In These Dark Times, Bob the Drag Queen Is Here With the Laughs You Need
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“I’m really kind of struck at how normal it’s gotten,” says Bob the Drag Queen, referring to this present mindset that the world is seemingly on fire around us. During a phone interview from her home in Washington Heights, Manhattan, she’s discussing her now-typical daily routine. “I’ve been in my house for three months, leaving only to get food, go for walks, and go to the protests.”
Between the double pandemic America and the world are currently facing — the global health scare of COVID-19 and the ongoing fight for Black lives — it may seem there’s no place for comedy. But with a slew of projects featuring RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen currently floating around cable television, premium TV, VOD services and podcast platforms — all of which feature Bob’s hilarious quick wit and knack for insightful observational humor — it’s clear that, in 2020, comedy may be just what the doctor ordered.
Just confirmed to receive a second season, HBO’s first-ever “reality show,” We’re Here, has proven to be a hit, and not just among LGBTQ audiences. In the weekly series, Bob the Drag Queen joins fellow Drag Race alums Shangela Laquifa Wadley and Eureka O’Hara for a road trip through Middle America, bestowing confidence on small-town queens and putting parents in drag, all in the vein of a more fabulous version of Queer Eye‘s Fab Five. If you haven’t yet watched the show, which debuted in April, just be prepared: you’ll laugh (often at Bob’s slick one-liners), you’ll cry, you’ll feel all the feels.
Three years ago, with the release of comedy special Suspiciously Large Woman, Bob the Drag Queen made clear that her talents surpass the art form of drag alone. Sure, on Drag Race Season 8 she was lauded for a hilarious Snatch Game performance — impersonating not just one celebrity, but two, with a double-teamed portrayal of Uzo Aduba and Carol Channing — but stand-up comedy is a beast not slayed easily by most who attempt it. Bob, though, is a natural, made all the more obvious by a second comedy special, Bob the Drag Queen at Caroline’s NYC, recently made available to stream on iTunes. (Watch the trailer for that comedy special here.)
And on top of those huge projects, you can also find Bob the Drag Queen helping hairy fathers tuck their junk on the MTV series Drag My Dad, recapping the current season of Drag Race All Stars on VH1’s digital series The Pit Stop (watch an ep below), and podcast-partying with best friend, touring partner and fellow Drag Race winner Monet X Change on Sibling Rivalry.
From Drag Race contestant to comedy queen mogul in four short years. Not bad, eh?
To discuss some of these current projects — and the current state of the world — Hornet recently sat down for a phone convo with Bob the Drag Queen. Here’s how it went:
HORNET EXECUTIVE EDITOR STEPHAN HORBELT: I wanted to ask you about a tweet that you posted about a week and a half ago. I loved it. You say it’s no longer acceptable for people to be “just not political” anymore, and I think we’ve all probably encountered that person. Do you think the tide is finally changing, maybe even since you wrote that tweet a week and a half ago?
BOB THE DRAG QUEEN: Do I think the tide is changing? I mean, I think the tide is definitely changing a lot. I mean, we have all four of George Floyd’s murderers arrested, they’re reopening Breonna Taylor’s case, Minneapolis has started reappropriating funds from the police department, Andrew Cuomo is initiating a new bill called the “Say Their Name” bill, trying to get it passed. So there’s just a lot. People are hearing us, you know what I mean? It’s not falling on deaf ears.
"I'm just not political" is so over. That time has passed. We need to hear your voices now. While you "find your voice" black people are being killed everyday. EVERYDAY. Trans people are being murdered back to back. It doesn't have to be poetry. Just sat it. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
— Black Lives Still Matter (@thatonequeen) May 28, 2020
HORNET: And I’m curious … all of the queens who find themselves on Drag Race end up with these huge platforms. Have you had to have that conversation — that “no, you can no longer be ‘just not political’” — with any fellow queens?
BOB: Yeah, I’ve had talks with a couple of them, answering questions about why it’s important to say “Black Lives Matter” and why silence is violence, and how saying “I’m just not political” is actually more damaging to Black folks than it is helpful. So I’ve had to have some really uncomfortable discussions.
HORNET: Switching gears a bit, I want to say congrats on getting a second season of We’re Here.
BOB: Thank you!
HORNET: I love the show. Any idea what we can expect yet from Season 2? Any changes in the format, anything like that?
BOB: We don’t even know yet. We just got the news ourselves, and then we released it to the world maybe like a day or two later. So I don’t know yet. I mean, I’m also wondering when we’re going to be able to start shooting again, what with quarantine and everything going on. I mean, New York literally just entered Phase 1 yesterday, I think.
HORNET: I love the show because I feel like so often the message around LGBTQ people in mainstream entertainment is about changing other people’s minds about us. But We’re Here was really not that at all. It kind of flipped the script and was about empowering LGBTQ people. I thought that was a really powerful message. Was that always part of the plan going into the show?
BOB: People were nervous before [the show premiered] that it’d be some sympathy piece for people who are bigoted. And I’m really glad the show’s not that, that the show’s actually taking things to task and really … I’m really just so grateful that this show truly highlights underrepresented voices and amplifies them in a really great way.
HORNET: I hadn’t realized that We’re Here is the first quote-unquote “reality show” that HBO has ever done. That’s huge.
BOB: Yeah, I’m honored. I can’t even. I mean, for example, we just got nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award. I’m a little Black queer kid from Columbus, Georgia, who was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award. This is amazing.
HORNET: Yes! Congrats again. The other thing I really enjoyed about the show was that it took us to these parts of the USA most of us have never seen, but also never even heard of. Did the fact that you were going to these tiny communities with Eureka and Shangela make things more scary or more exciting?
BOB: Well, I mean, there’s power in numbers. For me, if I was alone, it probably would have felt more scary that way. But luckily I was able to be there with my drag sisters.
HORNET: I was thinking, I’d love to see — maybe for season three, season four — an international version of the show.
BOB: I would love that. I’ve not been, but I would love to take We’re Here to South Africa. I’ve been to South America, Europe, Australia. I haven’t been to Asia or Africa yet. Those are the two I haven’t been to.
HORNET: And maybe a Bob the Drag Queen comedy special in Johannesburg. That would be amazing.
BOB: You know, it’s funny you mentioned that. One of my favorite comedy specials ever is one that Chris Rock did from Johannesburg. Well, he filmed this one special in, like, I think three or four different locations, and he cut them all together to make one special, and one of those places was Johannesburg.
HORNET: Speaking of comedy specials, your new special is amazing.It occurred to me while watching it that 10 years from now, a queen who wants to do stand-up comedy will be able to look at you, and you’ll be that guiding light for them, in terms of professional trajectory. Do you ever think about that?
BOB: To be honest, I haven’t really given it a whole lot of thought. Now I’m thinking, “Wow, that’s really cool.” I mean, in terms of stand-up, I have two stand-up comedy specials, which I guess is more than most other drag queens who have stand-up specials. And yeah, I mean, I haven’t thought about that. I hope someone’s inspired by me.
HORNET: Now that we’re in June, it’s of course Pride Month, which has clearly been affected by the pandemic, but also in a lot of cases, Pride has rightfully taken a back seat to the more pressing issue, the fight for Black lives. I think it’s safe to say that this year’s Pride Month is pretty different from years past. What has it been like for you to see that transformation?
BOB: Well, watching Pride become really Black-focused, it feels honestly … you feel seen. And it does feel late, but you still feel seen. A lot of people have been asking about when you first start seeing this stuff, and I can’t help but think about all the people, the young queer Black kids this year who will feel ‘part of’ and not excluded.
HORNET: In terms of in-person Pride festivals, those aren’t happening this year. But where can we find you during Pride Month?
— Black Lives Still Matter (@thatonequeen) June 12, 2020
BOB: Well, I’m really excited that this year me and Peppermint are producing and spearheading an event called Black Queer Town Hall, which will be streaming on the GLAAD and NYC Pride Facebook pages, while also being simulcast to our page as well. There’s a lot of great talent lined up for it, and it’s a three day event on the 19th, 20th and 21st, to basically celebrate Black queer life, rejoice, mourn the loss of the Black queer lives we’ve lost, and just enjoy the art that we make.
HORNET: I can’t wait. And thank you for taking the time to chat with Hornet. I really appreciate it. Congrats again on the comedy special, and I can’t wait for more We’re Here.
BOB: Of course, my pleasure.
For more info on all of Bob the Drag Queen’s projects, head here, and follow Bob on Twitter.
All photos of Bob the Drag Queen by Jacob Ritts