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The First Laugh: Interview with Jinkx Monsoon

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Trying to sum up Jinkx Monsoon is like trying to spend a whole day on social media without seeing ‘Miss Vanjie’ pop up (so, extremely difficult). 

This trifecta of talent has continuously pushed their drag to new heights since winning Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race in 2013. Known for their quick wit and incredible singing voice, Jinkx has gone on to grace the stages of countless theatres, worked in television, dabbled in voice acting and produced two albums, to name a few of their accomplishments.

In our conversation, we discussed comic inspiration, empowerment through drag, her upcoming shows, and hoverboards. 

How has your drag evolved since you were on Drag Race?

Now that drag is my career and not just my passion, I try to treat it as a full-time job. I am always spending time conceiving new ideas, designing looks, and collaborating with artistic partners. I think this has led to me polishing my look and taking my commitment to the craft to full throttle. 

A lot of your work, on stage and in your albums, is this witty, wacky mix of music and comedy. Why are you drawn to this fusion?

 I've always loved musicals and my favourite musicals infuse comedy and wordplay into their lyrics. The most enjoyable performances I've done allow me to sing my heart out, while also portraying a comical character. Laughter is the most satisfying response from my audiences. When I'm making my audiences laugh, I can really feel the impact I'm making on them.  

Do you like to bring experiences or anecdotes from your personal life into your content when you are on stage, or do you like to keep them separate?

 There was a time when I was really interested in creating original characters, and not overtly referencing my own personal life. However, a few years ago, I did my first show where I drew upon real-life experiences, and I felt like the personal touch of sharing my own stories with my audiences let to a really earnest and effective performance. Since then, I have created new shows that directly draw upon my life for the material.

My show The Ginger Snapped, which will be touring the UK in November, produced by SOHO Theatre, is a live therapy session onstage where I embrace a mental health journey whilst de-stigmatizing the topic of mental illness through joke and song. I am currently touring the UK and Ireland doing a new show, Cursed, which is a one-woman show where I reveal embarrassing stories from my love life for the benefit of my audience.  

You’ve performed all over the world, and a great deal in the UK – have you noticed a difference between the humour of audiences in the UK versus the US?

 I feel like the sense of humour in the UK is very dry and receptive to the absurd. My American audiences like a well worded and cleverly delivered joke... whereas in the UK, I feel like I can get away with more non-sequitur bits, that don't have as much form or structure, but a huge commitment to character.

 

Drag in itself is expressly political, but to what degree do you like to engage in politics or current events in your performances?

I have very staunch opinions, and a loudmouth, so it's hard for me to not comment on politics and current events in my material. That said, I don't like to harp on any one topic, and I only push agendas that I am educated on and passionate about. I'm always ready to talk about gender expression, equality, and human rights, trying to keep it to empowerment rather than divisive arguments. 

Where do you find inspiration for your comedy, whether it be music, on stage, et cetera?

I  find a lot of inspiration from the early and modern classic female comedians. I draw a lot of influence from Lucille Ball, Carol Brunette, Madeline Kahn, and Sarah Silverman. Many of these comedians have also created or performed music and found ways to infuse comedy into their musical performances. I also draw inspiration from obscure sources, like video games, internet memes, and other drag performers.  

What was the last thing that really made you laugh?

This video of a young girl on a hoverboard at Christmas time... She tries to show off how fast she can spin in a circle, loses control, and face plants. I hate that I'm laughing at that person's pain, but the rapid way in which the situation progresses causes me to lose it every time!

You can follow Jinkx Monsoon on Twitter and Instagram and head to dragworld.co.uk to buy her Meet and Greet tickets for the UK’s biggest drag convention, taking place at London’s Olympia on the 18th-19th of August. 

 

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