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Have A Gay Old Time / Theatre

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  • In ''Beyond the Horizon", Uncle Dick the sea captain refers to his boat as "the old hooker".
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein example occurs in Allegro, from 1947. The title song, reflecting on the hectic tenor of modern life: "Hysterically frantic, we're stubbornly romantic, and doggedly determined to be gay."
  • As late as 1961, there could be a Broadway musical titled The Gay Life without reference to homosexuality. A few later productions retitled it The High Life. (Which will probably need to be changed again to avoid sounding like it's about drug use.)
  • Cole Porter's 1932 musical, Gay Divorce, has nothing to do with gay couples divorcing. The film adaptation (1934) was titled The Gay Divorcee.
    • It includes the song "Night and Day," which ends with these lines:
    And my torment won't be through
    Till you let me spend the rest of my life making love to you
    Day and night, night and day!
  • Who could forget the classic line from The Importance of Being Earnest: "The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to someone else if she is plain"? (Being Oscar Wilde, it could have been dirtier than we think.)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire has a couple of lines of dialogue between Blanche and Mitch about Blanche being "straight". However, while it clearly means "okay" or "righteous" in the context of the scene, it's possible that, given that the term had begun to take on its modern meaning among members of the gay community, Tennessee Williams, himself a gay man, did it on purpose (most likely to slip some hidden meaning into Blanche's line, "A line can be straight, or a street, but the heart of a human being?").
  • Brigadoon has this dialogue after Tommy sings "The Heather of the Hill":
    Fiona: Ye see. Ye can say nice things when ye want to.
    Tommy: Yes! It almost sounded like I was making love to you, didn't it?
    Fiona: Oh! There's a difference between makin' love an' jus' bein' sentimental because ye're tired.
    • Brigadoon also has a line in "My Mother's Wedding Day", describing just how blind drunk everyone was.
    Everyone was blithe and gay at her mother's wedding day!
  • Various instances in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas:
    • "Be firm, be firm, my pecker" in Trial by Jury. ("Pecker" means nose, as in the old saying "keep your pecker up," but modern audiences will assume something different.)
    • Patience has the title character, the only one of the maidens not to be swooning over Bunthorne, declare her ignorance of love: "For I am blithe and I am gay." Less reverential productions have the other maidens echo her line with a sneer: "For she is blithe and gay."
    • When the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe suggests that Strephon try his hand at politics, Iolanthe exclaims, "A fairy Member! That would be delightful!" She is referring, of course, to the idea of a Member of Parliament who is also a member of the fay, but given what "fairy" and "member" have come to be slang for nowadays, this line often elicits some snickers from the audience. (The fact that all the fairies in the scene besides Strephon are played by women doesn't help matters any.)
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    • Princess Ida has the chorus singing "We ought to bless her brothers' swords, and piously ejaculate" (that last word meaning "exclaim suddenly").
    • The Mikado contains the line "Dicky-bird, why do you sit / Singing willow, tit-willow, tit-willow?" Milked for all its worth on The Muppet Show and Frasier.
    • The Mikado also has "the nigger serenader and the others of his race" on Ko-Ko's list of people "who never would be missed". "Race", in the 1880s, meant something more like "type", "kind" or "sort" rather than "ethnicity", and "nigger serenader" refers to what we today would call "blackface minstrels" rather than actual dark-skinned performers.
    • In Trial by Jury there's The Judge's paraphernalia.
    I'd a swallow-tailed coat of a beautiful blue,
    A brief that I bought from a booby,
    A couple of shirts and a collar or two, and a ring that looked like a ruby.
  • J.B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner requires Stanton to say "It's very rum ..." (antiquated word for odd, strange, peculiar) while pouring drinks.
    • This wordplay was also referenced in a Winnie-the-Pooh story, with the bear coming across a rum barrel and wondering what was so rum about it.
  • William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
  • Antony and Cleopatra must've been hilarious, given at one point Cleopatra faints and calls out "Help me hence, ho!" ... where she's saying so to her female servants.
  • In Romeo and Juliet: "Give me my longsword, ho!" Doubly bad with the innuendo of the "longsword".
    • In Act 3, scene 2, Juliet opens with a monologue about her love for Romeo, using the word "come" seven times.
    • In Baz Luhrmann's modernized version, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, the drag-queen Mercutio leeringly asks if Tybalt can spare him "a word and a blow." He also makes "the blind bow-boy's [i.e. Cupid's] butt-shaft [i.e. arrow]" sound as if it has something to do with bums.
  • In Hamlet, the term "bunghole" (which was long before Beavis And Butthead turned it into a crude anatomical joke) originally referred to the place in a beer or wine keg where one put the cork after tapping into it:
    Hamlet: To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander till he find it stopping a bunghole?
    Horatio: 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.
    Hamlet: No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it; as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam; and why of that loam might they not stop a beer barrel?
    • The archaic term "Polack" was used rather inoffensively for a resident of Poland in Act I, Scene 1:
    Marcellus [seeing the apparition of the late King Hamlet the Elder]: Is it not like the King?
    Horatio: As thou art to thyself.
    Such was the very armor he had on when he the ambitious Norway combated;
    So frowned he once when, in an angry parle,
    He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
    • In Act IV, Scene 4, when a captain of Norway's Prince Fortinbras requests permission to pass through Denmark en route to Poland:
    Hamlet: Goes it against the main of Poland, sir, or for some frontier?
    Captain: Truly to speak, and with no addition,
    We go to gain a little patch of ground
    That hath in it no profit but the name.
    To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
    Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
    A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
    Hamlet: Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
    • By the time All in the Family was on TV in the 1970's, Archie Bunker used the term "Polack" as a disparaging term for his Polish-American son-in-law, Mike Stivic; it came to be known as a negative ethnic slur, along with quite a number of the offensive Polish jokes that were in circulation during the 1970's as Polish-Americans were unjustly regarded as people of inferior intellect.
  • In Henry IV, Part 2 Fang, who wants to arrest Falstaff, says that he intends to fist him—that is, to grab him. In our times, the concept of fisting Falstaff is not such an appealing one.
  • In Henry V Act V Scene II, Princess Katharine explains in French to her fiancé that good girls don't kiss before marriage. At that point in time, the verb "baiser" meant "to kiss". It doesn't anymore. Considering that entire scene is mostly just for a Country Matters joke, Shakespeare probably would have approved of this.
    • The entire English Army is in a state of bedraggled gayness in Henry V. The Shakespeare quote is from King Henry V, Act 4, scene 3, in which King Henry is rejecting surrender terms offered by the French to his bedraggled tiny Army shortly before the Curb-Stomp Battle at Agincourt:
    Let me speak proudly: tell the constable
    We are but warriors for the working day;
    Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirched
    With rainy marching in the painful field.
    • Henry V is particularly prone to this, for whatever reason. The word "cock" especially gets thrown around a lot, as in "Pistol's cock is up" (2.1) and "here he comes, swelling like a turkey-cock" (5.1).
    • The Welsh officer Fluellen has trouble pronouncing certain English words. At one point he gets into a whole exchange about the birthplace of Alexander the Great, but keeps saying "porn" instead of "born":
    I'll tell you, there is good men porn at Monmouth.
  • Ellen Terry, an actress who played Beatrice (a character who is rather outspokenly against the idea of getting married for the first two acts) from Much Ado About Nothing had this to say about the difficulty in playing the part:
    She must always be merry and by turns scornful, tormenting, vexed, self-communing, absent, melting, teasing, brilliant, indignant, sad-merry, thoughtful, withering, gentle, humorous, and gay, Gay, Gay!
  • In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a character named Bottom has his head transformed into that of a hairy ass by a hobgoblin as part of an elaborate prank. Naturally, his fellow actors are horrified.
    • Given that "ass" was already being used as an alternative spelling/pronunciation of "arse", this was probably another deliberate one.
  • One Shakespeare's play has the line "Sir, give him head." It was an instruction to listen to what he had to say, not what you're thinking. It was probably a misspelling/variant spelling of "give him heed" or a reference to horseback riding, where "give him his head" still means "let him go ahead, let him do as he will."
  • The Tempest: Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, is usurped and put out of see on "a rotten carcass of a butt". 'Butt' here meaning boat.
  • As You Like It refers to the possibility of lovers being "incontinent" before marriage, by which the intended meaning is "cease from sexual abstinence", not "lose control of their bowels".
  • Happens over and over again in Hedda Gabler (translated into English in the 1950s). The word "gay" is used repeatedly as a euphemism between the characters for "overly hedonistic or sinful"... and the way they treat it as a euphemism just makes it more unintentionally funny.
  • In South Pacific, there are several uses of the word gay, as well as the lyric "High as a flag on the Fourth of July"
  • In The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne says that she made the shampoo she gave to Mrs. Van Daan for Hanukkah by mixing scraps of soap with toilet water. Here, "toilet water" refers to a type of perfume, but most modern audiences probably don't know this and find the line somewhat squick-y.
  • One of the several drinking songs in The Student Prince had a chorus starting, "Come, boys, let's all be gay, boys."
  • In Pal Joey, just before the Dream Ballet, Joey envisions himself becoming "the gay Joey." This has no connection to an earlier moment demonstrating that Joey likes to chase boys as well as skirts.
  • Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat is a Meaningful Name — but in the old sense of 'gay'.
  • In the original Cyrano de Bergerac, after Cyrano has successfully negotiated Christian into Roxanne's room, the play notes "They begin to make love." Now, it is not clear what was meant by that in 1897, but in the movie, they are clearly making out like teenagers.
  • Eleanor Farjeon (best known as the writer of "Morning Has Broken") says she was five when she saw a play called "The Babes", a parody of Babes In The Wood. She remembers a group of soldiers singing "We are Gay Volunteers! How we splash! How we dash!", apparently in reference to their fancy uniforms and not to the fact that Bertie, the heroic Captain of the Volunteers, was played by Miss Grace Huntley.
  • The one-act play "Yesterday" contains an example of "coming out" referring to young debutantes entering the social circle. The main female character, Lady Ann Trevers, is an elderly lady at a Great Gatsby-style party; she complains to a man of similar age: "These coming out parties are not what they used to be."
  • A Polish translation of Molière's The Miser has a police officer saying "Leave everything to me" in the way that nowadays means "Cum on me", and middle-schoolers love it.
  • "Life is earnest, art is gay." from German playwright Friedrich Schiller's Wallenstein's Camp (not that Camp).
  • The song "Blow Gabriel Blow" from the 1930's musical Anything Goes. It's in the style of a gospel song, but the chorus and some of the lyrics sound filthy to modern ears. Since the musical is a comedy it fits right in.
  • Thomas Middleton's The Witch has two examples—one a word and one a phrase—in the following line about a charm for a potion:
    Hecate: ...Titty, Tiffin, keep it stiff in.
  • The Biograph Girl has the song "I Just Wanted to Make Him Laugh," sung by the character of Mack Sennett. Sennett, a comedy actor, laments the fact that the humorless director he was auditioning for had no appreciation for his comedy skills with the line, "Perhaps given another time and place / he'd have taken me on his staff." And this is after he sings the somewhat more innocuous line, "I'm not a straight dramatic actor." Suffice it to say that he succeeded in making us laugh. What makes it even better is the fact that Sennett was played onstage in London by Guy Siner, known for portraying the delectably gay Lieutenant Gruber. (I'd take him on my staff... anytime!)
for number one]], asserting that if Laertes is in good standing he can then afford to spread the love to his fellow man.


  • In the musical version of The Producers, Flamboyant Gay stage director Roger De Bris sings a number called "Keep It Gay". Fifty years ago, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical had a song with the same title which was not using it as a Double Entendre.
    • Earlier in the play, in "The King Of Old Broadway", Bialystock lampshades this trope when he sings, "There was a time when I was young and gay—(beat)—but straight." Who was originally played by Nathan Lane, who's very much out, adding another layer.
  • Lampshaded and discussed in the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, where the main character reads a blurb which declares the Jazz Age musical contains "mix-ups, mayhem, and a gay wedding." He explains: "Back then, it just meant 'fun'."
    "And that's just what this show is." Beat "Fun."
  • From Angels in America (itself subtitled: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, this itself not an example):
    Prior: "I'm gay."
    Prior's ancestor: "Well, be gay, dance in your altogether for all I care, what's that to do with not having children?"
    Prior: "Gay homosexual, not bonny, blithe and... never mind."
  • There's a scene in a play called "Young Rube" which was about the life of Rube Goldberg, and his imaginary friend Boob Mc Nutt. Rube at one point tells of Boob's antics to a friend, who goes out and tells... a bar full of sailors, "Everyone should listen to their Boob!" As expected, everyone suddenly tries to lean their head down to their chest.
  • The Fantasticks has (or had) an intentional example, where El Gallo, hired by the heroine's parents to kidnap her (It Makes Sense in Context), refers to the kidnapping as "rape", at which the parents are kind of freaked out until he explains that he doesn't mean it in that sense. A number called the "Rape Ballet" ensued. Later productions, however, have changed this to the "Abduction Ballet".
    • It also features a traditional example in "Round and Round" with the lyric "Reckless and terribly gay" recurring throughout.
  • There was (and still is) a classic toy kit full of miniature girders, bolts, and platforms, primarily marketed to young boys; an "Erector Set". The Firesign Theatre caught that over 30 years ago:
    Dr. Dog: I've lost the Lincoln logs.
    Pablo: That's all right. I have an Erector set.
    Dr. Dog: Showoff!
    Old Man: Throw a towel over it.
    Dr. Dog: Do some pushups, Pablo, it'll go away.


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