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Let’s retire the roast for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Replace the roast with a Design Your Own Show challenge. I wanna see what I’m getting when I buy a ticket.

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I’ll put the bias upfront so you can decide whether to read the rest of these rambling thoughts through that lens or not:

I love Utica. She was my Number Two when Meet the Queens videos came out (after Symone), and she has generally been my Number Three during the course of the season (behind Symone and Gottmik). I don’t think we have ever had a queen this visually talented across the board. There are better painters (Kim Chi), better glam make-up artists (Miss Fame), better fashion queens (Aquaria), and better tailors (reigning UK winner Lawrence Chaney), but there is no one queen who operates at such a high standard in all four other than Utica. She would be better suited to Project Runway than RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I’m excited to see where her career ends up after this.

And, I feel like I understand her. She’s a white queen from the middle of nowhere in a town with less than 500 people who grew up Seventh Day Adventist. My hometown was 409 people and I grew up in a Seventh Day Adventist church (cult, actually) around a bunch of awkward white kids. There was absolutely no way she was going to be able to roast anybody. Utica isn’t even sure of herself enough to say the same things on camera that she says to other queens, because she’s not sure how the “joke” will land, and she’s afraid of the rabid Drag Race fandom online. She’s socially awkward, unsure of herself, and isolated in the fields of Minnesota in a such a way that she’s excited about being around so many queer people. You tell someone like that to be mean and funny, and they will be mean and funny, but the funny won’t land because she’s only funny to herself. You’re just left with mean.

But everyone was a letdown. Because every RuPaul’s Drag Race Roast is a letdown. Because it’s time to let this challenge go and replace it with something else.

We don’t need jokes about the judges anymore.

RuPaul is old and she can’t sing. Michelle is a New Jersey whore who’s made of plastic (even though she got her boobs taken out, so why is that ever a joke anymore?). Ross is very gay and annoying. We got it. There’s nothing left to say about any of them that hasn’t already been said and none of the jokes about the judges have been funny in years. (Except, honestly, Utica telling RuPaul to stand up as a fashion icon, when everybody knows she has on sweatpants under the table, is my favorite roast moment in a long time).  Any queen forced to do the roast from this point on should just completely ignore the judges.

Being mean and funny is hard, and it’s not a skillset drag queens need to keep cultivating.

I would never sign up to be roasted. I have thin skin and I take things very personally. I’m an emotional person, and pointing out my “flaws” to a large group of people, things that I’m embarrassed about or dislike about myself or am actively trying to change, is just traumatic for me. And that is why you don’t see me at too many drag shows when the queen fancies herself a “comedian.” Funny, to a drag queen, means there will be a point where the audience is involved and you may get read, even if you didn’t sign up for that.

The first time I ever went to a drag show was the first year I moved to NYC.  I went to Barracuda with some friends, and Shequida was the drag entertainment. At random points, she would pull a guy up on stage, flirt with him for awhile, and then give him a drink ticket for being hot. I was sitting a little too close to the stage, and Shequida pulled me up. I was really feeling myself — I thought my outfit was cute, my afro was blown out to perfection — because I assumed she was going to flirt with me and give me a drink ticket. She started with “who does this bitch think she is, Diana Ross?” and proceeded to drag me for what felt like half an hour, but was probably a minute. The entire bar was laughing, she didn’t give me a drink ticket, and I walked past my seat and into the bathroom to cry.

It was years before I went to another drag show, and when I finally did, I made sure I stood as far away from the stage as possible. That strategy was working until I was at Kizha Carr’s show one Sunday and she decided to take the mic, walk the room, and tell everybody at Industry I looked like Lil Jon. I left, and I don’t mess with “comedy” queens. Roasting anyone should not be a challenge that determines whether you are America’s Next Drag Superstar, because we shouldn’t go to a gay bar for happy hour with the expectation that a drag queen will walk in and start tearing you apart for the enjoyment of the audience.

Roasting only works between friends.

I understand the concept of the roast and I think they can be funny to watch, but only if the roasters and the roastee(s) are all friends and all like each other. Comedy Central roasts are great. Experts in the field are making fun of people they like and who like them back. It’s all in good fun. Drag Race roasts are awkward because clearly not every judge likes every queen and vice versa. I can call one of my friends a whale in the same tone of voice that Utica used on Loni in rehearsal and it will go over just fine. Utica and Loni do not have that rapport. The line between roasting and being mean isn’t just “a roast has to be funny” — a roast also has to come from a place of respect. Loni doesn’t know if that comment is coming from a place of respect and fulfillment of the challenge, or if it’s coming from a place of fat-shaming from a skinny queen who doesn’t like big girls.

The format is forever changed now.

Once Loni clapped back at Utica, the roast as we previously knew it was dead and gone. For the most part, the roastees don’t engage with the jokes. They laugh, because they signed up to be insulted, so you don’t respond when the insult digs a little deep. Loni was still smarting over the rehearsal, and she had every right to feel that way. If Loni and Utica hadn’t gone into the roast with previously built up tension, she wouldn’t have commented on Utica insulting her career. Instead, we have Loni sitting there watching someone who just aggressively called her fat the day before now insulting her career. She’s a former electrical engineer who quit her job for a successful career in comedy, and someone who is mean and terrible at comedy wants to dig at a thing she’s actually good at? It would be like Tina Burner dragging Violet Chachki for her fashion or Symone dragging Monet Xchange for her singing voice. So Loni let her have it, and that opened the door for everybody to comment while they were getting dragged. Loni clapping back was funnier than the actual roast, so everyone wanted a chance to turn a dig against them into a funnier moment. That’s what the roast will look like going forward, which wouldn’t be a roast anymore.

Most people are not funny.

Ergo, most drag queens are not funny. You’re asking them to do a thing that experts in comedy shy away from because it’s the hardest thing in comedy to do successfully. Even the funniest queens at the roast are mediocre, and they’re usually only great in relation to how terribly everyone else is doing.

So retire the roast. The surprises at how well someone does (Gottmik) do not outweigh the absolute cringe of watching someone fail horribly (Symone) and it’s a boring challenge that shouldn’t be a factor in making a great drag queen anyway. Replace the roast with a Design Your Own Show challenge the way they do the Thailand finale. Let the girls put on a drag show from top to bottom any way they want, so we the viewers can understand what to expect when we go see them after the season is over. And if one of the queens decides that roasting is part of their show, let her take that risk solo, and I’ll be sure to buy a ticket to see someone else.

 

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On Television

Hot Takes: The Housewife & The Hustler

This is a good True Crime Documentary for anybody, not just Housewives fans.

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1. Imagine sitting at home with a bowl of popcorn watching a documentary about how your co-worker funds her hobby with money her husband stole from burn victims and families of plane crash victims? What is it like being on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills right now?!

2. You don’t need to like, watch, or even be remotely familiar with The Real Housewives (of Beverly Hills or anywhere else) to enjoy this quick little documentary. If you like true crime and/or you enjoy that feeling of outrage you get watching grifters grift, this is just another documentary about rich people stealing money.

3. For backstory: Erika Girardi was a young, struggling actress who married a mega-wealthy lawyer 40ish years her senior, Tom Girardi (of Erin Brockovich fame). She then decided she wanted to become a popstar and Tom funded her career, spending millions of dollars to turn her into a bonafide artist (she had nine consecutive number one hits on the Billboard Dance/Club chart, before she was ever on Real Housewives. Only Katy Perry, JLo, and Madonna have longer unbroken strings of hits.) Now she’s divorcing him because he’s a grifter and she’s pretending she didn’t know about it.

4. The fact that the first person we see in this documentary is Danielle ProstitutionWhore Staub absolutely sent me to the moon.

5. I’m ready to fight when somebody owes me $50. If I gave you money, but then I see you on Instagram at the club, I’m ready to fight, because you are drinking the money you should be giving back to me. I cannot imagine the amount of rage in my spirit if I knew you owed me millions and millions of dollars and I see your wife on TV spending my money on hair and makeup and clothes. I would be in jail right now.

6. The fact that Erika is still filming the show is beyond my powers of comprehension. Your husband, who stole money from his clients to fund your career and your image because you wanted to be a celebrity and you wanted to be on a reality TV show, is giving depositions about being broke….and you are still letting the cameras follow you and your $2,000 a day glam squad? Are you joking?

7. She absolutely knew. I think Tom was a grifter long before Erika came into the picture and she genuinely had no knowledge of his business when they got married. I think she was young and saw a meal ticket, which isn’t a judgement of her character. Tom saw youth, beauty, vitality. Erika saw money and stability. And they both like each other. Great partnership. But you cannot convince me that she didn’t put the pieces together over the years and she was just sitting in the dark about everything her husband was doing.

8. And she divorced him so she could shelter his ill-gotten assets under her own corporation.

9. Tom Girardi is going to jail. I don’t know what would make a crook want to go on national television and risk being exposed, but we saw the same thing with Russell Armstrong (and he eventually committed suicide because of the light shown on his shady business due to his wife’s visibility on this same franchise.)

10. This is so dark. I just be trynna watch Housewives for petty arguments and fashions. It feels so dirty watching Erika walk around in Chanel now…

Score: 8/10

 

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Vanity Fair: A Different World: Cast Members and Crew Tell the Oral History

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In 1987, one of television’s most influential shows was born. The stars, writers, and producers look back on their years at Hillman College.

(cont.)

This is faaaannnnntastic!

Random things I did not know:

Meg Ryan was almost cast as Marisa Tomei’s character.

Dawnn Lewis wrote the theme song for A Different World — is that common knowledge?? Am I late?

Jasmine Guy got the role of Whitley and 20 minutes later was sitting at a table read.

A Different World was the #2 show, between Cosby and Cheers. I didn’t realize it had been so big.

Yvette Lee Bowser fought for a job on that show. It was her first one and she was a glorified intern for awhile. And look at her now!

This wasn’t in the article but I just looked it up: A Different World still holds the record for the highest rated premiere pilot.

 

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Watch: Abbott Elementary (ABC) first look teaser

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From “he got money” to “she got top billing over Sheryl Lee Ralph in a network sitcom”

We must AS A FAMILY throw our entire weight behind this show. How often do we see Black people — not beige ones either! — leading a primetime sitcom? That they’re also creating and writing?!

 

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