A couple of years ago Flavorwire's Deputy Editor, Tyler Coates did a web series with comedian Mikala Bierma. The series was called "Disappointing Gay Best Friend," and, as Coates writes here, it actually became pretty well known on the web—"I was even recognized in public — and not, as I had been before then, as 'that guy from Modern Family.'" The series was what the title suggests: Bierma stammers on about something, and Coates sits disinterested while trying to read.
Now to the controversy...Portlandia's most recent episode featured a sketch with a similar premise. It stars Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Nick Swardson as a gay couple. They're sloppy, drink Jägerbombs for breakfast, and met at an ESPN Zone after getting into a fist fight. Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are disappointed.
Coates addressed the similarities in a post on Flavorwire today, stating:
While the similarities are blatantly there, from the sketch’s title to the color of Homme’s hair, I can’t say I was very upset to see the clip. It was certainly an odd experience, but I hate to be presumptuous enough to suggest that the Portlandia writers were ripping off our idea (although I will say that a quick Google search might have influenced them to go with another title).
While the core foundation of the sketch is essentially the same as the web series, there are a number of differences: namely, one is a one-liner and the other is a fully fleshed out comedy sketch. Yet, "Disappointing Gay Best Friend," came first and it was featured on sites like Salon and Buzzfeed.
Did Portlandia lift this idea from Coates and Bierma? It's tough to tell, and not fair to make accusations. To be fair, Portlandia isn't the first show to tackle the same exact premise, and its possible it was just a total coincidence—as Coates writes: "Did we invent this concept? Probably not, so I’m not too pissed at Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein for lifting it for their series." Additionally, Happy Endings did the concept exceptionally well in their series too.
...even though the two-and-a-half-minute clip feels long (which is a lesson we did learn when making Disappointing Gay Best Friend: no Internet video with a single joke needs to be longer than 30 seconds), it might very well be successful in that it’ll reach a larger audience and make them consider the stereotypes that are still perpetrated about gay men: that they’re all the same. That we aren’t is the point — not that any one of us is more “realistic” than any other.