line was drowned out by their clapping.
Late night comedians and sketch comedy shows aren’t exclusively the bastions of the gay panic jokes that have punctuated the comedy world’s takedown of Trump, though. Street artists have also taken to depicting the president in lip locks and loving embraces with Putin. In 2016, a mural of Trump and Putin kissing was put up in Lithuania and, this past Valentine’s Day, a dating app called Hater projected an image of the two men embracing—with Putin holding Trump’s enlarged belly. The “joke” has even made its way onto various protest signs at rallies and marches against the president, because apparently the best way to fight toxic masculinity is through homophobia.
The reality is that this homophobic jab is tired and ridiculous because—and this hopefully shocks none of you—there’s nothing funny about two people of any gender kissing, let alone two men. At a time when the White House and state legislatures across the country have attacked the LGBTQ community through bills and bans, is playing into gay panic as a punchline really the best joke that comedians can come up with?