Bob the Drag Queen comes to Greater Palm Springs Pride for a Nov. 5 show at Hotel Zoso.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JACOB RITTS
After being crowned the popular winner of season eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen has conquered all they survey.
Since the 2016 win, Bob, who identifies as non-binary, has gained more than one million Instagram followers, launched a successful music career with the song, “Purse First” garnering more than three million views on YouTube, starred in Berkeley Rep’s production of Angels in America, hosts the popular podcast Sibling Rivalry with drag sister Monét X Change, and co-starring with fellow Drag Race contestants Eureka O'Hara and Shangela in the Emmy Award-winning HBO reality series We’re Here. During Greater Palm Springs Pride weekend, Bob will perform at Hotel Zoso on Nov. 5.
Bob chatted with Palm Springs Life about the controversy over Drag Queen Story Hours, the legacy of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and their upcoming Greater Palm Springs Pride shows.
What can fans expect from your performances during Pride weekend?
It's interesting that at this point in my career, a lot of people still don’t know that I’m a standup comedian. You know what I mean? I’m like a tried and true 14-year standup comedian. So, they can expect straight-up standup. If you like to laugh, if you like to have fun, if you’re a fan of mine or even if you’re just curious about what the hell is Bob doing these days, this would be a great chance to come find out.
Where do you find inspiration for your standup material?
Definitely in my life experiences. My mother, my observations, political humor as well.
How do you handle hecklers?
I don't really get a lot of hecklers. I got to be honest. I don’t get heckled that often. People who come to my shows are there because they really want to have fun. I guess I get the occasional drunk, who’s really trying to show off. Maybe this will be the show where I get a heckler and maybe my confrontational language is acts of violence. We'll see.
That’s going to sell tickets.
Yes, “Bob has promised to punch one person.”
When you’re doing standup, is everything written and rehearsed or do you improvise based on your audience?
Well, I've written my jokes. There are moments where I'm improvising, but I am a real standup comedian, so I have jokes that I've written and have worked on over the years. So, it's not just me winging it on stage. I actually am writing my material.
You mentioned some of the material comes from your mother. I know that you essentially grew up around a drag bar. What are some of your most vivid memories of that experience?
I think having a mother who owned a drag bar as a kid — it wasn't a huge part of my life. It was like, I think maybe three years when I was a kid. But I will say, it was very interesting.
People are always like, “your mom owned a drag bar? What?” It is very interesting, to be fair. But I just grew up with a lot of great influence, so I didn't have a fear of rejection as a little queer kid, which is really lovely to not have that fear that I would be rejected by my mother. I'm also not the first queer person in my family. I was very lucky to have other trailblazers in my bloodline before me.
Can you give them a shout out?
Yeah. My uncle is queer. My mom is queer. I have queer cousins. I have some young queer cousins that I’m very grateful to have in my life. I have a very queer family.
You won season eight of RuPaul's Drag Race. Why do you think this series has become this incredible worldwide cultural phenomenon?
It just came at the perfect time when people needed something like this, and it offers something that people felt like they weren’t able to get anywhere else. I think that people can see themselves. I think that a lot of it has to do with just perfect timing, right people, right place, right time. I think RuPaul really used her platform to highlight all these artists. I think Drag Race might actually have more artists than any show in television history. I think it has actually launched the careers of more people than maybe any show. I can’t think of another show that has done this, or this many queer people. Like, it launched people who are literally international superstars and travel the world.
Besides that, what do you think is the cultural impact? Has it broken down barriers for people and made queer people more acceptable to conservatives?
I think that because Drag Race exists, other shows have been able to exist. I also want to point out that lots of TV shows and things made Drag Race possible. I think that Paris is Burning [the 1990 documentary about drag ball culture] made Drag Race possible, which probably put other shows on the map. I think that every time a queer moment happens in the time space continuum, it basically generates more opportunities for queer people down the line.
Drag brunches have become very popular in Palm Springs and many other cities. To what do you attribute this popularity?
What’s gayer than Palm Springs? And everyone loves brunch so mix some drag queens in there, and you’re going to get a raucous time. I’ve been to a few drag brunches. Imagine if I had never been to a drag brunch.
How do you feel about conservative politicians wanting to ban Drag Queen Story Hour for kids?
They’re acting like a Drag Queen Story Hour is this problem sweeping the nation where just hundreds of kids are being forced to listen to someone wearing a sparkly outfit tell a story. I also don't know what they think these drag queens are doing in these Drag Queen Story Hours. But sometimes conservatives will get up in arms about anything. They were mad because Katy Perry wore a leotard on Sesame Street one time. It seems like maybe they need something to do. You’re mad because Katy Perry wore a leotard? I don't know if you remember this, it was years ago. Katy Perry wore a leotard on Sesame Street, and they were going crazy.
And I was like, it’s a fucking leotard. What are we even arguing about? This is literally what a kid would wear at a gymnastics meet. You know what I mean? They just kind of nitpick and decide when things are bad based on who's doing it and when they’re doing it. They didn’t have any problems with Trump, a known adulterer, who's been married 13 times, doing all the... It’s very picky and choosy.
Have you spent much time in Palm Springs?
Not a ton of time, no. I did Palm Springs Pride a couple of years ago. But no, I don't spend a ton of time in Palm Springs. I went to Trixie (Mattel)'s motel opening. And I visit Bianca Del Rio, who lives out in Palm Springs, sometimes.
What have you enjoyed about being in the desert?
I like the queer culture around it. And I like my friends that I visited there. I don’t think I’ve done a whole lot of the stuff there is to do in Palm Springs. Usually when I go, it’s usually because I’m visiting one person that I know and love, but I have not done a ton of stuff, if I’m being completely honest, in Palm Springs. I haven't gone to do the touristy stuff.
Are there any standout restaurants in Palm Springs for you?
I usually eat at my friends’ house. We order Domino’s Pizza. I know for a fact there’s a great Domino's Pizza in Palm Springs. I can vouch for that.