“Doing Their Things” – “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Superstars Trixie Mattel and Katya Take Their Act to the State Theatre

Photo courtesy of Five Senses Reeling
Photo courtesy of Five Senses Reeling

RuPaul’s debut single, 1993’s “Supermodel (You Better Work),” includes the lyrics, “Do your thing on the runway.”  That’s pretty much been the theme of the icon’s entire career, doing her thing on the runway…as well as doing her thing in the recording studio, in front of the camera, and at the awards shows.  

No place more so has San Diego’s Own done her thing than on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the reality competition TV show where RuPaul asserts herself as instigator, judge, and jury of cross-dressing challenges big and small.  When it debuted nearly a decade-and-a-half ago, the show struck a chord, literally and figuratively, with mainstream audiences, providing many a cornfed viewer a first (and, soon after, a second and a third) look at the stage and the backstage of an alternative reality where garishness, gaudiness, and grandeur were the coin of the realm.  

It took some doin’, but RuPaul’s Drag Race eventually evolved, like a queen trying on a series of new wigs, into a franchise which produced spin-offs, companions, and international re-imaginings, launching dozens of genderbending show biz careers along the way.   Two of those launchees were drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova (aka Brian Firkus and Brian McCook, respectively).  They first appeared together during the show’s seventh season…as competitors.  

The unlikely partnership between Trixie and Katya was forged when they co-hosted 2015’s Fashion Photo RuView, a raucous, rivalrous fashion web series (and one of the aforementioned Drag Race spin-offs).  The spontaneous, scintillating sparks produced by the co-hostess’s work let the world know that a virginal-but-definitely-not-in-that-way comedic binary star system had been formed.

A personal dynamic developed:  Trixie Mattel became known to fans as the comparatively, if cluelessly, more innocent of two, venturing into Internet intercourses abetted by her “gutter friend” (as described by Trixie herself).  Complimenting Trixie’s guilelessness, Katya Zamolodchikova presented as a girl who had been there and done him.  Where comedy pairings are concerned, Trixie and Katya are now Barbie and Skipper…if Barbie were redesigned by Dolly Parton after a week-long Las Vegas bender and if Skipper operated as Barbie’s bedazzled, Jungian shadow.

Reminiscent of their co-hosting debut, the new runway was (and is) the carefully-spelled UNHhhh, an unscripted YouTube series, also shown on WOW Presents+.  Commenting on the name, Trixie laments, “I’m trapped in a hashtag I can’t even spell!”   Within the non-confines of the show, the queens have recently cast their signature shade and illumination on topics ranging from men to bathrooms to hoarding to their own retirements…even their own deaths.  

But, y’know, in a hie-larious way.  

The duo’s comic efforts are aided by a green screen that makes the audial visual and the hypothetical thetical as each personality often says the quiet part out loud…or, more accurately, blurts the quiet part out.  The hostesses’ self-effacing, fan-effacing banter produces as much unguarded laughter from each other as it does from the audience 

In 2022, with this effort, the pair earned their first YouTube Streamy Award for Unscripted Series…during a ceremony that they themselves were co-hostessing.  This coincidence might have proved embarrassing if either co-hostess possesses a scintilla of shame.  Taking a cue from RuPaul’s Drag RaceUNHhhh has spawned a spin-off series, the equally-irreverent reaction show I Like To Watch on Netflix’s YouTube channel.

Trixie and Katya found themselves working yet another new runway where they once again did their thing:  the New York Times Bestseller List.  Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood got them there.  Two follow up books, The Trixie and Katya Cookbook and Working Girls:  Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Professional Womanhood kept them there.  

That might have been a tempting place for the partnership to begin a hard-earned period of laurels-resting…but another runway beckoned Trixie and Katya, that of the theatrical stage.  Trixie and Katya Live will sashay its fierce way into Lake City’s State Theatre on Wednesday, February 22, 2023.  This “first seated theatrical event” is, like the comedy duo itself, defined as much by what it isn’t as by what it is.  In other words, this won’t merely be an episode of UNHhhh or I Like To Watch recorded in front of a live audience.  

Within the ragged boundaries of a wild promotional video, Trixie and Katya promise, “It’s a show with me, you, dancing, acting, costumes, props, wigs, music, narrative plot structure, well-rehearsed line reads, on-stage love triangles, and off-stage platonic squares.”   In other words, Trixie and Katya Live is a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end–told via live performance and filmed sketches which include some noteworthy-but-unspoiled-here cameos.  And jokes, of course.  Lots of jokes, most of them proudly, pointedly, brain-damagingly dumb.

But, y’know, in a hie-larious way.  

It’s downright poetic, or perhaps downright lyrical, that this newest career runway so nearly resembles the one first trod upon by Trixie and Katya…and the best thing about such a runway, at least where comedy is concerned, is that one might slip off of it and fall into the third row.  As the fabulous Ms. Zamolodchikova fabulously supposes:  “This is a virtuosic feat we’re endeavoring to accomplish.  It could fail spectacularly…and you want to be there for that!”


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