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If you don’t want to struggle through the crowds and corporations at the Pride parade in New York City today, there’s another option: stay home and watch a Pride movie on Netflix. Luckily, there’s a great new documentary streaming now on Netflix that’s perfect for the occasion: Excellent: A comedy revolution.

Written and directed by Page Hurwitz, this new documentary centers around a showcase performance by over 20 LGBTQ+ comedians at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in May 2022. Big names in comedy like Lily Tomlin, Sandra Bernhard, Wanda Sykes, Eddie Izzard, Hannah Gadsby, Tig Notaro, Rosie O’Donnell, Margaret Cho, Bob The Drag Queen, and Trixie Mattel and many more all took to the stage to perform stand-up routines. Some talked about their lives as queer comedians, while others told jokes that had nothing to do with them. But the real heart of the documentary is not the present-day performers, but the lesson about queer history that Hurwitz weaves in.

Using interviews with talking heads and archival clips, Hurwitz takes viewers through the history of queer comedy, from the “Anything Goes” vaudeville days to the aggressively heterosexual regression after World War II to the openly proud movement after Stonewall. Younger viewers may be surprised to learn that many gay comedians in the ’60s and ’70s, before the days of the internet and cellphone video, weren’t afraid to talk about their queer personal lives — in certain spaces. Lily Tomlin, for example, fondly recalls an LGBT activist show with Richard Pryor in which he cheerfully admitted to the audience, “I sucked a dick,” before berating them for not caring about black lives. (Hurwitz presents the archival clip of Pryor at this show — truly a treasure of comedy history.)

Then there are inspiring interviews with Robin Tyler, the first lesbian comedian to appear on television in 1978 about her life as a lesbian comedian, and with Todd Glass, one of the first great comedians, who had already made a name for himself as a “straight” comedian before coming out as gay in 2012.

Excellent: A comedy revolution
Photo: Netflix

Hurwitz also mentions how comedy is used as a weapon against queer people, including a cringe-worthy clip of a young Eddie Murphy hurling insults and making jokes about AIDS, implying that gay men deserve to die for their so-called lifestyle choices. This certainly doesn’t paint a good picture for Murphy, who is currently promoting his own Netflix project. Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Fis coming to the streamer next week.

Terrific concludes with a section on trans comics, featuring interviews with Eddie Izzard (who also goes by Suzy in his private life), Patti Harrison, Mae Martin and others. They all reflect on the damage done by transphobic comedians like Dave Chappelle, who recently got his own Netflix special in 2022. In a tense moment, Martin says pointedly, “My problem is not so much with Chappelle as with the people responsible for giving his ideas a platform.”

The entire documentary is a powerful and informative reminder of how important comedy has been – and will undoubtedly continue to be – to the queer movement, and it’s the perfect example of why it’s important to be open and proud.

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