‘Drag Race’ star Alaska says ‘Hieeee’ to OUTtv comedy special
The COVID-19 pandemic, racial awakening and political unrest that pervaded 2020 sent things in a new direction.
Joey Guerra April 8, 2021Updated: April 11, 2021, 3:14 pm
Alaska, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” winner and self-proclaimed glamour queen, starts her comedy special wondering if the timing is way off.
“This makes no sense, with the way the world is currently,” she says. The show was filmed in late 2019 as a live stand-up and music special in Hollywood. But the COVID-19 pandemic, racial awakening and political unrest that pervaded 2020 sent things in a new direction.
“The Alaska Thunder**** Extra Special Comedy Special” now includes commentary from Alaska and interviews with drag icons Sherry Vine, Jackie Beat and comedian Margaret Cho, who discuss the intersection of comedy and current events. It premieres April 15 on OUTtv, a streaming and video-on-demand service featuring LGBTQ+ content, available on Apple TV.
“I was like, ‘Is this even appropriate? Why are we even doing this?’ I was unsure about it, so we took that uncertainty and we made it part of it,” Alaska says. “I have conversations with people I look up to and admire. We put those conversations, from Zoom, into the special. I think it helps just to put it into the context of, ‘Yes, the world has changed. The world is different now from when we recorded this damn thing. But you can still enjoy it.’”
The hourlong program also includes Alaska’s Drag Queen of the Year Pageant Competition Awards Contest Competition and a painfully hilarious stand-up set in the vein of ’80s comedians. Alaska spoke from home about the show and, as a “Golden Girls” authority, that disastrous Rue McClanahan impersonation on a recent “Drag Race” episode.
When: Starts streaming April 15
Where: OUTtv on Apple TV
Q: Hieeee from Houston! What comes to mind when you think of the city?
A: I had this amazing time in Houston. I came for Pride, and so I was there for a few days. They put me up in this hotel. I had, like, a whole floor. It was a penthouse suite or something. It was, I think, the fanciest hotel I’ve ever had in my entire travels. I literally started crying when I walked in there. It was a fun weekend.
Q: You talk about being self-critical in the special. Has that been an ongoing battle?
A: It’s weird because it hasn’t been. I think that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to just (expletive) do it and not care too much about whether it’s perfect or not. But I think something about sitting at home, chained to the laptop and the phone, there’s no escape from your own thoughts. It did exacerbate any self-criticism that I had. I wish I would have worn earrings. That’s my one thing. All these people, and no one told me to put on earrings. It’s fine.
Q: Your actual stand-up is hysterical, starting with the yellow “comedy jacket” that helps turn you into that character.
A: It’s very that. It’s very Jeannie Darcy. It’s very Jerry Seinfeld. I mean, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield — just those sort of set it up, punchline it down. Some of them are really cheesy. But those are my favorite types of jokes. They tickle me. Sometimes the reaction never comes, which is just as fun.
Q: Jackie Beat’s advice is to “Know and fight the real enemy” and that “People need to laugh at the ugly stuff.” Do you ever worry about what might go too far?
A: Yeah, I do, all the time. I never want anyone to leave a show of mine feeling worse than they did. I don’t want anyone to feel diminished. I want people to feel empowered and stronger and better after a show. That being said, I don’t always get it right. But I’m learning and I’m trying. I think that comedians do a really important service in this world. And I’m not considering myself a comedian. They’re sort of on the forefront of taking those ugly, terrifying things about life and shedding some light on it and making the world a little bit less of a scary place.
Q: You say Alaska is a lot like Bea Arthur. How so?
A: I have a special place for Dorothy Zbornak in my heart because she’s tall and she has a deep voice. Hello?! That’s sort of my lot in life, whether I like it or not. But I love Bea Arthur because she plays that character, who’s kind of a bitch. Just kind of, like, rotted and negative. But Bea Arthur in real life was so sensitive and so shy and the sweetest and loved animals and was always doing advocacy for the gay community.
Q: As a “Golden Girl” scholar, I have to ask your thoughts on Elliott with 2 Ts Rue McClanahan impersonation during Snatch Game on the current “Drag Race” season.
A: Oh, God. I mean, Blanche Deve-oh no she didn’t. That’s what that was. It’s a tall order, and RuPaul tried to warn her. If I ever get to go back to Snatch Game in the year 2055, I will probably do Rue McClanahan in Elliott’s honor. It’s not about props, though you could do the water bottle. The key is really the references to the show. You can answer anything as her if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the show, which I do. And I also know RuPaul does, so we’d be able to volley back and forth. Of course, I’m talking a big game now.
Q: How have you not gone crazy staying home so much?
A: I don’t think I’ve succeeded in not going crazy. If you have any advice, please let me know. I feel like I’m in grade school and summer vacation is almost here. The vaccine is coming out. I feel like I don’t wanna do my homework. I don’t wanna pay attention in class. I’m bouncing off the wall, and I just wanna get the (expletive) out of here. I watched “The Crown,” finally, start to finish. I cheated at first, and I watched the Diana season. My friend Nick, who loves “The Crown,” was like, “You haven’t earned Diana yet. You don’t even know what’s going on. You can’t do that.” But I did do that. Then I went back and watched the whole thing through. It’s beautifully done.
Q: Your music follows the drag queen formula in some ways — fierce beat, a few key phrases — but it’s really smart and funny at the same time.
A: Luckily the producers that I’ve worked with to do music are so legit and so amazing. The music itself is really good. A lot of times the idea for the song is just really stupid and really dumb, and sometimes that’s the best song. It’s serious — but also seriously stupid.
Q: My son even knows some of your songs!
A: Maybe I should do a Kidz Bop version. I’ve always wanted to. And just replace the swear words with “lollipop.” I’m here for it.