Masculinity given new dimensions

Greg Behrendt might be considered a bundle of contridictions if one bought into prevailing gender stereotypes:

He enrolled at the University of Oregon to be a business major and play rugby, but ended up in the theater department. He can extol the virtues of skin care products or the ritualistic pleasures of leafing through catalogs, while at the same time wax enthusiastic about heavy metal.

“I really thought I was going to be a rock star, or a professional athlete,” says Behrendt, who wouldn’t look out of place playing linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. “I wanted to be a jock because like everybody you are looking to be accepted. And then I saw Aerosmith one night, and thought, ‘Now there is the perfect equation, because they’re getting girls and they’re dressed like women.’ Another way to be masculine is to push your feminine side.

“I mean, look at Steven Tyler — fingernail polish and scarves and all female attention. That to me is so much more interesting than knocking the shit out of somebody.”

Behrendt has dealt with such sexual politics in his HBO comedy special “Mantastic” and on his syndicated radio show, “Manversation.” And although the newlywed admits he’s not a fix-it kind of guy and would rather talk shoes than cars, he was nevertheless viewed as an expert on sex from the straight-male perspective by exec producer Michael Patrick King, who hired Behrendt as a consultant last season on a show about single women, “Sex and the City.”

“I sort of walked the line of being emotionally available on certain levels but on the other hand operating from the crotch,” says Behrendt of his stint on the hit HBO series last season. But while Behrendt believes that men and women are wired differently, and that we might all just get along the sooner we acknowledged this, he’s not all that comfortable with all this masculine- and feminine-side business.

“That discredits both genders,” he asserts. “Whatever it is, if you do it, and you’re a man, you can call it masculine, if that feels comfortable to you. The aim is embracing it wholeheartedly.”

In the meantime, in addition to touring the country with fellow standup Janeane Garofalo, Behrendt is working on a follow-up to “Mantastic,” “Ripped Like Jesus,” about coming to terms with his failed rock star dreams at age 37. He’s also developing a TV project he created with Mike Gandolfi (“Roseanne,” “Dennis Miller Live”) called “The Lemur,” a combination talkshow and sitcom that takes place in a radio station.

“It’s the complete opposite of ‘Mantastic,'” explains Behrendt. “The character is this morning DJ whose whole life is dollar shots and strip clubs and promotions and listening to Van Halen records.” The show will mix elements of Behrendt’s acting, improvising, standup and social commentary.

“And that for me,” says Behrendt, “would be an awesome thing.”

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