Television

Cross-Dressing at the Crossroads: A Brief History of Drag in Comedy

Cross-Dressing at the Crossroads: A Brief History of Drag in Comedy

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In 1993, worlds collided when Milton “Mr. Television” Berle and RuPaul were paired up to present at the MTV VMAs together. At the time, the awkward coupling seemed like nothing more than another bizarre feat of award show booking. But in hindsight, it was a moment that signaled a significant turning point—a prescient preview of things to come.

In 1948, Berle was television’s first superstar, often utilizing the reliable burlesque trope of putting a man in a woman’s dress on his weekly series, The Texaco Star Theater . Back then, adopting the implied but never explicit characteristics of gay or trans people was reflective of an aggressively hetero-dominant culture. But 45 years later, what was so startling in the televised exchange between the octogenarian and the towering host of Drag Race was the palpable tension. After “Uncle Miltie” received an appreciative laugh from the audience on his joke about being […]

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