One night Bianca Del Rio was performing in storied Carnegie Hall. The next night she was in Pittsburgh at a venue with folding chairs. But rather than complaining, Roy Haylock, Bianca’s alter ego, said in a recent interview, “It keeps me real.”
Recalling her sold-out evening on NYC’s 57th Street and 7th Avenue, Haylock stated “It’s insane on so many levels. Being a little theater fag, it was a kinda surreal experience.”
The evening’s introduction by uber-power couple Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka certainly added to the surreality (“Doogie meets Bianca!”), especially with their joking mention of multiple blow-jobs.
Coming out to a standing ovation, Haylock acknowledged how satisfying it was “seeing all these people who’ve seen me when I was performing for free in all the clubs in Hell’s Kitchen,” but after a second of letting that sink in “now you have to take them where you want to go.”
Asked about what it was like to be on a stage where Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra and so many other legends have performed, Haylock responded “In the moment, I was a 7-year-old boy going “Oh, my god! Oh, my god!”, but then I just piled into it and went into beast mode.”
That beast started off by stating that she was “filling in for Placido Domingo who got fired for using Renee Fleming as a finger puppet.”
Bianca then went from one Renee to another as Renee Zellweger’s film Judy had just opened. Standing where Ms. Garland had once stood she pronounced that the singer’s popularity endures because “guys like to cum to the Man Who Got Away.”
The RuPaul’s Drag Race winner continued to get big laughs after every joke even on seemingly verboten topics. Not too many other comics can get away with a line like “Cancer is funny if you don’t have it.”
“I love not knowing what’s going to happen, to float without a net,” the Gretna native said with a kind of wicked glee. “And if you’re floating at Carnegie Hall, it’s not too fucking bad.”
Yet I wondered how Haylock puts together It’s Jester Joke, his current tour which is coming to the Orpheum Theater here. To get a solid hour of guffaws from hundreds of people can’t be easy.
“It comes from a place of just writing things down,” the four-time Ambie Award winner said. “I start with thoughts and themes, and adapt as I go to different countries. What works in Australia may not work at Carnegie Hall. The trick is to have more than you need in your head.”
Haylock had notes on a table on stage at Carnegie Hall but that alone provided much humor as he discovered that, unlike at his other venues, absolutely nothing gets done at Carnegie Hall except by union people. That includes moving a table even slightly. A threat to make them the butt of his rapier wit got the union rules relaxed a bit.
If Haylock doesn’t cover all of his notes at any given performance, he doesn’t seem to care. “Each night is different,” he said adding, “the trick is to create 10 jokes and hope 9 hit. I like to create hit-and-run comedy. That’s why the topics are so random, you have to maneuver your way through the show’s cycle touching on politics, straight people, Drag Race. It’s basically about being alive in the moment.”
What makes Bianca such a brilliant comic creation is that every tilt of her head enhances the words that just came out of her mouth and sustains the humor. She knows just how to build a joke whether it’s about conjoined twins or Justin Trudeau. I wish I could give you her bon mots verbatim but they were coming too thick and fast for me to write them down with the precision that such perfectly sculpted lines require for full effect. And I was laughing too hard.
In June, I had the pleasure of seeing Haylock in London’s West End production ofEverybody’s Talking About Jamie when he was getting ready for his Wembley Arena debut, the first time a solo drag queen headlined there. How did it go (besides being a sell-out)?
“It was wild, a little–completely–overwhelming.” Despite his having been in the venue before the show, “I didn’t realize how many people would be there [about 14,000] till the lights went on and then went “What the fuck?!”
He continued, “But then you just go out and do what you have to do.” Haylock’s innate modesty came out when he then stated with complete sincerity, “I was just flattered that that many people in the United Kingdom know who I am.”
He may be flattered but I’m not surprised. With each new show, Haylock has refined his humor and how he delivers it. He’s clearly learned from the late, great Joan Rivers how to construct an act. For Jester Joke, after each new topic, with perfect timing, he would continue with “My best friend who’s a …” and fill in the blank with whatever group he had just insulted. The result was hilarious, formally brilliant, and allowed him to make fun of religion, suicide and even people with Down syndrome.
One of the other reasons Haylock/Bianca can get away with so much is that s/he uses a lot of self-deprecating humor and makes it clear that none of it is to be taken too seriously.
After his hour-long set, Haylock took questions from the audience and demonstrated the spontaneous wit that’s been honed stiletto-sharp since his days at Oz New Orleans, which got a shout-out of its own at Carnegie Hall.
Only the last question seemed to stump him momentarily. Asked which one he’d marry/fuck/kill regarding Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr, you could sense the wheels in his head spinning for a few seconds before he pronounced “I’d fuck’em all” tho it was clear that he was using “fuck” synonymously with “kill.”
Asked about his upcoming appearance in New Orleans on Sunday, November 10, Haylock said he’s “so excited to come home. I’ll make up missing the past few Mardi Gras’s by drinking a lot.”
Turning serious, he also stated, “Without New Orleans, I wouldn’t have this career that I have so I look forward to seeing everyone who ever saw me at Oz.”
In these days of White House meltdowns and Hard Rock collapses, you don’t want to miss his funnyfunnyfunny show. Trust me. After 90 minutes with Bianca Del Rio at Carnegie Hall, I emerged onto 57th Street with my face hurting from laughing so much.
Hope you have a similarly painful experience with Bianca.