In Conversation: Bianca Del Rio and Myra DuBois

The two comedians, who are used to touring together, trade insults as they bring their respective shows to the Fringe

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 11 minutes
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Bianca Del Rio
Photo by Matt Crockett
Published 17 Aug 2022

Ben Venables, Fest Magazine: Could I just explore your history, you've both been doing gigs together since about 2014? Is that right?

Bianca Del Rio: It was by chance. I had just done Drag Race. In the midst of it they said, 'Would you like to come to London?' I had never been to London at that point in my life. I thought, okay, well this will be exciting. And, then one night sold and then they did two nights and then they did three nights and I think it ended up being four nights Myra, wasn't it?

Myra DuBois: It was a week. It was like a week-long run.

Bianca: We were in this very small venue that maybe held 200 to 300 people, standing room only, and I went in, not knowing what to expect – and I met Myra. We hit it off because when you're backstage in a hallway-slash-dressing room we had nowhere to go, so we were forced to talk to one another. We cackled, we laughed, we had the best time... Sometimes, when you're working with other people, that other people think you might connect with, it's usually a big no. They're like: 'Oh my God, you remind me of this person, you would love her...' And, you're like, no, I wouldn't! But, this was one of those moments where we hit it off and we've been friends since – which is wild. Many parties, many drunken late nights, many moments we don't remember.

Myra: Essentially we like the same drugs.

Bianca: And then we had the same dealer, which was really helpful.

Myra: When you're in different parts of the world, you don't always have a number. You know how it is.

Ben: Is that how you would describe it Myra, or do you have a different version of history?

Myra: I would say it was a correct summation of events as she remembers it. How I remember it is that I was phoned up and someone said, 'Look, we've got this competition winner from the United States'. Now, I didn't know what competition, I thought she was from Make-A-Wish, they said, 'We've got this competition winner from the United States. God knows, she can't do a full show: can your help?'

Bianca: To be honest, of course she was available. It was not like she had anything else going on.

Myra: I dropped a few things. I cancelled my week at the London Palladium... As Bianca says, it was this tiny little corridor, there wasn't much space for us to get ready. But you say Drag Race was airing at the time, but it wasn't in the UK. It was only available by illegal downloads. 

Bianca: Yeah, I meant airing in the United States, so you're right, Myra.

Myra: I remember going on stage and saying: "You're not fans of Bianca Del Rio, you're fans of internet piracy." What I think works with my material and Bianca's audience is that people turn up to listen to jokes. They're prepared for my sort of shtick, whereas if it was someone a bit more lip-sync-y, it wouldn't quite be a fit. So, whenever Bianca is over here we go on a couple of tours. Last time we split it with Mary Mac, because we had to bring the budget down.

Bianca: Bring the budget and the audience down, don't forget it – she's going to kill him!

Myra DuBois, Photo by Holly Revell

Ben: You're talking about a comedy audience, something that's important to both of you. Would you say you like similar comedians or follow the same comedic traditions?

Bianca: I think we're both rotted. We're both rotted individuals. 

Myra: We've both got different comedians on our respective mood boards but there is an overlap, a Venn diagram, that is sort of the Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers territory. Not necessarily just comedians, there's Cheetah Rivera. We've been up til three-am watching Liza videos. It's the same sort of palette. 

Bianca: We also share such an admiration for those drag pioneers, the people that had amazing careers and we sit back and go, Wow. They were able to achieve those things in a time period where drag wasn't in-yer-face like it is now.

Ben: How would you describe each other's shows?

Bianca: Well, what's funny is I've never seen a full Myra show. So this will be the first time I actually get to be an audience member. 

Myra: I too have never really seen a full Bianca show. I have been in the building while they've been happening, but I turn the monitor off. 

Bianca: Don't you lie! The monitor never works in your room.

Myra: No, I always make sure I watch Bianca because I want to learn. Because, you know, sometimes it's important to learn what not to do.

Bianca: After Myra goes on I have to go on and bring some beauty to the evening. Usually, we get to hear certain jokes here and there from the wings, but I have not sat down and watched a full Myra show. I'm looking forward to getting to do it at the festival for the first time. 

Myra: It's not that we've seen each other's work and liked it, it's more that we made each other laugh in real life. I think that goes a long way. It's less about being on stage, it's more about how you get on in a dressing room.

Bianca: For me, when I'm touring in the UK and Myra opens I know I can trust her. I know that she knows what she's doing. I know that she's a professional. You don't want somebody that's a bigger pain backstage than they are onstage. We are traveling by bus – going from city to city. You definitely want to be surrounded by people where there's no diva-ness or no attitude or no insanity.

Myra: What's always interested me whenever I've joined Bianca is the reaction I get from her team. Everyone goes to bed a little earlier because they know I'll babysit her that evening. I have to stay up drinking wine with her that evening until three-am. Everyone else can get another two hours in bed because I've flown in like Mary Poppins to look after the child.

Ben: The difference here in Edinburgh though is that this is Bianca's first time at the Fringe, whereas Myra is a seasoned performer here, if you don't mind me describing you that way, Myra?

Bianca: He just called you old.

Myra: Yes, he's saying 'It's your first time doing the Fringe, Bianca, but Myra's career has stagnated for five years'!

Bianca: Well, I don't think he needed to explain the obvious... I think since I met Myra, and it's been eight years, I've been chasing whatever was in front of me. When you're doing tours, as soon as you've gotten through it, and the blood and the tears to get to that point, someone will go: 'So, what are you doing next?' In my life I have a lot of, 'Well, you should come to do this, then you should do that'. And, this is a different thing. I'm like, let's go, let's try this, let's do the challenge. Also, I get to see other performers. 

Myra: Well, usually, with Edinburgh, you're in and out aren't you?

Bianca: Yeah. This just makes sense, it's the right time, and I get to hang out with Myra because we have time during the day.

Myra: That's what I'm looking forward to too. When we're on tour we're working 24/7.

Ben: But Myra, we know the festivals, how hard it can be, do you think Bianca looking forward to Edinburgh is naive? I'm insulting Bianca now...

Myra: One of the best things about the Edinburgh Fringe is that everybody works in a similar industry and has similar interests, and you're all gathered in one place, and it's the sort of job where you don't clock in and out. You're talking to other performers and you're like, Oh I saw you do this, and have you thought about this because there's a great joke there. You all network. It's like a big bunch of nerds who all share the same interests for one month. That's what I enjoy about it, and seeing work, seeing other people's shows. I know I've said this in a frivolous manner, but I genuinely don't get to see Bianca's show when we work together because I'm back in my dressing room. 

Bianca: It's also being in an environment where it's accessible to see all of it. Usually, logistically, you just can't get there. It's like, Oh there's this and that show happening, did you get to see him or let's hope we see her. And it never really works out. So to have it at your fingertips in Edinburgh is just amazing. 

Ben: Is it particularly nice to do all these things because we're coming back from the pandemic?

Bianca: Last August, right after the pandemic, that was the first leg of my tour, I was amazed because the audiences were exciting, they were fun, they were energetic. I think everybody had this built up energy from being at home. It's shocking that Americans were exciting and fun and happy because they don't have healthcare! People are excited to see live performance again. It's been extremely wild. During the pandemic, what Myra and I both talked about was: are we ever going to work again? Is there ever going to be an audience? Are we ever going to have people wanting to see us?

Myra: And, I've certainly come out of it with a 'say-yes-to-everything' attitude. There were moments in the pandemic where I thought, will I ever get to stand on a stage and do what I do again? Now, every time someone wants me to do something, if I can fit it in, I'll do it. 

Bianca: And no offence, Ben, but we're doing this interview with you. We'll do anything.

Ben: You were both in the film Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Did you work together on set at all?

Myra: We didn't film together. Bianca only did a day. It was more of a cameo, really. I had a role and I had to do a little longer, because I had a bigger part. But, if you're asking if we were attached to the same project, then that is correct then, yes. 

Bianca: Well, her favourite thing to say is that I did the stage version and she did the film. Basically, that was it. When they decided to go with an Academy Award Nominated actor, apparently.

Myra: It was weird for me because it was a filmed in Sheffield and I'm from Rotherham, which is just adjacent to Sheffield.
Richard E. Grant was there and it was so bizarre. It was simultaneously totally alien and utterly familiar, because I've worked in those clubs that we filmed in, you know the the club where the Legs Eleven happens, and Richard E. Grant is in drag?

Bianca: Yes.

Myra: My first job was glass collecting in those clubs. The carpets, the wallpaper, the darts trophies: it was all so familiar. And yet there was a food wagon and Richard E. Grant was there. I had to explain to Richard E. Grant what a fist pig was. What he'd been Googling to ask that I don't know. Maybe, he'd been trying to explore the LGBTQ community, trying to keep a hand in there. I said, well it's not Miss Piggy and more of a Jim Henson. But it was nice to contribute to this story of someone that's from where I'm from. I've got such a fondness for the project. 

Ben: Now Bianca has come to the UK, are there plans for, or have you been, Myra, to support Bianca in America at all? 

Myra: No, I fucking haven't! She won't pay for a visa for me.

Bianca: You wouldn't believe what we have to pay in hotel room fees after she leaves. I'm not gonna say much, but last time we were in Scotland we were charged a pet fee for Myra's room. A pet fee was involved and added to the bill.