Bob the Drag Queen Talks Comedy Inspo, Queer Icons, & Drag Evolution
JULY 24 2020 3:05 PM EDT
Four years after his iconic RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 win, Bob the Drag Queen is still one of the fandom's most well-known, beloved, and downright hilarious queens. Fresh off of his co-hosting gig on HBO Max's groundbreaking, gritty reality makeover series We're Here (which recently got renewed for a second season!) and with a comedy special available for streaming, photographer and PRIDE's 20 Queer Q's interviewer Joe Rodriguez sat down for a conversation with the legendary comedian and drag performer to talk everything from comedy inspiration to Pride, to first kisses and what the future holds for his career!
Where do you pull comedic inspiration from?
I hate to sound basic, but from life in general. My latest special, Bob the Drag Queen: Live at Caroline’s, a lot of it is from my mom. A lot of my friends find my mom really funny, but because I’ve known her for 34 years, I find this normal behavior. She is funny, but my friends find her hilarious and I realized she does funny stuff and I thought about how we grew up, how she reacted to things, and how much that shaped my life in a funny way.
Did you always know you wanted to do comedy growing up?
No, I went through a lot of career choices growing up. I wanted to be a candy maker, an accountant. I remember at one point I wanted to be Martin Luther King Jr. and get in front of a room and say motivational things. I wanted to be a comedian in my second or third year of college. I remember the first time someone once told me I was the funniest person they knew was some high school friends, and that was the first time it clicked for me.
What’s the first movie or show that comes to mind that you would say inspired your comedy?
Sister Act is one of my favorite comedic movies. I also really love School of Rock. I feel like no one is out there talking about how funny it is. I’m a big Jack Black fan which is not something you see a lot in the queer space. Being a Jack Black fan in the queer world is a lonely island but if you look at his work, I think most people would agree it’s pretty solid.
What’s the scariest thing about writing and performing comedy?
I don’t really get afraid with writing. I’m pretty good at gauging whether something is going to land and or not. I have no fear of failing. I’m completely comfortable failing really loud and in front of a lot of people. I think my past has shown me that you can fail and can still do well. That failure doesn’t have to define your career or even that show. If you had a joke not land, that doesn’t mean your show wasn’t funny, it means your joke wasn’t funny.
What is some advice you would give to people who want to get to the same level of unabashed confidence that you have?
I think it’s just having self-awareness that I’m not going to nail it every time and that has really helped me. My greatest asset is that I’m not a perfectionist. If I was a perfectionist, I would never get anything done because rarely am I perfect, if never. There’s a lot of things that I do and I’m comfortable learning in the public eye which goes along with my politics, makeup, clothing, everything.
Comedically, what’s next for you?
Hopefully, I would love Netflix or HBO to buy my next special so they can look even nicer. I’m really excited for the production value to match the value of my comedy, which I think is pretty high.
Invite two people to invite to dinner, who do you invite?
I’d probably invite my two partners to dinner
Who is someone that everyone should be following or listening to lately?
Everyone should go listen to Shea Diamond. She’s a singer, she’s absolutely amazing, and I’m really into her work.
What does Pride mean to you in your own words?
Pride is just a sense of love in your queerness. It's the time of year where people can live out loud because there are people who don’t get that year-round.
If people wanted to become an activist, what would be a good starting point for them?
If there’s a queer center in your town you can go there. It’s also 2020 and everything is on the internet. You can learn to bake a wedding cake from scratch on the internet, so you can certainly learn how to get involved in activism.
Do you think your drag has developed since being on Drag Race?
Yeah, I’ve learned a lot about makeup, costuming, and my budget and resources have grown. Being touted as one of the best drag queens, for me, I have to try to uphold that and I don’t want to stop evolving, I don’t want to plateau.
Tell me the story about the first Pride you attended?
I was in high school, my mom took me to Atlanta Pride in Piedmont Park, and this was when Pride was in June. I was immersed in this world of seeing queers and I hadn’t been out yet. I think my mom had an inkling, but she took me out and I remember being like, "This is amazing!" It was odd to not feel singled out for my queerness but to feel at one with other people and their queerness. Also, it’s Atlanta Pride. Sometimes I have this thing where I’m the only Black or queer person here, but because it was Atlanta Pride, I felt so welcomed.
What is in your opinion, the quintessential Pride song?
"Deeper Love" by Aretha Franklin.
What do you hope Pride will look like in five years?
I love that Pride is evolving. I know there’s a big group of people who want things to go back to the way they were. To quote Billy Joel, "The good old days weren’t always that good and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems."
So the fact that we’re stirring things up for things to be the way they used to be to me, sounds a little MAGA quite frankly. A lot of people are into restoring the old Pride, but I’m also wondering how did Black queers feel at the old Pride? If you’re gonna try to restore Pride to the way it used to be, how do you think Black queers felt showing up at the old Pride?
Where do you hope to be in five years?
Hopefully, I’m trying to move this fall and try to buy a house which feels kind of insane. Hopefully career-wise, I’ve been getting into producing. Living my life as someone who’s able to produce content for other people, especially Black queer people, for people who are like me and have a voice and story similar to mine, I hope to be doing more producing on that side.
Describe this year so far in 5 words.
Black History Year.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
This is going to sound like a silly piece of advice, but the best advice I ever received was, "When someone gives you advice, consider the source." You need to ask yourself, "Am I cool with being like this person who is giving me this advice?" So consider the source.
How would you like to be remembered?
I did have a fear when I was really young of basically the movie Coco. Basically when everyone who knew you fades away, then you start to fade away too. So I do love the idea of honoring the legacy of the people who came before me, but also finding oneness and knowing that if someone like me is existing, then I am existing at the same time. It doesn’t have to be remembering Bob the Drag Queen, but there are tons of Bob the Drag Queens out there. Everyone remembers Marsha P. Johnson, but think about all the Marsha P Johnson’s whose names we never knew, but because Marsha P. lives on, so do they.
Are you overwhelmed with so much Drag Race six months out of the year and I think, "Is this what football fans go through?"
I will say I get really emotionally invested in Drag Race and so when I get really angry or excited, I think to myself, "Is this what it feels like to be a straight guy watching football?" because I get stressed out, but I love it so so much.
Who are current queens that inspire you and future queens that you would love to see flourish?
Current queens that inspire me are Jackie Beat, Monét X Change, Shea Couleé, Miz Cracker. Those are queens I really respect. I don’t really have my finger on the pulse to quantify who’s the next big thing. Bambi Couleé, Peaches Christ, Puretta, Pixie Aventura, I could name these queens all day.
What do you feel most confident about?
That I’m really funny.
What do you feel most insecure about?
My belly. I hate it.
What's a quality you find sexy?
Confidence. That’s such a basic bitch answer, but it’s also very real.
Night in or night out?
What value or quality has your queerness given you?
A sense of community, specifically my Black queerness.
Sweet or salty?
Talk about your first queer kiss.
I was in college, and it was a sloppy, drunken night with a guy from the theatre department. It wasn’t necessarily passionate or romantic, but it was memorable because it was the first one. It felt like a sigh of relief, like this is what I’ve been waiting for even though in hindsight, it was a particularly underwhelming kiss, there was still this moment where I asked myself, "Is this what it’s like to be yourself?"
Where do you hope to see queer media in the next couple of years?
I would love for Black queer artists like myself to feel comfortable in spaces not surrounded by other non-Black queer people.
Do you think it’s hard to make queer friends?
Not me. I don’t know any straight people.
Who is someone you consider to be a queer icon?
Use four words to describe your coming out experience.
"Mom, I’m gay! Duh!"
If you could shadow anyone for a day who would it be?
Anything you’re looking forward to?
I’m really happy with the progress and shifting of power. There is no equality without loss of power. Someone has to lose some power for someone else to gain some. It’s going to be uncomfortable, there will be growing pains, but we’ll all come out on the other side stronger as a nation because of it.