There’s nothing I could tell you about Steve Agee and Brian Posehn—who play the next-door neighbors on Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program—that Sarah Silverman hasn’t already said better and more succinctly. As she once described them in the show’s opening credits, they are “gigantic, orange, and gay.” Honestly, that’s all you really need to know. Sure, they’re only fictionally gay, but the other two adjectives couldn’t be more on the money.
Rather than try to summarize the backstories of two guys I’ve never met prior to this interview, I asked Sarah to write an intro for me, sharing a few intimate details about her friends and comedy colleagues. Here’s what she came up with:
“I have known Steve Agee for a very long time and Brian Posehn for a very very long time. To say that marijuana had a hand in any of the antics I had with each of these large pinkish-orange men is like saying Nazis may have had a hand in Anne Frank’s diary stopping short. However, I knew them separately—Brian through stand-up and a group of comic friends that in a way grew up together, and Steve who, after seeing him in a friend’s play, we bonded over depression and anti-depressants which inevitably led us to the greatest bond of all, Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye, a game I learned to play at Mr. Show with one Brian Posehn! Oh my God, this is coming full circle! But no, they still hadn’t met. It wasn’t until the pilot for a show where they played roommates, one The Sarah Silverman Program—Oh, thank you. Thank you so much! Sit! Please, sit. Thank you though.—that they really met and became fast friends. Brian shared with Steve his love of metal. Steve shared his love of photography and, well, resting. And together, they shared their passion for comedy, laughing, and the herbal supplement that, when burned, brings both those things together.”
I called Agee and Posehn to talk about the third season of The Sarah Silverman Program—which premiered last week and continues every Thursday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Comedy Central. During our interview, they claimed to be in the same apartment, and possibly even the same bed. “I have my head on Steve’s lap right now,” Posehn insisted. It’s possible they were joking, but as Vanity Fair doesn’t pay me nearly enough for fact-checking or journalistic integrity, I’m just going to assume it was true.
Eric Spitznagel: You play a gay couple named Steve and Brian on the Sarah Silverman Program, and it just so happens that your real names are also Steve and Brian. Is that where the similarities end?
Brian Posehn: Everything we do on that show is based on us.
Agee: Yeah, pretty much. We love video games, heavy metal music…
You both play Dungeons and Dragons?
Posehn: I do for sure, yeah. Not as much anymore. I was involved in a pretty big game that we had to stop mid-quest because three of us had babies last year. It’s the saddest way a D&D game has ever ended. Our DM (Dungeon Master) had a lot of things planned for us and we ruined it by getting our wives pregnant.
Have either of you suffered from pot-tits?
Agee: Sadly, yes. We could probably get rid of them with a little fitness. But that’s never going to happen.
Or you could just quit smoking weed.
Agee: I’d rather get liposuction.
Posehn: You can still smoke. You just need to start doing some sit-ups. Or any physical activity at all.
Is it true you didn’t realize your characters were gay until well into the first season?
Posehn: That was me. I think Steve knew. I was the idiot.
Agee: Yeah, I knew.
Posehn: I’m not that smart, and I don’t read things. In my defense, it wasn’t totally spelled out. We were shooting the second episode and I asked Steve, “Hey, dude, are we a gay couple?” And he was like, “Yeah, you idiot.”
Agee: He asked me just as we were doing the scene where I catch him masturbating to a lingerie magazine with pictures of my face taped over the models.
Posehn: (Laughs.) Yeah, yeah. That’s when it all came together. But I still had to ask to confirm.
A writer for the Advocate said that because of your interpretation of a gay couple, “I feel validated by a sitcom for the first time.” Are you heroes?
Posehn: I wouldn’t say that. But we do get responses from people that are really cool. The last time I was in San Francisco, a guy who looked just like me came up and said, “You’re basically playing me on TV. I’m gay, I play video games and I love heavy metal.” And then he pointed to his husband, who looked exactly like Santa Claus. It was amazing. Santa Claus didn’t say anything, he just nodded at me.
Agee: And with a wink and a nod, he flew up a chimney.
Posehn: It was really cool to have somebody say, “We love that you’re on TV, representing us.”
Agee: After the very first episode—and I’d never been on TV until that point—I was already getting a ton of emails from gay guys. One guy was like, “As of now, you’re the cutest comedian on TV.” (Both Brian and Steve burst into laughter.) I was like, “What the hell, man?” I was oddly flattered, but I wrote back to him right away and said, “Goddammit, your standards are low.”
Posehn: And that was before he’d seen your pot-tits.
On a scale of gay icons, with 1 being Tom Cruise and 10 being Judy Garland, where do Steve and Brian fall?
Agee: I think we’re pretty low. We’re on basic cable. Maybe a three?
Posehn: For the people who watch the Sarah Silverman Program, hopefully we’re a little higher. Didn’t we win some award on Logo, something like “The Best Show You’re Not Watching?” I thought that was nice. But it’s those two words—”not watching”—that really stand out for me. That’s all I heard. Oh, so nobody’s watching? Great!
If you ever get your own gay pride parade float, what will it look like?
Agee: Oh wow. I don’t know. We’ve never been asked to participate in any gay pride parades, but we would gladly do it.
Posehn: I think the float should be you and I sitting on toilets, facing each other. Our pants are down and we’re just gazing into each other’s eyes.
Agee: Yeah, that’s pretty good. And we’re both eating hamburgers.
Your characters make it painfully obvious how much TV has brainwashed us with gay stereotypes. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Everyone gay seems straight and everyone straight seems gay. In a post-Steve and Brian universe, does Charles Nelson Reilly still qualify as gay?
Posehn: I don’t know. As a kid, I always thought he was just doing a funny character. I didn’t know it was a stereotype. He just seemed like a hammy actor.
How about Rip Taylor? He’s far too gay to be gay, right?
Posehn: Yeah, he’s probably the biggest stud in LA and nobody knows it. He just plows through puss. He’s like Paul Stanley in Decline of Western Civilization, when he’s lying in bed with like six girls.
Speaking of Paul Stanley, your characters have also made it more acceptable to talk about the inherent gayness of heavy metal.
Posehn: Whoa, whoa, whoa! What do you mean?
You don’t think metal’s a little gay?
Agee: Maybe the 80s glam stuff., but I don’t know about the rest of it.
Posehn: No, there is something a little gay about the leather stuff, too. I mean, Rob Halford (lead singer of Judas Priest) is out now, and even before, there was a lot of homoeroticism going on in Judas Priest lyrics. And then there are bands like Accept, who had this song in the early 80s called “London Leatherboys” which is gayer than anything that’s ever been on Broadway. It’s one of the gayest metal songs of all time.
I always thought KISS was a little homoerotic. With the bare chests and the codpieces and the songs about their love guns.
Posehn: That was for the ladies, but yeah.
Agee: The ladies who weren’t watching, you mean?
Steve, I’m hesitant to bring this up, but it needs to be addressed. Sarah Silverman showed me a video of you on her iPhone, and I don’t know the context, but you’re basically dancing with your balls hanging out of your pants and Sarah is singing that song from A Chorus Line, “I hope I get it, I hope I get it, how many people does he neeeeeed.”
Agee: Wait, what? I haven’t seen this.
You’re saying it didn’t happen?
Agee: Oh no, it definitely happened. I just haven’t seen the video yet.
Posehn: He does that a lot. I’ve seen Steve’s balls more than I’ve seen my own.
Agee: That’s true.
Posehn: He has them out all the time. Did you doctor just say you had to air them out or something?
Agee: It just feels better. I don’t care who sees them. Balls to me aren’t a sexual organ. They’re like giant skin tags.
Posehn: Be careful how much you talk about them. Your balls are going to become more famous than you, and then you’ll be sad.
Agee: When I started hanging out with Sarah, one of the first videos I showed her was from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s that scene where Ben Stein is taking roll call and he gets to Bueller and he’s like, “Bueller? Bueller?” And then it cuts to Kristy Swanson who gives this long speech like, “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy .” I re-edited it so that instead of Swanson, it cuts to a close-up of my balls. It’s my balls saying all of her lines. And then it cuts back to Ben Stein saying, “Thank you, Simone.” And then back to my balls saying, “No problem.”
How is this not on the Internet yet?
Agee: I lost the video. I guess I should remake it. (Laughs.) Well, no, maybe that’s a terrible idea.
Posehn: You should definitely reshoot it. Do a shot-by-shot remake. It’s what Gus Van Sant would do.
Which classic comedy duo do your characters most resemble, Bert and Ernie or Oscar and Felix?
Agee: I think we’re a little of both.
Posehn: Yeah, either one works. They love each other, but they also annoy the shit out of each other occasionally. And that’s definitely true with us. Our characters could be screaming at each other, but then at the end, it’s like, “Aw, I’m still gay for you, buddy.” I think that’s true with both Bert and Ernie and Oscar and Felix.
Which one of you is Bert and who’s Ernie?
Posehn: I think we go back and forth, though I’m mostly Bert. Bert’s the bald, mean one right?
Agee: I’m probably more like Ernie, because he seems like the one most likely to take his balls out.
Posehn: Oh yeah, absolutely. Ernie is so child-like. He wouldn’t know that it’s not O.K. He’d go to a grocery store with his balls out, holding his rubber duckie and going, “Where’s the bread?”
Now everybody reading this has been forced to imagine muppet balls.
Posehn: Fuzzy adorable ones.
Jonathan Swift wrote in Gulliver’s Travels that “the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest.” Do you agree?
Posehn: I guess so. Maybe because we’re always the last ones to get picked.
Get picked for what?
Posehn: For sex. Because we’re redheads. We’re more libidinous because we’re just not getting it. That’s why Steve always has his balls out.
Agee: Yeah, that’s basically what it is. I’m saying, “C’mon, somebody partake, please! Anybody!”
We can’t seem to get off the topic of Steve’s balls, can we?
Posehn: Why would you want to?
Agee: Sarah sometimes has paparazzi photographers hanging around outside her building. And one time when we walked out, she almost talked me into taking out my balls while they were taking photos of us across the street. For some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Posehn: I can’t believe that. Your balls choked.
Agee: They got stage fright.
Posehn: That’s never happened before.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com)