“I know what you got on your SATs,” Bianca Del Rio says in her act. “Ketchup.”
The Los Angeles drag queen with the oversized stripes of white eyeliner on her lower lids is one of the most vicious insult comics around. A quick-witted demon who talks at three times dictation speed, she regularly appears in San Francisco — often as part of Peaches Christ Productions’ drag remakes of pop-culture icons, such as Sheetlejuice, and most recently at Clusterfest — and she’s put out a new book in which she dispenses 250 pages of tough love.
Interspersed with digs at celebrities and some delightfully vulgar life-hacks, like “Chew with your legs closed,” Blame It on Bianca Del Rio: The Expert on Nothing with an Opinion on Everything is a brutally hilarious compendium of off-kilter advice. Some of it has almost certainly been written in response to fabricated questions, but the whole shebang showcases the can’t-keep-her-mouth-shut-so-why-even-try approach of the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner.
If you’re the kind of person who’s invested in comedy primarily as a site of the culture wars, you may want to steer clear, because offensive jokes burst out of this book like sheafs of paper napkins from an overfilled dispenser. But between the downward punches aimed at the overweight and the developmentally disabled are withering zingers and moments of worldly wisdom.
In reply to the woman who wanted to know what to do about her otherwise lovely husband who calls female servers “Honey,” Del Rio said to call all male servers “Hotcakes” or “Horsecock” so that hubby gets the point. For the guy wondering what to do about a wedding invitation that specifies “No gifts,” she helps him avoid looking like “a cheap fuck.” And the photo spreads are hilarious, particularly one of Del Rio in nude hose sunning herself next to a dumpster with a spritzer on the asphalt.
On a morning when she was about to go to the Container Store and had not been informed that SF Weekly would be calling, Del Rio graciously agreed to elaborate on a book she calls “rotted as hell.”
Writing Blame It on Bianca Del Rio was hardly a life goal, partly because “the day I have a goal is the day that it’s over. I think that’s a little too literal for me.” But she was delighted to take up the project because it would allow her to write the most ridiculous comments she could.
“I look at it this way,” she says. “If people are asking a 42-year-old drag queen for advice, they deserve whatever advice they’re going to get. I’m the biggest joke there is. I’m a man in a wig, not by any means trying to get away with being feminine. It’s the packaging for the foolishness. I make fun of myself before I make fun of anyone else.”
In that sense, the book is much more an extension of her stage show than of anything attached to her work with RuPaul or the two Hurricane Bianca films. Del Rio believes that worrying about whether someone’s feelings have been hurt portends the death of comedy, and she contrasts her flair for saying virtually anything to someone’s face against the internet-enabled tendency to lash out anonymously. Perhaps surprisingly, though, Del Rio doesn’t hunger for the return of old-school, decades-long public feuds. She simply misses the old days.
“There’s a group that’s bothered by everything which is why you just have to not give a shit from the get-go,” she says. “I think I fall into that weird category where I’m of a certain age where I remember Joan Rivers and Don Rickles and people that were intelligent and funny and entertaining. … I remember when drag queens were a good time. Now it’s ‘Oh, you can’t say that!’ I laugh at that shit. I say whatever I want to say. You don’t have to like it, and that’s completely OK. You can get the fuck up and you can walk out and you can tweet whatever you want. I don’t care. But lighten the fuck up, motherfuckers. Look who’s president.”
Regarding Joan Rivers, her most direct comedic antecedent, Del Rio met her a number of times. In the book, she reveals the four pieces of advice Rivers gave her and which clearly inform Del Rio’s own philosophy, two of which are “Work hard” and “Never take a vacation (they’ll forget about you).” The other two pertain to industrial-strength penis tucking and how not to die in a medically induced coma.
“Joan was a huge theater fan and a lot of opening nights I would see her at shows, and she was always gracious and took photos,” Del Rio says. “They always say never meet your idols, but she was the real deal. Funny is funny. On the YouTube show she was doing right before she died, I was the second-to-last interview she did. Right after me, it was LeAnn Rimes — so it was LeAnn Rimes who killed her, not me.”