Queering Cinema: Magician/Actor Michael Carbonaro Revisits 'Another Gay Movie'
Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 7 MIN.
Michael Carbonaro is currently touring with his latest magic show, "Lies on Stage," but in 2006 he starred in the queer comedy "Another Gay Movie," which, he reflects, jump-started his career.
Michael Carbonaro recently celebrated his 47th birthday this year by doing a private gig in Florida. His husband, Peter, stayed home with their new puppy. It's the type of married life some people strive for.
But this might be a short-lived respite for Carbonaro as he starts touring the country with his magic show "Lies on Stage" through 2023. Unlike some entertainers who seem frazzled at going from venue to venue doing the exact same thing time after time, he sounds relaxed over the phone, almost indifferent to what lies ahead.
It's not fatigue due to the work, it's more like complacency. His last show wound up a great success, being seen around the country, so much so that he created this new one last year to keep things fresh. That's a lot of work, but this time it is different. Unlike his past tours where he stayed on the road, "Lies on Stage" is designed to allow him to return home after two or three scheduled gigs, "It's not like this six-week bus tour where you're, like, [performing] every single day or anything like that. So it's quite lovely."
Not only is he a live stage performer, but Carbonaro is also a reality television star who arguably put the cable channel TruTV on the map with his up-close magic series "The Carbonaro Effect." Long before TikTok prank videos were a thing, he was blowing people's minds every week by doing tricks on the unsuspecting public while viewers laughed at the Schadenfreude.
Up-and-coming gay entertainers can only hope to get this kind of recognition in Hollywood. For Carbonaro, he too went through the questioning phase of being gay as a teenager. He remained closeted to the public during that time but says it was an "open secret" within the music and theatre department in high school. The pall of prejudice around the word "gay" he remembers is that they were, "horrible, terrible perverted weird people. And I'm like, well, I'm not that – maybe a little weird – we can keep weird, but I'm not, like, a horrible, disgusting person so I can't be that. So I'm not whatever monster everybody's talking about...I'm not that." He equates magic to the skewed logic that something can only be one way to be right, "magic, really by formula, shows us that the world does not work the way we think it works."
Another project he is proud of is his role as Andy, the lead in Todd Stephens' 2006 raunch-com "Another Gay Movie." The film was a parodic satire of heteronormative teen movies where everyone wants to get laid. Movies such as these were popular in the '80s and got even more puerile and politically incorrect throughout the '90s.
"Another Gay Movie" took this concept into the stratosphere and lampooned not only the vulgarity but the entire gay community. It probably wouldn't go over well today since such tropes and archetypes within the film are considered offensive by current standards, but then again it wasn't widely well-received then. Still, there was a sequel. This past April the first film celebrated its 17th anniversary, nearly coinciding with Carbonaro's birthday.
He says he wasn't professionally out during filming, and he kept it secret during the promotion of it. In fact, the cast members made a pact not to reveal who was straight and who was gay. There was a little fear of being typecast in the future, but Carbonaro says it helped him to realize something more important later on.
"Representation really does matter. But also, now I think about when a younger generation will look at me and be like, 'Oh, he's gay and he's out and he has a husband and he's a famous magician. And how cool is that?' And I think that's really important too. So I don't regret not coming out at the time, but I also kind of see it in a different way."
For all of its criticisms, the film was an important one. When the script was presented to him, Carbonaro thought young gay men like the ones he partied with as a bartender on Fire Island would appreciate the script's in-jokes and cultural reconnaissance. And they did, but during the movie's 15-year reunion, a reporter named Cameron Sheets said the movie was sort of an awakening for him during high school. The thought that he was playing a high school kid himself in the movie and therefore other high school kids, especially gay ones, might get something out of it never occurred to him. "I hope it wasn't, like, you know, an educational instructional high school video," he laughs.
As far as the future of Hollywood and gay actors coming out professionally, Carbonaro thinks it can work for some who want to make it a part of their brand, but for others, it still might interfere with getting the "super Casablanca leading man" roles. In his case, for "Another Gay Movie," he knew that world. He says that Hollywood is changing its attitude toward out gay actors, but they still might want to leave some mystery to their personal side anyway.
"With anything, I think the less you know about something, the better it is," he explains. "And this kind of ties in with magic too. There's great power in mystery and we are living in a Hollywood and entertainment generation where everybody's accessible. But the more you reveal, the harder it is for people to kind of suspend their disbelief a lot of the time," he adds. "So the more we reveal, it can take away from the mystery, and the more you do know about something naturally, the harder it is to maybe overcome the hurdle, to then have to backtrack and believe someone as someone else."
In his own experience, playing Andy wasn't something he took as lightly as the hijinks in the movie. It was the beginning of a dream that ultimately led him to where he is today. And for that, it holds a special place in his heart.
"I still regard that entire experience of putting myself into a role like that and getting to be the lead in a film, in Los Angeles, as an actor – and this is outside of having my own TV show and getting a live tour and being a quote, "famous magician," end quote. The experience of doing that independent film was a much higher, like, golden ring for me to grab in my heart than anything that I've ever done before or since," he says. "That was still the Michael Carbonaro as a kid watching 'E.T.' and watching Henry Thomas, being like, 'I wanna be in a movie someday.' Oh my God, I want that Hollywood dream so bad that 'Another Gay Movie' was closer to that dream for me than anything else I've ever done."
And there is more to go. Not only is Carbonaro touring throughout the rest of the year, he has also booked a summer residency in Las Vegas at the Pen and Teller Theatre. He is also pitching a new TV show. "I did five seasons of the Carbonaro Effect over 125 episodes. It was time to bring that to an end. I did everything I wanted to do on that and more and I was like, 'You know, I want this to live. I don't wanna just burn this out. There needs to be a next thing beyond this.' I do believe I've cooked up the next magic television experience. So I hope some buyers out there are going to see that vision with me and, you know, if they don't, poor them and poor world."
You can watch Carbonaro in "Another Gay Movie" now streaming in America on Tubi.
For more on Michael, visit his website.