Two days before the Nov. 15 premiere of Viceland’s The Trixie & Katya Show, my phone call with its stars — two beloved alums of the hit series RuPaul’s Drag Race — begins like this: “You want all the sickening tea boots realness?” Trixie Mattel asks. “Are you thirsty for some sickening tea? We will pour it in your boots and we will sell them to Versace,” is Katya Zamolodchikova’s follow-up.
“What the hell did I just get myself into?” I think.
I can now say from experience that being tag-teamed over the phone by these two isn’t much different than being placed inside an episode of their show. It’s a jumbled grab-bag of both high-brow and low-brow humor, free-association wordplay and a desperate attempt by me to try and keep our conversation on the beaten path. That last part is rather difficult when these two both have side-splittingly hilarious things in the front of their minds that need to come out and play.
Oh, to see the bits of funny that end up left on the cutting room floor by this duo’s editors.
The Trixie & Katya Show is part of a new crop to premiere on Viceland, a still-new-to-the-scene cable network whose other offerings include Ellen Page vehicle Gaycation, old eps of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and stoner shows like Bong Appétit and Weediquette. What started out as a web series called UNHhhh, produced by World of Wonder, caught the eye of Viceland’s development team.
As these queens will tell you, the format of the show may have changed — it now runs a half-hour and features recurring weekly segments — but the spirit of The Trixie & Katya Show doesn’t stray far from the web series fans immediately fell in love with.
“We stretched it out, we simplified it and we cleaned the slate in a sense that allows us to present it to a larger audience, but with the same kernel of truth intact, and the same kind of point of view,” Katya says. “It’s just more TV-friendly.”
“We took our craziness down to a jog instead of a full-blown sprint, so the new audience of Viceland can jump on the crazy train with us at their own pace,” Trixie adds. “The web series was such a crazy, self-indulgent dive that the TV series is something a little more small bites versus a giant meal.”
Those who were regular watchers of UNHhhh and are well aware of this duo’s comedic chops may be surprised to hear that neither Trixie nor Katya considers himself to be a “comedian” — at least not in the typical sense.
“While I do stand up with a microphone and tell jokes that relate to the world, I don’t think either of us consider ourselves part of the ‘comic comedy community,'” says Trixie. “We’re kinda on our own, floating around.”
“I’ve never wanted to be part of that world,” Katya says, and now that stories of Louis C.K.’s rampant sexual misconduct have seemingly tainted the entire comedy complex, she feels her ill feelings toward the industry were warranted. After all, it’s the ‘boys club of comedy’ that let C.K.’s unacceptable behavior go unchecked for so long.
“It’s interesting, because at my darkest times, I will insult myself and say, ‘Oh, you couldn’t make it as a man. You had to put on a dress like Tootsie! That’s a gimmick! You’re a hack!’ But it’s not that,” Katya says. “We have interesting points of view as queer gay faggot weirdos, and we use the drag because it’s a fucking spectacle. Because life is ugly, bitch! Look around you! Louis C.K. is an ugly fuck. His writing is excellent, but he’s an ugly fuck. Fuck him! I’m so mad! Because he is a genius but he fucked it all up.”
Comedians or not, these two queens do identify as black sheep. “We are outsiders in the drag community, pre-Drag Race especially,” Trixie says. “In a police lineup of drag queens, one of these things is not like the other. We’re a little too strange for drag queens, too.”
Strange? Maybe. But clearly they’re doing something right.
With The Trixie & Katya Show, these two Drag Race Season 7 favorites are hoping to introduce themselves to a new audience — perhaps even people who have never watched Logo and who have no clue who these guys dressed as women are. One thing is certain, Trixie says: “Stoners will fucking live.”
Katya’s thinking with respect to who’s gonna watch is a bit more … nuanced: “I think the Unamomber is gonna like it, but school shooters are gonna hate it.” After a scream that has since become one of Trixie’s trademarks, she kinda sorta agrees with Katya’s batshit-crazy assessment.
While we can’t say for sure who’s gonna watch, Trixie and Katya have now officially joined the Viceland family, alongside some of the most interesting people currently on television. And they insist the response from higher-ups at the network has been warm and welcoming.
“This lady Nomi, who is high up in creative, she sent me a hand-written letter saying how much she appreciates and loves the show,” Trixie says. “I was with some of the folks from Viceland, and they said when you’re in the office you can tell who is watching [our show] because they hear a specific type of loud laugh from that cubicle area.”
Katya mimics that sentiment of support from their Viceland producers. “Especially in the climate of entertainment today, we are so lucky to have not only a green-lit full series of our first show, but every step of the way has been lined with courtesy, compassion, creativity, excitement and pure, unflinching enthusiasm for who we are, what we do and what we can create. You can not find that in Hollywood. And, listen, if the show doesn’t work — who fucking cares? The experience was great. Everybody at Viceland and World of Wonder has been a gift. I almost think we’re being punk’d, ya know?”
“We’ve never got the feeling that Viceland is trying to make us their ‘gay show’ or their ‘show for women,'” Trixie continues. “The network is so open and so forward-thinking that they appreciate a really fresh, funny perspective. They judged it by watching it, and they fell in love with it. World of Wonder gave us 60 YouTube episodes to find our voice, and then when we found it, Viceland was like, ‘OK, we love what voice you found.'”
Stay tuned for more Trixie and Katya, as we’ll be posting more from our recent interview throughout the week. The Trixie & Katya Show premieres Wednesday, Nov. 15, on Viceland.