The new (sur)reality series from Hulu, Drag me to dinneris a multi-layered meta-production, a show that breaks the fourth wall in a show within a show – part iron bosspart carol burnetpart laughpart between two fernsand many parts RuPaul’s Draxg Raceas the alumni of this latest hit series compete to throw the ultimate Pride Month dinner party.
Justices Neil Patrick Harris, drag race Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio and actress Haneefah Wood, along with emcee Murray Hill and counselor David Burtka are well aware that the premiere of Drag me to dinner– which co-executive producer Harris says he and her husband, professional chef Burtka, tried to get made “for the better part of five years” – comes at a difficult time, with the rights of drag performers and of the LGBTQ+ community under attack across the country. But speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, they explain how this show can provide much-needed comic relief and enlightenment in dark times.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric that happens every four years in election cycles, regardless of the circumstances,” Harris muses. “People are trying to find a foothold in what makes us different. We love individuality. We celebrate everyone. … We’re just proud of the show, and if anybody wants to point, they should point at a remote and press Hulu and press Drag me to dinner and watch it and laugh, and maybe learn a thing or two.
Bianca, who descends from the classic Catskills comedy/cabaret tradition of Joan Rivers and Don Rickles, unsurprisingly answers a little more candidly when she asks about the current political climate. As the winner of one of RuPaul’s drag racethe most popular seasons and, depending on new York magazine’s power list, America’s most successful drag queen, she has a lot to say about the current drag backlash – which seems to be happening just as the once underground art form of drag has hit mass critical thanks to mainstream infiltration, sweeping the Emmys drag race franchise.
“Let’s be real here. It’s like we’re not that threatening. And that’s all for entertainment,” says Del Rio. “It’s not for everyone, but it is entertainment. It’s almost like watching a movie – some are R-rated, some are PG-13, some are G-rated. … We can’t shut down all forms of entertainment because a certain group doesn’t like it. So that’s what it is. Take [Drag Me to Dinner] for what it’s about: drag queens having a great time, battling for possibly the worst prize ever in tv history [a golden cheese-grater, which is a far cry from the RuPaul’s Drag Race’s current prize of two-hundred-thousand dollahs.] And they still showed up and dragged themselves to make it happen. It is what it is. It’s not so much a political statement or we’re trying to change the world, it’s just reminding everyone that drag is entertainment. Back to Milton Berle. Back to Flip Wilson. What, it’s OK when right men do it? It is entertainment. And I think some people just need to get the stick out of their ass and enjoy it.
“I think the whole flirting explosion is fantastic, and I think sometimes when people don’t know enough about something, they get scared,” says Burtka, who feels light as TV fare. Drag me to dinner can educate the public. “There is a naivety in that. When there’s a lot going on, I think they want to point fingers. But I say leave them. It’s a party of drag. …We only chose girls who were hilarious and who were comedy queens first and foremost. There are a lot of queens who are Instagram girls and have no sense of humor, but it was really, really important to have girls who can stand on their own and be able to sell themselves and produce a segment. And it was super important for us to show that these girls are smart. They may not come through so smart, but they know exactly what they’re doing! They know exactly how they are portrayed or what they are doing to make this segment funny. It was fun for us to show this to the world, and honestly just for laughs. It’s really important right now. I think we should all learn from these girls how to celebrate life.
“We have, regardless of the circumstances, always thought drag performers are so fun, positive, enjoyable and hilarious,” adds Harris. “Every time we watch them, we smile and dance, and the people around us have a great time, period. And so we thought it was worth showing it to everyone – the drag fans, people who had never seen drag before and everyone in between.
Hill, a legendary East Village comedian and drag king who has been performing since the 90s, is particularly optimistic about how drag entertainment can foster change and acceptance — if more conservative viewers just give in. Drag me to dinner a chance. “I think so will bechange people’s minds, but I feel like representation is important. So the fact that we’re even on TV and we’re 100% supported by Hulu, which is absolutely fantastic, is a step in the right direction,” he says. “They are not backing down. They don’t pull queer programming like other networks do and all that. So I think it’s a political statement in the sense that we just have a chance to be visible, and we all are who we are.
“I think all this legislation is a trick…. it’s based on fear. If the people who are afraid of us actually see us and spend time with us, they realize that we have hearts, that we breathe the same air and that we are fun and generous people — except For [veteran underground queen and Drag Me to Dinner contestant] Jackie Beat!” Hills continues jokingly. “So I think it’s important for us to show people that we’re people first. You know, some people are afraid of Bianca – and This logic! But we have to show people that we have joy. We have trans joy, we have drag joy, we have female joy. We are happy people and we love people. That’s it.”
“Every time you look [the Drag Me to Dinner queens], you see something that everyone is proud of. And I think especially that June is going to be Pride month, that seems like a great option of things to watch,” Harris says. “And they will learn how not to make a braise. So this is it.
Learn more about Yahoo Entertainment:
Follow Lyndsey on Facebook, Twitter, instagram, Amazon