Queerness, the Quality Audience,
and Comedy Central’s Reno 911!

by Hollis Griffin (Northwestern University)

Comedy Central currently attracts the same kind of quality audience that broadcast
television networks courted in the 1990s, one that resulted in the sharp increase in gay-
themed content on the networks at that time. Yet the parodic mode of address that so
permeates the cable network’s content makes the different levels of gay cultural com-
petency a heterogeneous viewership brings to a program like Reno 911! an issue of
considerable import. A parodic situation-comedy based on reality crime programming,
Reno 911! narrativizes an ambiguously gay police detective who, in turn, provides dif-
ferent viewing pleasures for differently situated viewers. As such, the character fore-
grounds questions about the political consequences of television’s use of queer cultural
signifiers and the pleasures that viewers take in a parodic representation of queerness
on television. (download)