Words: Thomas Stichbury
Full disclosure: I adore Bob the Drag Queen. Comfortably my fave RuPaul's Drag Race star.
So, I am super-stoked to hop onto a video call with him – then a wee bit embarrassed when the beginning of our interview is interrupted by a massive crack… the sound of my notepad snapping in half, that is (remove your minds from the gutter!).
“You don’t know your own strength,” Bob says. “You’re getting so excited to be around me; I have that effect on men, Stich.”
Strutting into our lives, purse first, Bob won season eight of Drag Race and he has been slaying the game ever since, from appearances in Netflix’s Tales of the City and HBO hit We’re Here, to co-hosting podcast Sibling Rivalry with his drag sister Monét X Change.
The non-binary comic and actor (who uses the pronouns he/she) never fails to bring the funny.
Naturally, I ask Bob, 34, what his go-to joke is. “I really don’t think I should tell it. I can if you want to, but…” he warns. I (regrettably) urge Bob on, as he launches into a long – like, really long – anecdote involving ping-pong balls.
“It’s a great joke, because it really upsets people, ‘I can’t believe I listened to that whole thing,'” he cackles. “I’ll give you one that’s a little bit shorter."
"There is this lobster on the beach and he’s making love to this oyster. After the lobster is done and has scurried away, I go up to the oyster: ‘I don’t want to sound bigoted or small-minded, but I’ve never seen this; I always thought it was lobster and lobster, or oyster and oyster. Why are you so attracted to this lobster?’ She goes, ‘Well, when he comes up behind me, puts his one claw right here, and his other claw right – my pearls! MY PEARLS!’”
OK, Bob (ahem) clawed it back, as we move on to finding out about a few of his favourite things...
Credit: Jacob Ritts
Because you’re kinda funny… who is your favourite comedy performer?
Chris Rock. His social commentaries, his cadence, his voice; everything about his stage performance is brilliant. I think the same about Wanda Sykes. She is an amazing comedian – her takes on social issues, even down to her voice, it augments itself to comedy.
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is a brilliant read… It’s written in letters and Celie is learning to write over the course of the book, so it starts off almost unintelligible, but by the end she is the most articulate person in the world.
Favourite character from film, TV, theatre or literature? Just pick one from across the different mediums.
Have I been too long-winded for you, Stich?! Are you like, please don’t go on a rant about ping pong balls? [Laughs]. I really do love Celie from The Color Purple.
She experiences the truest love there is. It’s a great love story, but it’s not about getting the man or getting the girl you love, it’s about loving yourself. What’s more beautiful than a love story about learning how to love yourself?
I’m going to have such a basic b*tch answer, but laughter. As a comedian, if you don’t hear chuckles, you’re probably not doing a good job. I love to hear people laughing and I love to laugh myself. There’s something biological about it too; you know, it gives you serotonin because you’re giving someone pleasure and joy.
Cake. Baked goods. But not fabricated scents, like a cookie candle. I have a really sensitive stomach in regard to smells; if I go to a Bath & Body Works, it makes my stomach hurt. Or the other day, my boyfriend was burning candles and it made me ill. I had to go for a walk.
My favourite smell is burnt toast. Except that one time I had a stroke…
You know my favourite smell honestly? Cocaine. I just love the way it smells. I’m not even addicted to it, it just smells so good [Laughs].
Credit: Jacob Ritts
I have two. My favourite quote is, “Everything works out in the end and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” I try to keep that in mind. I also love, “When receiving advice, consider the source” – I came up with that one myself. I really think about that a lot when someone gives advice; I look at them, do I want to be like you? When the answer is no, then I just don’t take their advice.
Rutabaga. There’s something about it that just tickles me pink… it would be my safe word if I ever needed one, but no one’s ever pushed me that far!
Mine is now 'norbiz'.
Work! I love that.
Favourite possession? But you can’t say your phone, your iPad, your laptop, anything tech-y.
I left my phone on top of my assistant’s car the other day and she drove all the way home with it on her car. And I’ve lost two laptops in the past four years, so obviously I don’t love them enough to not lose them… My crown and sceptre are probably my prized possessions.
Did you win Drag Race?
[Pause] I did. You’re so ridiculous [laughs]. What a monster!
Favourite date spot?
Nothing is better than staying in. Nothing will ever top staying in. I’m telling you I was ahead of the curve. I do enjoy, from time to time, going out and dancing, but it doesn’t feel romantic. I just love dancing and maybe a kiss on the dancefloor is nice. But then there’s the journey home; we could have been snogging by now, as they say across the pond. Where are you living right now?
I am currently back living with my folks in East London. Really nailing life at 35.
Hey, it happens. A lot of people moved in with their parents during lockdown. East London? Very Bimini Bon Boulash.
Credit: Jacob Ritts
Favourite drag item in your wardrobe? Is it a purse by any chance?
My favourite drag item is this yellow gown that I got from Diego Montoya. I’ve actually only worn it one time… for my Pride series, two Prides ago.
Favourite lie you ever told? Maybe it’ll be that you’re enjoying this interview.
[Laughs] I never said that! I’m just kidding. When I was a kid, I was a little liar and obsessed with attention – this may shock you. I remember we were reading about weather and when a tornado touches down on water, how it makes a cyclone in the air.
I really wanted to relate to them somehow, so I told my class that one of these cyclones had picked me up... I was outside, my dad was screaming, “Get inside!” and then one of the water tornados landed on me and knocked me down. I stood up and I had a fish in each hand, and I walked into the house and said, “I got dinner.”
I said that to my whole class. I even drew a picture of it. My teacher must have been like, “What the f**k is this kid on?!”
Favourite LGBTQ icon?
Ma Rainey, Langston Hughes, Sylvester – Sylvester saved me from getting eliminated on Drag Race, so let’s go with that one.
Favourite Drag Race queen?
Monét X Change and it’s completely unbiased. Monét is a really brilliant drag queen; she’s funny, smart, talented, beautiful, ambitious; and she can sing, dance, sew, and do makeup. Before Monét, it was Alaska.
Favourite person on the planet?
My mum. We talk a lot; I don’t know how often is a lot. I mean, you probably talk to your mum more than I do.
[Laughs] Is it too soon, Stich? I’m sorry.
Buying my mum a car when she needed one. That felt nice. That felt like I had accomplished something, you know. Buying my mum that car was a really lovely moment; it felt like I was able to provide for my family. I mean, I did tell her she had to drive Uber to pay it off...