In 2019, tickets to Bianca Del Rio’s “It’s Jester Joke” show in Manila sold out in a day and there was so much clamor for more tickets that LA Comedy Live had to add a second night.
But that shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, the winner of the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been known to sell out all kinds of venues—including Carnegie Hall and Wembley Arena. Unlike many drag queens, Del Rio doesn’t need to lip sync or do death drops to keep her audience captivated. She does so with her razor-sharp wit and unapologetic brand of stand-up comedy.
Bianca Del Rio (Roy Haylock out of drag), a former theater costume designer who’s also starred in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” on the West End, is considered the Joan Rivers of drag. She’s undeniably one of the most successful queens to come out of the “Drag Race” franchise.
But even this hardworking queen’s life was put on halt by COVID.
“In those dark times, you just assumed that you’re never going to work again, you’re never going to leave the house and no one’s going to know who you are when you go back on the road,” Del Rio told Lifestyle earlier this week.
But her fears were unfounded. Bianca Del Rio has been taking “Unsanitized,” her fifth solo show, all over the world and the reception has been warm, to say the least. “I’ve had one of my most successful tours. We were very lucky with the pandemic—out of 124 shows, we only had to cancel one.”
Tickets to the Manila leg of “Unsanitized” sold out so quickly that LA Comedy Live had to add another show again.
In this interview held backstage at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit Makati hours before her first show, Del Rio talked to us about her Manila memories, life on the road and the lessons she learned from the pandemic.
What do you remember from the last time you were in Manila?
The fanfare. I don’t often experience it on that level in America or in the UK, but here and in South America, the fans are extremely passionate … You don’t realize the global impact of the show or of people knowing who you are. Of course, there’s Instagram followers and people who like your photos, but you don’t expect to run into those people.
I watched “Unsanitized” in LA last November and I was so happy to discover that the pandemic hasn’t softened your comedy.
No, the pandemic hasn’t softened much, not even my face. It’s been wild.
After 124 shows, how has life been on the road, and how exhausted are you?
I’m actually not bad. After coming out of the pandemic, I’ve said yes to everything. I was like, “Let’s go, let’s go.” What the pandemic has taught me is to say yes to everything and just be grateful for what you have, because you know how quickly all of it can disappear.
How do you relax between shows?
Well, it varies. I drink, which helps … But there hasn’t been much relaxing with this particular schedule. When I come over here or when I’m in Australia, I do get moments to fly, which we don’t normally do because in America we’re on a tour bus. Flying is relaxing—to get on that plane to have a drink and pass out and wake up in the next city.
So you enjoy flying?
Yeah, I do. The hardest part is traveling with all the drag. It’s schlepping all the stuff. I guess that’s why they call it drag—you’re dragging suitcase after suitcase everywhere you go.
Do you keep up with “Drag Race”?
I have not. It’s very hard to keep up with all of it. I do know what’s going on through social media … Eventually I’ll have to sit down and watch the series.
What would it take to get you to come back for an “All Stars” season?
I have no desire to go back. I mean, would you go back to high school? I made it through and it was a lovely experience and it’s opened many doors, but I just don’t know if I’d be up for it. I’m happy doing what I’m getting to do now.
“Drag Race” has always had passionate fans in the Philippines, but even more so now because of “Drag Race Philippines.” Any tips for queens who are thinking of joining the next seasons?
I would say, don’t believe the bulls__t that people say about you. You have to take the compliments along with the insults … Try not to compare yourself to someone else. Each person brings something different to the table. As long as you’re interested in what you’re doing and having a good time … Try not to get into your head about it. It’s hard when you read the comments. The hardest part for most people is, people believe what they see on “Drag Race,” which can be very damaging … You have to stay true to what you love the most, and that’s probably the best way to get through it.
Do you tweak your shows based on your audience?
Always … If you had political jokes about Donald Trump, it wouldn’t work so well in the UK, so you would switch it to Boris Johnson, or if you’re in Brazil, it’s Bolsonaro. You have to give them something to relate to.
Is it harder to be a comedian in an increasingly politically correct world?
Oh, I don’t give a f__k.
So nothing is off-limits?
If you don’t get it and you don’t like it, that’s fine. Go and live your life. You know what happens to people who are offended? They f__king die. So why do I care about your opinion, offensiveness, or what you think is problematic? You don’t like it, change the channel. Don’t come to the show. It’s very easy.
What makes you laugh?
Stupid people on the internet. (Laughs) Anything that’s funny, even if it’s at my expense, that I enjoy. What’s most important is that you have to find a joke in everything because the world is pretty f__ked up. Especially after this pandemic. You have to find the humor in it because if not, it’s really a depressing world. Anything and everything makes me laugh.
Do you Google yourself?
No. Why? Should I? Is there something I should see?
I want to read something to you.
“There is nothing in the world that terrifies me more than Bianca Del Rio.”
Wait, someone wrote something? Is this you?
No it wasn’t me.
“Every time I see her face I am sent into cardiac arrest. She looks like a great white shark, her shiny teeth and piercing eyes shooting bullets through my soul. If I saw Bianca Del Rio in public, I would probably sh-t my pants within a millisecond and pass out, proceeding to drown in my own sh_t.”
That was written by my assistant, wasn’t it? (laughs) Now that’s brilliant. I’ve never been compared to a shark, but that’s a good description. I try not to Google myself but now I’m fascinated by it. I must tell you though, if anything horrible gets written on Reddit, I will always have Darienne Lake, no matter what, send me a screenshot, “Look what they said.” I’m like, “You f__king bitch.” She will send me anything hateful people write, which I think is lovely. But that’s the thing, you can’t get wrapped up in that because it’s crazy. There’s somebody out there that hates you. And for me there’s many.
Let’s go the opposite direction—what’s the weirdest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
In the beginning, I received several gifts, and one of the gifts was a catheter for me to use on my long flights. Yeah, she actually sent me a catheter thinking this would be appropriate. And there were also some VHS tapes and some baby clothes. (laughs) Wow.
You’ve seen the tattoos people have of you?
Yes. I have no tattoos anywhere because it’s too permanent. There was a girl who had my face on her thigh. Anybody that goes near her vagina has to see my face. That is scary.
What’s next after “Unsanitized”?
I get a short little break to regroup. I have to have some surgery on my feet because after many years of drag, my feet are like, “F__k you.” And there’s a couple of things that I’ve already filmed and did that will be coming out in the new year. We’re doing “Hurricane Bianca” number three next year. But there are lots of television and film projects that are happening that I can’t really give you too much information about yet.
What are you looking forward to the most about getting home?
Seeing my dogs Sammy and Dede. Dede has her birthday coming up in November. She turns 17. Sammy is already 17. They’re still kicking in California with my dog sitter. I’ve got two more weeks on the road and then I’m back home with them.