Viceland’s new 'Trixie and Katya Show' is UNHhhh-believable.
Drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova quickly became some of the brightest stars on World of Wonder’s YouTube channel with their quirky Webseries “UNHhhh.” Now, amidst a plethora of other successes -- Trixie will return to the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 in January; Katya recently appeared in Redmond Hand, the first short film by famed photographer Todd Selby -- the two queens bring their wickedly sharp humor and improvisation to Viceland via The Trixie and Katya Show, premiering tonight. The half-hour variety-style show will also feature sketch, guests, and man (out of drag) on the street interviews.
Trixie and Katya spoke to Billboard about The Trixie and Katya Show, life after Drag Race, balance, bachelorettes, male sexual dysfunction, and more.
Billboard: Even though neither of you “won” RuPaul’s Drag Race—although that’s yet to be determined for Trixie on All Stars 3—how does it feel to have success that’s comparable to and even surpasses that of some past winners?
Katya: I think we both are able to win because we lose so much. I don’t know how it works exactly, but I guess that’s the formula. Losing is the new winning.
Trixie: It is seemingly random. But I’m really proud of all the work I do and I know it could go away at any moment. I could be dead in a couple years.
Katya: Success doesn’t find you when you’re alone in your house. Trixie’s out there literally pounding the pavement. This bitch is so overtired and overworked. She looks like a crust of a scab that was on a wounded Civil War soldier from another galaxy. She is so freeze-dried and rotten. She’s produced her album, two solo shows, she’s on television. If you do the work and show up, stuff happens. And then it’s not up to you.
Trixie: And then with Katya, it’s sort of like, when things are handed to you, that’s also nice.
Katya: Mmhmm. I’m the witch in the tower screaming from the top, “GIVE ME THE MONEY,” and they just come, I don’t know why, but they do.
Trixie: Katya, I think we both just 100% do exactly what we do. In the venue of Drag Race, maybe it wasn’t people’s favorite thing; in the venue of the real world, apparently it works for people. I think Drag Race is an awesome thing, but I’m really proud of everything I’ve done after, and for Katya, and especially for this show. We weren’t just handed a television show, we did almost 60 YouTube episodes in our free time for the fun of it.
Ru had her own show on VH1 in the ‘90s, but what do you think it means for the current culture that there’s a show like this now?
Katya: We’re all gonna die. Elyssa, there’s nothing more certain than death.
Trixie: There’s nothing cooler or trendier than being open, I guess. It sounds stupid, but Viceland looked at that series and they were over the moon, instantly interested and obsessed with it. I think there’s a lot of horrible things in our lives, and every day the world sucks and the United States is not in a great place, but we’re two drag queens with a TV show. There’s a push and pull with how shitty things are in the world. There’s hopefully something good. We have no value to society, so we might as well put on wigs on TV.
Katya: That is patently untrue, it is a total and complete falsehood. In an attempt at sincerity, which is below my pay grade, we are weird, I’m sorry, alternative, cross-dressing prophets who travel around the globe. I would position myself on the ladder of status way below Jasmine Masters from Season 7. We travel the world and touch people and say hello to them, receive gifts and entertain. We are carnies on a mission, though nobody knows what the mission is.
How has your comedy and your comedic partnership changed since the show first started?
Trixie: I guess drag queens by nature have to do everything. When you start being a drag queen, you’re grabbing the microphone, hosting the shows, then you’re setting the microphone down and doing the number. You’re spending the day before doing your wigs and sewing your costumes, you’re doing everything. I didn’t feel like I did comedy before and now I guess I feel like I do.
Katya: We used to have to live.
Trixie: A roomful of bachelorettes didn’t want to see me or Katya go out there and do a stream of consciousness, a tight five, you know what I mean? They wanted their Beyoncé and they wanted a beer, now.
Katya: A give a loose seventeen of a flood of consciousness that nobody understands. I do think Trixie’s absolutely a comedian because she’s a joke writer, which is a different headspace. She makes me think about writing jokes more, I just haven’t done it yet. I’m not a comic.
Trixie: That is true, I am a person who writes the jokes then goes and says the jokes.
Katya: I’m literally an aspiring priest. I still haven’t figured out the celibacy and the sex thing yet, but once I do you better believe I’m gonna write a book about it. I have the robes, I have the outfit, I have the wardrobe, I have the style. I have the Pope outfit. What gets me out of bed in the morning is the desire to solve the problem of the male sexual dysfunction. I think I just discovered my true calling, right now, here on the phone.
Trixie: I’m an associate at Petsmart trying to figure out why all the parakeets keep dying. I have a very dark mind with a very dry demeanor and I like to use this stupid-ass chicken suit of drag to exactly say what I think and feel and have it land with the audience as funny. If you’ve ever met me in real life, you’ll wonder what happened to me.
Katya: Elyssa, it’s funny, I was looking at Trixie just visually as a human being unfamiliar with the world of drag, even of television really, it is such a WTF moment to look at Trixie and then to hear her, especially to hear her tell a joke or react or whatever. I literally don’t have any frame of reference to explain to somebody what it is. I’m probably sure it’s a man, I mean it sounds like a man, but then the face and the hair and the outfit, is so…it’s incredible to look at. It’s amazing.
Trixie: We’re the yin and the yang. When I walked in on Drag Race and saw Katya, I had no idea she was gonna be funny because she was stunning. She had this perfect red lip, I remember looking into her eyes and being like, this is a woman! Then she was really funny. She kind of presents normal and it’s a one-two punch with the comedy.
Katya: The thing is, I realized I modeled my drag after the perfect woman, Hollywood’s perfect woman. Not quite Cameron Diaz, but she’ll do for now. So Cameron Diaz walks down the street and she is walking, honey, she is serving and she is walking and she slips on a banana peel and she falls hysterically, like eats shit, and she looks up at you and she laughs.
Trixie: In a lot of ways we don’t really look or act like we belong on the same TV show, but somehow there are really fundamental roots intertwined and it just works.
How has working together affected your friendship?
Katya: So to be honest, I live a rollercoaster life of drug abuse and sobriety, and I’m currently not on heavy-duty narcotics now, so our relationship is good [laughs]. If you’ve ever known a drug addict or a drunk, Elyssa, you know that if the person is in active addiction, it’s very troubling. If you add money and a professional relationship into the mix, it’s very troubling. The thing now is, [sobriety] only happens one day at a time, which is even more troubling to a non-addict. Because you can’t say I’m straight, I’m done for good. But for today I’m done and I kind of do it for [Trixie], I do it for other things, too, but I do it a lot for her.
Trixie: Our friendship exists in physical distance all the time because we’re never in the same place together. When she’s not in a super-healthy chemical space, there’s added emotional, mental distance, too. It’s always good but when we’re on the same page, when I’m happy and when she’s happy, it’s absolutely perfect, it’s great.
Katya: The thing is, when I show up to work on drugs, I’m not really showing up. And that’s a huge problem when you’re doing improv with someone, when 30 percent of my energy at least, probably more like 60 percent of my energy is trying to conceal the fact that I’m on drugs, I’m not fully present enough to react in the moment to her authentically, and that’s a real big problem. And thank god I vibrate at 180 percent most of the time so I can shave off a few but it’s just not going to be as good as it can be.
Trixie: I think our relationship’s only gotten better. I’ve only come to admire her more as a person, but don’t you fucking write that down! Nobody can know! [puts on country accent] Don’t you do it, Elyssa, they don’t want sincere, heartfelt, emotional jibber-jabber! From the beginning, she’s always the funniest person I think I’ve ever met.
How do you think growing up would have been different if something like The Trixie and Katya Show was on the air when you were younger?
Trixie: I remember seeing RuPaul in The Brady Bunch Movie, when she says to Jan, “Girl, you better work.” And I froze it in my mind forever. When you’re just gay as shit and someone’s being gayer than you, you’re like okay, I’m good. And if someone in the room has worse b.o., you’re like ‘FIERCE. Thank god.’
Katya: I think the conversation would become for me as an artist, not how to get gay movies made but how to get good gay movies made. At the beginning, you’re just fighting for them to be made, period. I just want to see two guys kiss! And then you have us idiots on the screen and it’s like, okay, move beyond that now, let’s make those guys kiss in a meaningful way. [Seeing The Trixie and Katya Show] would be super inspiring. I think also very confusing because we look like crazy people. I would be spoiled rotten by that. All these kids, they’re looking for answers. Sometimes it means “fuck my pussy with a rake” [a catchphrase from the Webseries] and you’re like, what is that, what is this person asking me? They’re just saying, please notice me, please tell me that I exist and if they’re not getting an answer from me, at least they’re asking the question. Who am I? What the fuck does this all mean? Fuck my pussy with a rake?
What’s next for you beyond The Trixie and Katya Show?
Katya: I just sent in my application to be a key grip on the next Ken Burns Civil War documentary.
Trixie: My life at this point is one long Pretty Woman moment. I wanna go back to that Potbelly’s in Milwaukee on the East Side that refused to hire me. A week before I went to Drag Race, I applied to sing folk music at a Potbelly’s once a month and I auditioned and they said no thank you at this time. I wanna go back there and karate chop everyone who works there, whether or not they worked there at the time or not.
Katya: Big mistake! Huge!
Trixie: Yeah! Big mistake. And every wig store in Milwaukee where they used to watch me like a hawk because they thought I was stealing. I’ve only ever wanted to be successful to throw it in the face of the naysayers, and I know that’s not what you’re supposed to say, but that’s how I’ve always felt. This summer I had to miss my high school reunion because of All Stars, and bitch, I wanted to helicopter in drag into that fucking room of 20 people from my high school and be like, you know what? I am gay as fuck, and I monetized it, so have a great day.