Metro Weekly

BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon are mad for the holidays

The pair celebrate the season with audiences in The Return of the Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE!

BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon
BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon – Photo: Jiji Lee

Decked out in festive gay apparel, drag superstars BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon drop into our Zoom chat looking primed and ready to spread holiday cheer with their latest extravaganza, The Return of the Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE!.

Since 2018, the delightful duo’s holiday musical-comedy spectaculars have become a perennial treat — although last year, the performers were forced by COVID lockdowns to pivot to a filmed version. The resulting 60-minute The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special was a hit with critics and audiences alike, joining the ranks of holiday favorites that fans can return to year after year.

But the pair couldn’t wait to get their show back onstage. So they have returned with a new “post-apocalypse-mas” production, taking their fabulous drag, irreverent comedy, original songs, and special guests on a 26-city tour from Liverpool to London, New York to L.A. As DeLa shared with Entertainment Weekly, “After a year in captivity, Jinkx and I are bustin’ at the seams and rarin’ to go!” Excited to be back in theaters with their fans, Jinkx adds, “I’m thrilled to be back on tour with my sister DeLa, celebrating the holidays the way I was meant to: boozed up, bawdy, and on display.”

METRO WEEKLY: I guess I don’t have to ask what puts you in the holiday mood. It looks like you’re living in the holiday mood.

BENDELACREME: We do. We do. The holidays for us start sometime in mid-summer. But that’s what it is. I mean, the holidays for me are what we have created together. We get to celebrate onstage with audiences all across the U.S., UK, and Canada, and that’s the celebration. So what puts me in the mood is when we get to work. We always build a lot of new material, and fun new songs and stories every year. It gets me so excited to get back on the road.

JINKX MONSOON: DeLa’s often said that her first iteration of a holiday-themed drag show was created, one, as an excuse not to have to subject herself to a blood family holiday, but also to give herself something to reconnect with the joy of the holiday season, that she sees the heteronormative community so flagrantly taking for granted. Through choosing to do a show, it not only brought the joy of the season back into our lives, but then we get to put it onstage and bring it back into other people’s lives who might be feeling the same way.

MW: You mentioned going from the UK to Canada. You’re doing both Portlands. So coast to coast, you’re covering a lot of territory. Does this show adjust to the different temperature of who you’re playing to? Does Montreal get a different show than Liverpool, for example?

DELA: Yeah, it’s going to be entirely in French. No, the show is something that we meticulously craft. It really is like a theatrical experience, but part of the joy of live performance is it changes every single night, based on the energy in the room and who’s there. Sometimes that’s regional, and sometimes it’s just who came out that night.

JINKX: And since we’ve both been live performers for quite some time now, sometimes it’s not always something you can pinpoint like, oh, the show was different this night because we made this joke in Liverpool versus the joke we made in Montreal. Sometimes it’s just the energy being reciprocated back and forth, and certain jokes get a little bit more attention because they resonate with that audience more. We are very adept at picking up on those subtle differences — and really pounding them into the ground. [Laughs.]

DELA: We find new jokes, new gags, new moments onstage that we get to develop over the course of the whole tour. Everything winds up being a little bit different because we get to be really present with each other onstage. And some of the most fun stuff we find comes out of some sort of mishap. Those are some of the best moments.

MW: Last year, instead of touring you filmed The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special. Was there anything you gleaned from producing and releasing it that was applied to going back on the road with the new show?

JINKX: One of the biggest things was that we learned a lot as writers. DeLa as the producer very much said, right from the get go, “If we’re going to put out a movie, it has to be a script made for a movie. Let’s lean into all the things we can only do in film that we can’t do live onstage, because that’s why you do a film version of something — to use movie magic.” Now that we’re back to writing a live show, it’s like, “Okay, now let’s lean back into all the things that are fun to watch live onstage that wouldn’t have the same impact in a film.” So I think it’s just improved our writing, doing both, comparing the two experiences, and remembering, oh, this is why we started in live theater and why we will die in live theater.

DELA: It was so much work, but so satisfying to create the special. We always have video elements in our live shows. And this year, I think as a result of creating this giant cinematic project, our videos became more involved. It became weeks of pre-production worries, videos that will be part of the show. And I’m very proud of them.

JINKX: This might be our most ambitious live tour.

DELA: I think so. We didn’t do it on purpose. We just subject ourselves to these things.

JINKX: We just can’t help ourselves, really. That’s what it boils down to.

BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon
BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon – Photo: Jiji Lee

MW: In last year’s show you had a dead grandma and a very hunky naked Jesus as guests. Can you tell us who are some of the guests that are joining you this year?

JINKX: Well, we don’t want to give away any spoilers.

DELA: It wouldn’t be a Jinkx and DeLa holiday experience without some puppetry involved. I don’t think we want to reveal too much, but we’ve got a whole new personality making an appearance who plays an integral part in how our story unfolds. And true to many years in the past, it is still an edible item that is also sentient.

JINKX: And for the first time ever, Jinkx has a puppet friend. Less integral to the plot. More just like a commentary on Jinkx’s innate sluttiness.

MW: A slutty puppet friend?

JINKX: [Laughs.] A puppet friend acquired through slutty endeavors. 

MW: You appeared together as entertainers in Hulu’s lesbian Christmas movie Happiest Season. Were you DeLa and Jinkx in that movie, or were you DeLa and Jinkx playing other characters?

JINKX: We were original characters for the film, but we also leaned into what’s iconic about us, and what’s iconic about our friendship. My character’s name was Em K. Ultra, a deep-cut stoner reference.

DELA: And mine was Miss L’Teau — mistletoe. DeLa is always sort of a lovable ding dong, but I took it a little bit further with that one and sort of did a mix of Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Tilly, but kicked in the head by a horse.

MW: I totally got that. Did you see the movie? And did you relate at all to spending a holiday with a closeted person and their family who doesn’t know that they’re queer?

JINKX: We did see the movie.

DELA: We got to go to the premiere, which was an outdoor, socially distanced thing.

JINKX: We were on the roof of a parking lot, a drive-in theater experience.

DELA: But there was still a red carpet, with all the stars, which was fun.

JINKX: And one of my favorite moments was Natasha Lyonne getting out of her car, she parked right behind us. Natasha Lyonne is a petite human being.

DELA: She’s tiny.

JINKX: But she had all the red hair piled on top of her head. So even with the mask and the sunglasses, immediately, I was like, “Natasha, is that you?” And she was “Ay, Jinkxy, baby,” because she’s essentially an old New York agent from the 1960s.

DELA: It’s true.

JINKX: I really loved that film. I can’t relate to spending the holidays closeted, because my closet was like a plexiglass clear screen, but I really related to the universal themes of navigating being your true self around your blood family, versus giving your blood family the watered-down, family-appropriate version of yourself. And how do you navigate that during the holidays where it’s like, you don’t want to be a fuss, but you also don’t want to have to pretend you’re not exactly who you are?

MW: That’s a great read on that movie.

DELA: I don’t even remember the last time I knew a closeted person, but, similarly, it’s those really complex family dynamics that I think are universal to everybody, and these sort of underlying tensions that are so much of what the holidays are about. But specifically, with the added layer of exactly what Jinkx is talking about, having to self-edit around people that are not the community you chose. And man, I mean, I feel that just when I have to call a customer service representative and my voice drops an octave.

MW: I’m curious, when you two are not onstage and not working, do you spend quality time together? What do you get up to?

DELA: What’s “not working?”

JINKX: We’re both workaholics, so in a large way, work is what keeps us in each other’s lives because we’re both also kind of….

DELA: Otherwise we’d run.

JINKX: We live in different cities now. We both used to live in Seattle, and now I’ve moved back to my hometown of Portland. DeLa lives in L.A. But what’s funny is, when we’re not working together, we’re still texting each other every single day. Sometimes the texts are about like, have you seen this ridiculous thing? Can you believe this thing exists? Sometimes it’s processing our emotions. And most of the time it’s talking about next year’s show.

MW: When you want a show to be a perennial, like a Bob Hope Christmas special or like whatever Mariah Carey’s doing year after year, how do you keep it fresh?

DELA: It can definitely be very difficult, because I’ve been doing holiday content since 2007. Of course, it’s very different working with Jinkx, and we find new things to explore, but mining for new Christmas material every year is a challenge.

I think the way that we always keep it fresh is that our shows always reflect a lot about where we personally are right now, what our current emotional and mental state is. I mean, we’ve just been through a collective worldwide trauma, which is something that does not happen to most generations. And so, this year, certainly in kind of exploring how we’re feeling reentering society, I think we’re speaking to a lot of what most of our audiences are going to be feeling.

JINKX: And I think what we do every year is, we kind of sit down and we think about, what do we want to say this year? And then we force-feed it through a Christmas sausage grinder. We take what’s happened in the year, what are we personally dealing with, what’s on our mind, what are the hot topic issues. And then, how do we season it and decorate it with holiday charm so that it’s very current, but also very much in the spirit of the holidays.

MW: And to the point of this year, especially reentering society, in what ways do you hope that these holidays feel different from last year?

JINKX: My general hope for everything right now, and we’re applying it to the holidays, is that we will stop upholding conditioning that we know doesn’t serve us anymore. I think we’re having a huge conversation right now about what things have we been taught since birth that aren’t actually true and don’t actually serve the enrichment of human society? And then we put a holiday spin on it, and monologues about is Rudolph queer-baiting us? And that’s the kind of esoteric absurdist humor that we get through our collaboration.

DELA: And this year’s show specifically really deals a lot with this concept of, what do the holidays even mean right now? It seems so frivolous, and yet so necessary to find escapist humor, to do something that feels celebratory and light after such a heavy couple of years. It both feels like exactly what we want, and sort of like, how do you do this right now? That’s a lot of what the show this year is about, is striving for that, but also really addressing that this is hard for us collectively as a society right now, but we can do it together. We always try to look at what is really difficult, and figure out how to make it something beautiful and positive. We never want to shy away from what’s hard.

The Return of the Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show, LIVE! jingles into D.C. on Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW, before dashing off to cities including Philadelphia (12/6), Chicago (12/9), Detroit (12/10), Austin (12/12), Phoenix (12/16), L.A. (12/18), five nights in Seattle (12/21-12/26) and Portland (12/30). Visit www.jinkxanddela.com.

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