Mike Doyle and Matthew Wilkas in Jonathan Lisecki’s “Gayby.” | WOLFE RELEASING
Writer/ director Jonathan Lisecki’s “Gayby” is one of the funniest comedies — queer or otherwise — this year. Expanded from his fabulous short of the same name, the story has Jenn (Jenn Harris), a yoga instructor, asking her gay best friend Matt (Matthew Wilkas), a comic book store clerk recovering from a bad break-up, to impregnate her.
The old fashioned way.
Matt agrees, and while they are routinely required to have sex with each other, each meets a guy who may be their Mr. Right. This, of course, complicates things. One of the film’s best conceits is that because they have to save sex for baby-making purposes, Matt and Jenn really should not being sleeping with other people.
In a recent Skype interview, Lisecki spoke about how “Gayby” itself was conceived.
“I didn’t want to make a baby comedy,” he said about developing the story. “It’s more a procreation comedy.” Lisecki wisely refrains from familiar scenes of water breaking and diaper mishaps, though a sperm-filled cat syringe does make an appearance.
The filmmaker’s point is that creating a family is not about biology or genetics.
“It’s about the bond,” he said. “We as gays create our own families. I have that in my life, and I have that in this movie. I wanted to honor that.”
Lisecki deliberately emphasized the characters’ emotional, not sexual connections.
“When you are trying to make a baby, there’s a practical element to having sex,” he said. “Matt is heartbroken. So he can date but can’t close the deal because he can’t move on. I liked that about that character. Because often the male character is promiscuous and the lady is chaste. I wanted to flip that around. Jenn is a sexual being, she’s just given up on romance.”
Harris’ brilliant comic timing adds immeasurably to the film’s success, something Lisecki acknowledged.
“Jenn has a big, physical Carol Burnett presence,” he said. “I wrote the script for her and knowing what she could do.”
Harris’ droll line readings and wide-eyed expressions are pure gold. She is especially funny teaching yoga classes wacked out on horny goat tea and getting revenge on a guy she slept with by knocking him over while he’s doing poses.
About Wilkas, the filmmaker said, “Matt has more of a Rock Hudson presence.”
Lisecki recalled the film’s first scene of the couple in bed together as an example of how well Harris and Wilkas, best friends in real life, worked together.
“They had never been in a bed together in that way,” he said. “In the short, it was very uncomfortable and awkward. For the film, they were more relaxed, so we could focus on the comedy.”
Wilkas is charming as Matt, the comedy’s straight man — er, gay straight man — for Harris’ manic antics. His potential romance with hunky Scott (Mike Doyle) is heart-stirring. When the two men first kiss, it’s clumsy but magical.
Lisecki has the utmost praise for Doyle and singled out this scene in particular.
“A creative person takes what’s on the page and does something special with it,” the filmmaker said. “Mike is so good at trying to flirt and nervously failing. He subtly plays that. I wanted that when I wrote it, and it’s great when actors do things even better than you imagine.”
The kiss takes place at the comic book store where Matt works — a significant place for Lisecki, who is an avid collector.
“Comics are gay-friendly and have gay characters,” he said. “When I was 11 or 12 and read ‘X-Men,’ I could tell that that book was about accepting difference, that mutants were an allegory for homophobia and racism. It’s a subculture I like and it is a part of my life, and I wanted to put it in my film.”
The film features all kinds of queer characters — from guys who hook up to sassy gay best friends, hot daddies coming out, and bears — as well as a joke about gay Republicans and a scene about the correct use of gender pronouns. Lisecki never makes these types stereotypes.
“There is a vast spectrum,” he explained. “We are a rainbow community for real. People don’t like the queeny stereotype. I was tired of the ultra-butch straight-acting type. For the most part, my friends are comfortable with being gay. There are so many different gay people, and I wanted to represent many of them.”
Lisecki also shrewdly reworked the stereotype of sassy gay best friend. He wrote himself a memorable supporting turn as Matt’s sarcastic buddy Nelson and gave him a foil in Jamie (Jack Ferver), Jenn’s sharp-tongued gay co-worker.
“I found the sassy gay friend character to often be offensive and soul-crushing,” he said. “I wanted smart, funny gays who were not ashamed. Nobody is ashamed in my movie.”
Nor should anybody involved in making this film. “Gayby” is full of smart situations and hilarious smartass one-liners. It also has tremendous heart. Lisecki and his cast and crew have much to be proud of.
GAYBY | Directed by Jonathan Lisecki | The Film Collaborative & Wolfe Releasing | Opens Oct. 12 | Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St. | cinemavillage.com