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How Drag Queens Trixie And Katya Graduated From YouTube To TV

The breakout stars from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are taking their popular YouTube show “UNHhhh” to Viceland with “The Trixie & Katya Show.”

How Drag Queens Trixie And Katya Graduated From YouTube To TV
[Photo: Mark Christopher for VICELAND]

When people talk about stumbling into “that weird part of YouTube,” drag queens Trixie Mattel (Brian Firkus) and Katya Zamolodchikova’s (Brian McCook) web series UNHhhh is like the talk show of that shadowy realm.

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The premise is simple: It’s “the show where we talk about whatever we want because it’s our show and not yours,” as they emphatically state at the beginning of each episode. From there, it’s a free-fall acid trip of green-screen effects illustrating Trixe and Katya’s banter on topics ranging from childhood to the female orgasm. And now Viceland is bringing UNHhhh to TV with The Trixie & Katya Show.

“As drag queens and as comic people, we listen to our own artistic compass all the time,” Trixie says. “That was our biggest concern, when Viceland was like, ‘Yes!’ we were like ‘Have you seen [UNHhhh]? Do you know what we think is funny?’ We got a resounding 1,000% supportive yes. There was no questioning. For actual famous celebrities who are real people and who are gorgeous, that never happens.”

Both Trixie and Katya became breakout stars on RuPaul’s Drag Race. They weren’t crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” but as is often the case with reality show competitions, the cast members who didn’t actually win went on to the greatest success. Trixie and Katya channeled their natural chemistry and genuine friendship into UNHhhh, which launched just last year through WOWPresents, the production company that’s also behind RuPaul’s Drag Race. Although the basic elements of UNHhhh are present in The Trixie & Katya Show (i.e., the hosts waxing ridiculous on just about anything), fans of the web series may notice that the trademark off-the-wall special effects have been pulled back a little.

“It just has to have another starting point, like a less cluttered visual baseline to grow from,” Katya explains. “To some fans of the show, I think it’s going to look almost clinical. We’re trying to talk to the new viewer and allow something else to grow that’s very similar.”

“We can’t off-the-bat start with a bunch of inside jokes,” Trixie adds.

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That said, Trixie and Katya aren’t necessarily concerned with winning over a whole new fanbase. No matter how accessible they make The Trixie & Katya Show, there will be some people who just won’t get their brand of humor. And for those who’d disregard it simply because they’re drag queens, Trixie has a message for them.

“Do you like Dana Carvey? Do you like [Tyler Perry’s character] Madea? Then drag is your thing, bitch,” she says. “Do you like [The Real Housewives]? Those are drag queens, bitch! Aren’t we all drag on Halloween? Isn’t Pee-wee Herman a drag queen? Dolly Parton, that’s a fucking drag queen. People have been loving drag queens right in front of their eyes.”

As Katya puts it, “drag is a gift.” A comedian, for example, could get on stage and be entertaining in jeans and a T-shirt, but she and Trixie “jazz it up for the kids because it’s fun to look at.”

“This is America,” Trixie chimes in. “Packaging and advertising matters.”

But for all the campiness and kitschiness of their drag, Trixie and Katya’s friendship has always been their biggest selling point.

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“With us, it’s like Broad City, Wayne’s World, Beavis and Butt-head–whatever we’re wearing or however we do it is great, but what you watch our show for is the organic friendship,” Trixie says. “People always say they love our show because they feel like they’re hanging out with their friends. We would have never even started the YouTube series if it wasn’t for our own personal fulfillment–we’re doing it for the fun of it. If all the TVs exploded tomorrow and there was no way for anyone to actually see [The Trixie & Katya Show], we would go back to YouTube.”

“The limits of our success are just the limits of our energy,” Katya adds. “A drag queen not having fun? That’s like a crying stripper.”

The Trixie & Katya Show airs Wednesdays at 10 pm EST on Viceland.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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