Today I have the distinct honor of asking the one and only Lady Bunny a few questions about what she’s been up to lately and about her upcoming Holiday Show, “Hung With Care”. Lady Bunny is a Southern Queen originally hailing from Chattanooga, TN. As a young performer, she started doing drag in Atlanta, Ga. and subsequently crashing the New York City drag scene in the 80’s, the city, that she’s called home ever since. She made a name for herself as the reigning comedy queen of NYC, where she spews her unapologetic brand of humor. It is that humor which has made gays roar with laughter for ages. Lucky for us, she is headed to Seattle’s Triple Door on December 5th.
Lady Bunny, thank you so much for taking the time to answer this poor meager gay’s questions. I seriously, am not worthy, but since we’re here, and you already agreed, I suppose we should just jump right in.
You are very welcome and let’s do it!
You’re no stranger to Seattle, having performed at Julia’s on Broadway in 2011, Neighbors in 2014, the Egyptian Theater last year for Trans-Jester and earlier this year for National Treasures (and those are just the ones I know about). I’m interested to hear your take on Seattle’s drag Scene, given your extensive history in drag culture. Have you noticed any differences or similarities to other cities where you’ve performed?
Seattle does have it’s own spin on drag, but it isn’t limited to any one type of performer. Julia’s, is a bit more traditional with celebrity impersonations and the like, but then there’s also the zany Dina Martina, who has carved out a very mixed crowd in Seattle and now has a large national following. BenDeLaCreme is part of the vintage burlesque scene popular in those parts, while Jinkx screams ALTERNATIVE with her live singing and original tunes. Mark Finley, is lovable trash with a hint of theater. Mama Tits, shares Mark’s theatrical vibe, but she isn’t at all lovable. KIDDING!
I haven’t been lucky enough to see one of your shows in person yet, but from what clips I’ve seen and articles I’ve read, I think it’s safe to say not all of your jokes can be described as “P.C.”. I can imagine, it is received very differently depending on your location, the audience, and even night to night. Has this ever affected your humor and the jokes you decided to include, or do you think it’s important to stick to your brand now more than ever?
A lot of people connect my name to organizing Wigstock and DJing, without necessarily knowing what to expect, if they get tickets for a one hour performance. I’m definitely not PC, and am definitely too twisted to receive even an R rating. But my sense of humor was developed in front of drunken nightclub audiences, who appreciated filth. The challenge was to shock them, so I rose to it. And as much as I enjoy raunch, I know that everyone doesn’t. So, I typically put a warning on the ticket link, warning people that my humor is not PC and does not want to be. That way they aren’t unpleasantly surprised. I even urge people to skip my shows—including my mom—if they don’t enjoy offensive humor. I’m too blue for even some gay pride outdoor events. Seattle can be very PC, but I think over the years, I’ve found my audience there. From The Cuff at Pride, working with Qurb magazine and roasting my pal Mark Finley.
What bugs me is this notion, that I’ve seen applied to other queens who are picketed or protested due to their content. My attitude is if you don’t like something, don’t go see it. Why try shut it down? Are you that bored? I don’t like seeing football players getting their heads bashed in on a field which develop into serious health issues later. But, I have better things to do with my life than picket stadiums.
Comedy aside, there is another side to your drag that really entices me. In all of your previous interviews you came off as kind of a wise motherly figure, (albeit one with daggers in her teeth). You’re a wealth of information regarding LGBTQ history, and you have been very outspoken regarding inclusion in the drag community. In a time when it seems like everyone wants drag queens to fit into a specific mold, you encourage people to turn off their tv’s and experience their local queens in person. What advice do you have for people looking to experience drag, or even gets their hands dirty and put on a wig themselves?
I’m sick of cookie cutter drag. If RuPaul wears a flower in her hair, every queen in the nation does. When Bianca won with heavy lower lashes, many queens aped her style. Now, they will do Trixie Mattel-Inspired make-up. Cookie cutter is the opposite of creative. I’m not here to fit into anyone else’s mold. Instead of copying other queens, why not develop your own style? I also find it odd that I’m often approached by younger performers begging for tips. Well, I was given wonderful tips before I even knew that drag would be my career. The older queens took me under their wing because I clearly needed help, but also since they could recognize a kernel of talent in me. If their instincts about me were correct, they hoped that I might add something to a craft which was their livelihood. So while I didn’t have a specific drag mom, I was grateful for these time-honored tips from much more established peers. To some degree the older queens must have felt I’d earned them. Now these tips are readily available to all in endless youtube makeup tutorials, which I never want to see another of. If you spend hours on your make-up and look ridiculously gorgeous, that’s step #1. But step #2 is walking on stage. If you have less talent than looks, you won’t hold my interest beyond that first burst of applause, based on your look. I’m more interested in performers than Instagram stars with flawless make-up.
You recently revived Wigstock with Neil Patrick Harris of all people. What was it like to work with him and his husband and what does it mean to you to resurrect this iconic event after 17 years?
Wigstock is my baby, but after 20 years of the festival, I needed a 17 year long break! Neil and his boyfriend David Burtqa approached me, and I think we all found that we worked very well together. They’re good people, but we hit a road bump during the Wigstock reboot. Both helped us soar right through the process, with their very positive attitudes and their own considerable connections. So, the show in September was a hit! I loved working with them. Neil and David are genuine drag fans. Like me, they’re NYC residents who just want to bring that some of that freak factor back to a very corporate and slick city, which could use some grit like the kooky queens of Wigstock. (Dina came up from Provincetown and was a highlight.) I think Neil also wanted to show an edgier side of himself after starring in Hedwig. Sometimes that drag bug can be highly addictive.
Now on to your holiday show! In the hilarious promo video, you got yourself into some precarious situations with Santa Claus. Can you give your future audience a little sense of what to expect when they roll up at the Triple Door?
The perfect antidote to Xmas songs, which are inescapable from the day after Halloween through New Years is to butcher every holiday tune with demented parodies. So prepare for dirty ditties like, I Saw Daddy Fisting Santa Claus, A Holly Molly Christmas and The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen. I also screen a banned from youtube video, while changing costumes, which I consider my very best comedy. But it is filthy!
I’m not a huge fan of Christmas myself and I feel like, based on your comedy, you could go either way. Either you purposely love to make a mockery of the overly commercialized holiday, or you love it and your holiday show is a labor of love. Can you tell me what made you want to do this show?
I love Thanksgiving, since it’s not a religious day and if you’re even alive you have something to be grateful for. While I’m in agreement with your take on Xmas, and my show is celebrating “Jesus’s birthday” with an atheist potty mouth, I do see Christmas, as a time for people to be nicer to each other. Call it “holiday magic”, or whatever, but the lights and the holiday cheer—ie desserts and alcohol—do eventually seduce me. During the month of December, I’ve noticed that people do tend to be more likely to make eye contact, hold the door for someone or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Even though others (especially my age group) hates Santacon, and see it as a millennial drunkfest, I absolutely love it. How can I put on a drag festival and frown on people hitting the streets to bug out with their Santa costumes? (Even if they are vomiting in doorways during the daytime.) The more we actually get together in person, the less time we spend on social media with friends who we’ve never met.
As far as why I want to do the show, I already have some Xmas material which can only be performed around this time of year. And along with my co-writer Beryl Mendelbaum, I’ve added a ton of new stuff this year. Last year’s NYC run sold out every show, so I must be onto something. And Dina Martina advised me to do an annual holiday show years ago. Hers has certainly become a smash, so I took her advice. Just not her make-up tips!
Lady Bunny, thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions, but more importantly, I want to thank you on behalf Seattle itself for gracing us all with your presence. I’m looking forward to seeing you this Wednesday for a night of filth and raucous laughter. There are currently no upcoming events listed on her website so if you haven’t purchased your tickets, do it now before you miss out!