Because the subject has come up independently with several different friends, allow me now to unpack my argument that R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet is intentional and self-conscious in its use of humor.
In December I received the DVD of parts 1-12 as probably the greatest office Secret Santa gift ever, and I have naturally spent the months since traveling the country showing it to everyone I know. You know the story: R. Kelly's character Sylvester is a married man hiding in the closet of the woman he's just slept with; she turns out to be married to a minister who turns out to be involved in a gay love affair with a man he met through a police officer; the police officer is having an affair with Sylvester's wife even though he is married to a white woman named Bridget; Bridget is having an affair with a midget named Big Man. The story is lurid and violent and the level of quotidian detail Kelly narrates ("She said yes I said no she said yes I said no") is a spectacle in itself. Because the plotline is so tortured and the dialogue is so realistic, Trapped in the Closet is funny and surreal, and also weird in a not-quite-sure-how-to-take-this way.
I now present the following partial list of intentional humor in Trapped in the Closet:
a.) When Sylvester reunites with his wife and they have sex, he complains about a cramp in his leg: "She cries out, 'Oh my goodness, I'm about to climax,' / I said, 'Cool, climax, just let go of my leg'"
b.) "Rosy the nosy neighbor," shows up at their door armed with a spatula
c.) The over-the-top white accent of the cop's wife, Bridget
d.) Bridget's lover is a midget. Also, the midget's hiding in the cabinet parodically reenacts the story's opening scene of Sylvester hiding in the closet.
e.) The midget is named Big Man. When Sylvester asks Big Man how he got that name, the midget gestures to his crotch and answers "Because I'm blessed."
f.) Amid all the commotion, Big Man 1.) craps his pants and 2.) faints, twice.
Now in spite of all this, there is also a sense of seriousness about the whole affair. R. Kelly is an artist who is very much convinced of his own genius and whose R&B songs traffic in cliches and aphorisms and strained metaphors of the most shameless sort. (Also, it would seem that he has a predilection for young girls and freaky sex.) We're used to reading these things--the cliches, not the freaky sex--as the mark of an unsophisticated artist, but it isn't true that cliche and sophistication are mutually exclusive, and here and elsewhere the laughing at/with distinction is harder to parse than it might seem on the surface. Trapped in the Closet winks and emotes, which is all part of the fun.
PS -- Bonus Trapped in the Closet Internet Fun! Chapters 1-5 as acted out by The Sims! This may finally be the key to getting publicprivate into R. Kelly!