The Go-Out Girls (Ep. 198 - Alaska Thunderf*ck)

This Week’s Guest: Alaska Thunderf*ck and Jeremy

alaska promo image.jpg

We've got a special two for one deal on this episode: Drag Race star Alaska, and her friend and collaborator Jeremy. With a friendship dating back to their weird college days, Alaska and Jeremy recently released an album of songs called Amethyst Journey that is surprisingly sweet and folksy. We talk about all about their early influences, watching Rocky Horror together on a little laptop screen, and also the creation of Alaska, the time they sang Dolly Parton songs so loud the cops were called, and also how Alaska bombed her first audition from drag race -- plus we'll also have a very brief cameo from Alaska's mom.

Because of their busy travel schedule, Alaska and Jeremy were only able to do an interview from the road, so you'll hear a little background noise in our interview. I've cleaned up the sound quality a bit and I hope it doesn't distract too much from their fabulous stories.

Also, speaking of The Rocky Horror Picture Show -- I posted a brand new video in my Culture Cruise series last week. It's a deep dive on how that film went from being a commercial failure to a cultural phenomenon, and why it's such an important midnight movie for outcasts and weirdos. Head over to YouTube and search for Rocky Horror Culture Cruise to watch that.

And we're just a few days away from our weeklong livestream of games, a fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital! Starting on October 28, I'll be hosting a big gay game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Comedian Bryan Safi, Culture Critic Carlos Maza, Writer Anthony Oliveira, and Scholar Bryan Wuest. Then I'll be streaming games every day from October 29 to November 3. And on Sunday, November 4th, join us for another game of D&D featuring the drag queen cast of Queens of Adventure in full drag! We'll be serving looks, interacting with viewers, and encouraging everyone to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital -- 100% of everything you give goes straight to the hospital. Get the details and watch us live at bit.ly/extralifeseattle. See you starting October 28.

BTW, I hope you'll also join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat, with special guest Seattle drag superstar Arson Nicki. It’s Saturday October 27 at 2pm pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

Head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode of the show. And for more queer podcasting, check out Queens Of Adventure to hear drag queens on an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest. That’s at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week’s Recommendation: The Drag Roast of Heklina

Thanks again to Alaska and Jeremy for joining me for a lovely chat. If you're looking for more fun times with Alaska, check out the drag roast of Heklina -- a live show at the Castro theater that was filmed, and is now popping up at queer film festivals and occasionally online.

Alaska's joined onstage by drag legends Peaches Christ, Jackie Beat, Jinkx Monsoon, and why not, the Julie Brown who is not downtown. They are all merciless in their attacks on Heklina and each other, and when I watched the video in a theater last week, there were almost as many gasps as there were laughs. It is also, of course, hilarious and occasionally heartfelt, as when Peaches concludes her roasting with a genuine recognition that she can't imagine life without her good friend.

But mostly it's one solid punch line after another. I'm not usually a fan of the roast, since for heaven't sake the world is mean enough already. But behind the teasing at this particular show was a deep affection, and a camaraderie that comes of having spent years together in the smallest subculture of a subculture of a subculture.

Moving as they do in a very small community, performers like Alaska and Jinkx and Heklina get to know each other better than most friends or coworkers or even family. And when they get up on stage to tease each other, it's like a little glimpse into a private world we rarely get to see -- at least not at such length. The fact that they all laugh at each other's quips and insults lets us know there's no harm done, it's all said out of love, and they're all in on the joke. And now, as an extension of their queer performer family, we are too.

Stuff We Talked About

There's no Comedy Without Conflict (Ep. 197 - Improv)

This Week’s Guest: Michael Henry

michael promo image.jpg

How do you muster the nerve to keep going when it seems like the odds are stacked against you? My guest this week picked up some life advice from improv comedy -- in particular, the lesson to say yes and then heighten whatever's happened so far. Though you may know Michael Henry from his YouTube comedy videos, his acting background is far more serious, and he expected to become a serious dramatic actor. The fact that he could only seem to make audiences laugh troubled him for years -- until he realized he could say yes to comedy, and the unexpected direction it would take him.

We'll have that conversation in a minute. But first I want to invite you to a weeklong livestream of games starting Sunday, October 28! It's the return of Extra Life, an annual fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital. We're kicking the week off with a big gay game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Comedian Bryan Safi, Culture Critic Carlos Maza, Writer Anthony Oliveira, and Scholar Bryan Wuest. Then I'll be streaming games every day from October 29 to November 3. And on Sunday, November 4th, join us for another game of D&D featuring the drag queen cast of Queens of Adventure in full drag! We'll be serving looks, interacting with viewers, and encouraging everyone to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital -- 100% of everything you give goes straight to the hospital. Get the details and watch us live at bit.ly/extralifeseattle. See you starting October 28.

BTW, I hope you'll also join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat, with special guest Seattle drag superstar Arson Nicki. It’s Saturday October 27 at 2pm pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

Head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode of the show. And for more queer podcasting, check out Queens Of Adventure to hear drag queens on an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest. That’s at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week’s Recommendation: Michael’s YouTube Channel

Thanks again to Michael for joining me. You can check out his videos on YouTube, which is my recommendation this week. They're all super short AND YET I keep finding myself spending way too much time clicking through one after another after the next. In particular, look for the video with the startling title "This video is about HIV."

As advertised, the video is about HIV. It's under 2 minutes, but in that time, we see a lightning-fast montage of gay men talking about -- or avoiding -- conversations about sex and health. Not only is it funny, with a solid punchline on average every three seconds, but it is actually one of the most educational and honest lessons on HIV I've seen in a long time, covering topics like testing and PrEP and stigma. What I love about the video is that it jumps through every conversation queer guys need to have about AIDS and feel weird about bringing up -- but hopefully a little less weird after this video deflates the somber attitude around STIs.

But that's not all! There's also a great video about why men call each other masculine nicknames; and another about the privilege of being pretty; one about how straight guys talk to gay guys about whether other men are attractive; and one about deciding whether or not to be a sex object. They're all short and pithy and refer directly to some aspect of queer culture that it is about time someone brought up. As you watch, you may feel about 50% vindicated and 50% called out. Which is about the right balance for any great work of art. Or YouTube video.

My First Job with RuPaul (Ep. 196 - Jamal Terry-Sims)

This Week’s Guest: Jamal Terry-Sims

jamal promo image.jpg

You've seen this week's guest on RuPaul's Drag Race, and you've seen his choreography in Footloose, on the Emmys, and videos and stage shows for Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, and the Spice Girls -- despite having never taken a dance class. Jamal Sims' dream began when he saw The Wiz and knew he needed to be up on stage dancing. And now, after a career spanning nearly three decades, he's shining a spotlight on up-and-comers with the documentary When the Beat Drops.

We'll have that conversation in a minute. But first I want to invite you to a weeklong livestream of games starting Sunday, October 28! It's the return of Extra Life, an annual fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital. We're kicking the week off with a big gay game of Dungeons & Dragons featuring Comedian Bryan Safi, Culture Critic Carlos Maza, Writer Anthony Oliveira, and Scholar Bryan Wuest. Then I'll be streaming games every day from October 29 to November 3. And on Sunday, November 4th, join us for another game of D&D featuring the drag queen cast of Queens of Adventure in full drag! We'll be serving looks, interacting with viewers, and encouraging everyone to donate to Seattle Children's Hospital -- 100% of everything you give goes straight to the hospital. Get the details and watch us live at bit.ly/extralifeseattle. See you starting October 28.

BTW, I hope you'll also join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat, with special guest Trish Bendix -- managing editor of Into, the queer news site that's a part of Grindr. That's on Saturday October 13 at 2pm pacific. There's a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

Head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode of the show. And for more queer podcasting, check out Queens Of Adventure to hear drag queens on an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest. That’s at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week’s Recommendation: The Wiz

Thanks again to Jamal for joining me. He mentioned The Wiz as an early inspiration, and if you haven't seen that film for heaven's sake what are you waiting for. There have been countless iterations of the Wizard of Oz story, from a forgotten 1910 silent film to the the 1939 classic to last year's Emerald City series, cancelled after its first season.

The Wiz originated on Broadway in 1974 before heading to the screen in 1978. It's a uniquely African American take on fantasy worlds, melding contemporary music with black stars and magical cityscapes. The result is a movie infused with beauty and pride, and an empowering finale that in my opinion outdoes Glinda's "you've always had the power" scene from the 1939 version.

The Wiz is pure 70s, and not every moment ages well. But if you buy into the campy disco and Michael's somewhat prolonged clown shtick and a bit of a meander around the middle, you'll be rewarded by a joyful, empowering, uplifting climax that doesn't just belong to Dorothy but to the audience as well.

I've always felt that a weakness of the classic Wizard of Oz is that Dorothy is forced to leave her better world behind and return to the black and white, like her big lesson has been that she was wrong to dream. In the Wiz, Dorothy and the audience see a better world, where its possible to tap into inner strength and literally peel away the disguises that only served as tools of injustice.

As in other tellings, Diana Ross as Dorothy unites with a chosen family. But in this version, she returns home to the city triumphant, empowered, forever changed -- and unwilling to ever participate in her own oppression.

That's a vision that was particularly meaningful to the audiences that The Wiz was addressing in the 1970s. And wouldn't you know it, themes of liberation are still meaningful to this day.

Stuff We Talked About