This Week's Guest: Austin Bull
My guest this week is Austin Bull, also known as the performance artist The Bearded Femme. His stage persona is eye-catching and weird, from vibrant green beards to dressing up as sexualized religious figures. Creating creatures onstage is his way of making sense of a darkness that once threatened to overwhelm him -- and standing up to his own fears.
By the way, this Saturday, November 5th, you can catch me and my partner James livestreaming video games for 24 hours straight. It's a fundraiser for Seattle Children's Hospital, and you can watch and chat and donate as we play Skyrim, Final Fantasy, Smash Brothers, and lots more. While we play, we're asking viewers to chip in a few bucks to support research into childhood diseases. Just go bit.ly/extralifeseattle to watch and donate. We're starting at 9am pacific on November 5 and going straight through to 9am on November 6th. Wish us luck.
Also, James and I are working on a documentary project about queer gamers, and on November 12th we're going to be livestreaming a sneak peek and responding to viewers' questions and comments. If you enjoy the storytelling on Sewers of Paris, you'll want to join us live for Playing with Pride. It's a work in progress, so feedback at this stage can have a huge impact on its future. Just visit PlayingWithPride.com to watch, and to sign up for the latest news on the project as it evolves.
This Week's Recommendation: Dragula
I have seen a lot of drag, and it takes a lot to make me turn my head at this point. So I'm 100% in support of any artist who's embarking on something daring and weird. That's why my cautious recommendation this week is Dragula, a brand new drag-queen elimination show that's kind of Drag Race plus Addams Family plus Marilyn Manson. It's pretty rough around the edges -- but that's kind of the point.
The show just premiered online, and it's the work of LA nightlife creatures The Boulet Brothers and upcoming Sewers of Paris guest Johnny McGovern. Each half-hour episode brings together drag queens of a sort you're unlikely to see on Logo: messy, scary, upsetting, and downright baffling. The show is set in a cemetery, and on the premiere they're challenged to present their best witch looks. The performers come out on stage cackling with skulls, fangs, and spikes, and they're then doused in water to demonstrate their best death.
The judgement begins with a Boulet brother reminding them that "In the Dragula family, we pride ourselves on being outcasts and losers." And there is therefore no winner. There is, however, an extermination, with a few queens called out for their unacceptable use of items like sensible black pumps. Three contestants are then buried alive in coffins and showered through a tube with live insects in pitch blackness until one actually urinates on camera.
If the bright lights and beauty of Drag Race have always rubbed you the wrong way, you'll probably love the catacombs and creatures on Dragula. After being showered in mealworms, one of the contestants explains why she enjoyed herself: "the only thing to do was what I've done my whole life, take something shitty and nightmarish and make it something to laugh about."
That line reminded me of something I once read by Annie Proulx, the author of Brokeback Mountain. Explaining the message of the story, she said, "if you can't fix it, you've got to stand it."
Clips of Stuff We Talked About