RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 Episode 8: “Drag Queens Of Comedy”

Making old people laugh is hard. That’s why so many CBS comedies fail.

There’s a cautionary tale in the post-non-elimination sequence here on how you can try to be supportive and still end up being a massive asshole. For the most part, everyone’s pleased that Ru declared a non-elimination in the last episode, because they didn’t think that Ben deserved to go home. Courtney, however, expresses this in the worst possible way, screeching that she was about to scream “WRONG DECISION!” if Ru had actually sent Ben home, as it looked like she was about to. The thing with that is that whether intentionally or otherwise, it suggests pretty heavily that Courtney thought Darienne should have gone home, and that’s exactly how Darienne takes the comment. (And while I realise that the quality of a lip-sync is entirely subjective, based on both performances, I think Darienne definitely deserved to say over Ben if it was necessary to send one of them home.) However, while Darienne has a legitimate grievance, Laganja not so much, so it’s extremely awkward when she complains that nobody is congratulating her and Adore for their win. Laganja never met a room she could read, and it’s entirely shocking to her that the reason for this is because everyone thinks she didn’t earn it, and only got the win because she was on the same team as Adore. Cue more weepy confessionals from Laganja about how she is the fiercest queen here and she’s totally going to show them all by winning it all. It really is quite a talent to be so lacking in perception that you make Phi Phi O’Hara look self-aware.

Now, the good thing about a new day is that it gives you a chance to reflect on how you presented yourself to the world the day before, and whether maybe you could do things differently. Unless you’re Laganja, of course, who decides that she did everything right in the workroom and in fact should dial it up a bit by marching in the next day wearing a No Smoking sign IN HER HAIR. Every single piece of her schtick is making the rest of the queens twitch, until the point where Bianca breaks at hearing “mama” for the 974th time and snaps back “I’m not your mama!” Fortunately/unfortunately, Bianca’s ensuing smackdown is interrupted by the arrival of the mini-challenge, where the queens are asked to stick googly eyes onto their chins and lip-sync upside down. (Some of these mini-challenges feel a bit like the producer just ran into Hobbycraft on the way to the studio that morning.) Because it’s kind of an easy challenge everybody does fairly well – the most noteworthy moments are one of Adore’s eyes falling off into her mouth mid-challenge, which she responds to by licking the other one off as well, and Joslyn sticking a hilariously ratty “wig” on her chin, which ultimately nets her the win. As her prize, she gets to choose what order the contestants will perform in for this week’s stand-up comedy challenge. Ah, the old “poisoned chalice” prize. Poor Joslyn.

So everyone starts out on their routines, which naturally feature LOTS OF FUCKING SWEARING, and just as I’m starting to think “this is an oddly straightforward challenge”, Ru reveals the edge to this particular challenge – that they’ve bussed in a load of senior citizens, so the queens will need to make sure that their routine is appropriate for such an audience. Adore in particular is horrified, because all of her favourite words are swears. After everyone finishes frantically removing all the worst excesses of their routines, Joslyn announces an order that seems pretty fair…

First up is Darienne, and I think that’s a very good decision on Joslyn’s part. You need to start off the proceedings with a safe pair of hands, and Darienne’s self-effacing wit goes down well with the crowd. Predictably, she has a lot of big-girl jokes, but she has a good one about her hilariously neglectful childhood as well (asking her mother if she was dropped on her head as a child and receiving the response “you need to be held to be dropped!”). She gives the audience a bit of lighthearted shade about their age and gets a warm response from the crowd generally. Courtney is on second (and considers this to be shade from Joslyn for not giving her a better slot, but I suspect Courtney would’ve said that about any slot that wasn’t the top of the bill), and most of her material is pretty weak (although I did like her “as you’ve guessed from my accent, I’m from Idaho” joke – hey, oldies are goodies”). After some mediocre patter, she bursts into an ostensibly comic song – and while I’m all for trying to tailor a challenge to your own strengths, it’s not a particularly funny song, so it just reads a bit desperate. Adore is on third, and has a very chaotic energy to her performance – it’s needy in a Lee Evans-sort of way, where she validates that aspect by constantly drawing attention to it. She gets some scattered laughs, but the whole thing is a little uncomfortable because she seems to get more nervous whenever she doesn’t get the reaction she expected. Still, she likened herself to a “Mexican Katy Perry” and repeatedly calls her own grandmother a whore, and that’s never not funny.

Easily the worst performance of the night comes from Ben. In the workroom, Ben blathered on about delivering a “blanket narrative” (and Darienne’s loud, sarcastic laugh in response ended up being funnier than anything in Ben’s actual act), which is exactly the sort of over-analytic self-justifying nonsense I’ve come to expect from Ben at this point, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how awful her act would be – she rambles on like a poor man’s Rue McClanahan for what feels like an hour, occasionally approaching a punchline but never actually meeting it head-on, until it gets to the point where someone in the audience actually shouts “SO TELL US A JOKE!” and Ben takes that as her cue to leave. (It’s a slightly abrupt edit there, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Ben’s act actually did continue for a bit after the heckle, but if it did, neither the show nor the “full performance” video online showed any of it, so I can only work with what I’m given.) Ben is followed by Laganja, who appears not to have bothered to tailor any of her material to her audience, schticking her away all over the stage, ending every sentence with “OWCURRRRRRRR” and talking about her drug use and how super-gay she is. Frankly, I’m surprised she wasn’t heckled. Or bottled.

It’s Trinity, who’s the real revelation – for starters, she instantly transforms the dead energy of the room after Ben and Laganja bombed by getting the audience to stand up and applaud her for managing to get into the damn dress in the first place. They’re eating out of the palm of her hand from then on, and she goes on to deliver probably the second-funniest routine of the night. Like Darienne, she goes to the “troubled childhood” role, but makes gold out of the idea of her family having so little food that her mother used to read cookbooks to them, and crowns it with a zinger about her sister dying of starvation after she caught an ear infection. (I know that hunger and child death don’t exactly sound super-lulzy, but trust me when I say that Trinity’s delivery sold it.) For someone who’s had so much trouble in any challenge that’s required her to articulate herself, Trinity soars here, and easily becomes the most-improved queen in the competition. She’s followed by Joslyn, who starts with a good gag about attention deficit OOH SHINY, and follows it up with a joke about how she’s worked out that Workroom Ru and Judge Ru are the same person because you never see them together (the show plays this one as a dud but hey, it made me laugh). Of course, Bianca gets the prime slot at the end and absolutely slays – she starts out by mocking herself, which makes it easy to then segue into reading everyone else to filth, culminating in saying that the judges want her to show versatility: “I’ll show versatility when Santino wins a sewing competition and Visage wears a fucking turtleneck.”

At judging: Darienne is applauded for delivering a routine that got the audience on board straight away, while the judges are aware that Courtney basically changed the remit of the challenge but think that she just about got away with it. Adore is told that she needs more self-belief, and Ben is criticised for a poor routine (and also for looking like a tired-ass showgirl in her ridiculous outfit) and Michelle tells her once again that she still doesn’t know who she is. At this point I’m starting to think that the problem is that we actually do know who Ben is, she’s just super-dull. Laganja is criticised for her inappropriate and unfunny routine, which prompts Laganja to start sniffling about how she’s not used to this and people always love her when she performs at home. At this point, Ru has clearly HAD ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT and basically tells Laganja that THIS IS NOT YOUR FUCKING NIGHTCLUB, BITCH and that the criticisms they are giving her are valid critiques and not just things they’re making up for the sake of filling in airtime on a TV show. Now, if anything in this season merited a “YESSSS MAMA”, it was that. From the ridiculous to the sublime, Ru then gets all choked up at how wonderfully Trinity performed and how she’s finally realising her potential in the competition. Joslyn gets criticised for putting herself in the running order right before Bianca, because Bianca overshadowed her (even though that’s not really something Joslyn could’ve known about ahead of time), and also gets dinged for starting well but quickly running out of steam. And of course Bianca was awesome, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

Darienne and Trinity are declared safe, and Bianca wins the challenge. Courtney gets the “mediocre safe” call immediately afterwards, as does Adore. Laganja is told that she’s lip-syncing, then Ben gets told that she’s safe, and Joslyn will be lip-syncing against Laganja, and frankly that is some bullshit right there. Joslyn’s act had its flaws, but at least the panel acknowledged that she landed one good joke, which is one more than Ben managed the entire time. And Joslyn wasn’t HECKLED OFF THE DAMN STAGE, either. I don’t often question the bottom two on this show, but this one made little sense to me. Anyway, Joslyn goes up against Laganja to Pink’s ‘Stupid Girls’, and while Laganja puts up a good fight (including having a second wig underneath her wig, which nobody cares about because it’s already been done), Joslyn is more than her equal – the other queens are delighted when both Laganja and Joslyn pull out a split drop at the exact same moment in the middle eight, mostly because it means there’s absolutely nothing Laganja can do in this to draw attention away from Joslyn. Afterwards, Laganja mutters “please don’t send me home” repeatedly under her breath, but to no avail – Joslyn stays. Before Ru can say anything else, Laganja puns that she will be the first queen on the show to “chassé away” and then does so, although everyone on the internet seems to hate Laganja so much that they refused to understand that she was making a joke. Mind you, Laganja does have a cloth ear for comedy so it’s not entirely surprising.

And in Untucked: now that the judges have pointed out that Laganja’s personality is annoying and fake, everyone else declares open season on her. Weirdly, Bianca is pretty quiet at first and just sits there quietly sipping her drink while everyone else goes to town on how awful Laganja is. Then they go off to the gold bar where Joslyn gets an adorable message from her adorable fiancé and cries a bit about her dead nephew (which I feel merited slightly more airtime than it got, just to make sense of what was obviously a huge trauma), and then everyone good-naturedly takes the piss out of her in the discussion of what Joslyn Fox might wear on her wedding day. THEN finally Bianca figures that it’s now or never with Laganja and basically tells her that everything she’s ever done on the show has been calculated for maximum sympathy, up to and including her meltdown on Untucked a few episodes earlier. Adore joins in saying that this Laganja isn’t the Laganja she knows, and Laganja screams that she’s feeling VERY FUCKING ATTACKED right now and goes to cry in the corridor. Nobody goes after her, which I can’t help feeling is not the outcome she anticipated. Courtney deadpans that maaaaaaaaybe they didn’t handle that the best possible way. In less awkward news, Courtney dings Joslyn for her bad drag again but also offers to help her out a bit, which is nice, I guess? Oh, and Joslyn plays cheerleader to Adore and tells her that she wants her to love herself as much as Joslyn loves her, and goes slightly too far in the way Joslyn inevitably does, but it’s still very sweet and frankly if anyone else wins Miss Congeniality at this point (especially Ben Delafuckingcreme), I will kick the fuck off.

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