Trixie Mattel Just for Laughs 2022 Montreal

Trixie Mattel at Just for Laughs: “I’m going to say & do anything, & probably be on stage too long”

“I’m a queer, small business, and that weird amount of shame that artists have specifically about selling out — I don’t have that bone. If I’m Walt Disney, Trixie is my Mickey Mouse. And that means I’m gonna put this horrorshow on lunchboxes.”

There are few people on this planet more enterprising than drag queens. Not only are they constantly reinventing themselves on stage, most have a knack for parlaying their personalities into mini media empires.

Few drag queens can say they’ve branched out more than Trixie Mattel.

The Wisconsinite in memorable eye makeup first appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 and ended up winning All Stars season 3. Mattel is also an accomplished country singer, pillories Netflix shows alongside Katya in the web series I Like to Watch, co-owns Wisconsin’s oldest gay bar and has her own cosmetics line. In 2022, Mattel became a Palm Springs motelier on the television show Trixie Motel and dropped the new wave and pop-punk inspired Blonde & Pink Albums.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mattel is finally completing her oft-postponed Grown Up Tour, which will finally be put to bed after two long pandemic years in Montreal as part of Just for Laughs. She even took time from her Australian tour to chat with Cult MTL.

Erik Leijon: So are you in the final stretch of the Grown Up tour? Is that what you’ll be bringing to Just for Laughs?

Trixie Mattel: I just finished Europe and that was my 2020 solo tour that was delayed and delayed. Now I’m on tour with Katya doing our live show. It’s musical comedy — a full production with backup dancers and set pieces. We’ll be bringing it back to Canada later this year. But I’ve gotta admit, (the upcoming show) will be the death rattle of Grown Up. I think it’s the last one.

It’s going to be a night where it’s a case of the “fuck it’s,” where I’m going to say anything and do anything and probably be on stage too long. That’s what usually happens on the last night of a tour. It’s a show with 15 costumes, five wigs. It’s an hour-and-a-half of stand-up and playing with a full band. It’s a crazy show; the heart of the stand-up is about becoming an adult and how you know you’re becoming an adult, especially if you’re like me and dress up like a slutty little girl for a living. So the answer was to do the most evolved version of a Trixie show: the biggest wigs, the most costumes, and the most expensive video content.

The last time I was at Just for Laughs was the Jonathan Van Ness gala and it was just the most fun I’ve had at a festival. At these things, it usually ends up being me, Nicole Byer and whatever random homosexuals we find and we get drunk afterwards. I think we all went to a strip club.

EL: Sounds like the quintessential Montreal experience.

TM: Especially doing drag, every time I get to do something with the big boys in comedy, it feels very cool. I remember on that particular trip, I was sitting on a flight by Anthony Anderson and Anthony Jeselnik, and I love them both. The comedy world is probably like the drag world, where I’ve met every drag queen on the planet. Everyone knows each other in the comedy world too, but since I’m adjunct faculty of comedy, I always get the freak out when I meet someone whose comedy record I own.

EL: At this point you’ve got your feet in both worlds.

TM: The great thing about Trixie is she’s a daywalker. In any given month, I might be playing a music festival or comedy festival, so there are always weird moments. Being Trixie means always fucking around.

Trixie mattel just for laughs montreal
Trixie Mattel, performing a free outdoor show at Just for Laughs on July 29

EL: Were you a born entrepreneur or did it come about once the Trixie character was formed?

TM: Well, I came from nothing. And it’s the real deal: a dead-end road, I lived in a trailer that had an outhouse. You know, real poor. 

When I invented Trixie in college, I saw the response to it on a local level. Then when I started doing television, I saw the world respond to it. I realized, by drag industry standards, with Trixie I accidentally invented Velcro. The response that Trixie gets everywhere is so strong and the character is not a great person, but very earnest and very self-indulgent. She has the worst qualities of all of us, packaged in something that’s somehow relatable. So the way I feel like an entrepreneur is by thinking if I’m Walt Disney, Trixie is my Mickey Mouse. And that means I’m gonna put this horrorshow on lunchboxes.

I just like selling stuff at the end of the day. I’m a queer, small business, and that weird amount of shame that artists have specifically about selling out — I don’t have that bone. If somebody wants to pay me to do this, I’m going to be much happier than doing it for free. I’m from such a rural area that in the summers I used to have a lemonade stand because I saw it on TV. No one drove by all day. I would sit out there in the summers for 10 to 12 hours on a dead-end dirt road. Maybe an Amish neighbourhood kid would buy something out of pity. But I’ve always had such a sense of pride and I find selling things to be very creatively stimulating.

EL: That being said, The Blonde & Pink Album comes across as a heartfelt tribute to the music you grew up with and not just selling something.

TM: You know, I only started drag at 18, but I’ve been playing guitar every day since I was 13 and there was nothing I wanted to be more than James Taylor. I wanted to be a dead serious songwriter. I wanted to play guitar and sing my own music and then eventually write for other people. That was my dream. The way I write music, I guess that earnestness you’re talking about was because, for a long time, I told myself that I don’t do comedy — I’m a songwriter. This is serious to me. I wanted to write serious music and be whatever a serious musician is.

EL: There’s also a lot ’00s pop-punk in the album.

TM: I’m 32, so I was learning to play guitar around the time of Blink-182, Sum 41 and Avril Lavigne. That’s the music I grew up listening to on the radio, where I’d sit with my guitar and try to copy what I heard. Pop-punk songwriting is really just the same songwriting style as the ’60s. These are sugary ’60s pop songs dressed up a different way. But you know, I fucking love the Donnas and Green Day — that was my jam in high school. So no matter how much new music I listen to, I think I’ll always write like that.

EL: So you must have been a huge Michelle Branch fan growing up, and now she’s on your record.

TM: I’m impressed by people that I think are cool. I’ve talked about her in interviews over the years because when she did The Spirit Room and wrote her own songs, it opened my mind to how people can write music. A few months ago, I was on tour in Nashville. We went out to brunch and I kept calling her Michelle Brunch, which she probably didn’t think was funny, but I did. And I kept thinking, “Holy shit, I’m sitting at brunch with the person who literally got me to start writing music.”

Trixie Mattel and Orville Peck

EL: You’ve also worked with Canada’s own Orville Peck. What’s he like?

TM: He’s funny because everybody in the States thinks that he’s from the South because of his character. And then he’s from Canada, but he’s born in South Africa. So he’s America’s new favourite country singer by way of Canada by way of South Africa, which is kind of amazing.

EL: Peck also helped you restore a motel bar on Trixie Motel.

TM: Listen, if you have a semi-famous friend… I will say Trixie Motel was a little bit like Scared Straight!, where they take, like, indignant children and they make them clean jail cells with toothbrushes. That’s what I do with my celebrity friends. They come on my show, then they get there and realize we’re doing manual labour. 

With Peck, one of our first times hanging out was at the Calgary Stampede. Usually if there’s some kind of folk music thing, he and I are the queer diversity hires. Which is fine, we love it. Our bands became friends, then he and I became friends and we’ve stayed really close since. He’s so funny underneath all that drag — and let’s be honest, it’s drag. He’s such a drag queen. He’s talked about this before in interviews, but in a room of drag queens, I think he has more in common with us than other musicians, because he’s like a Pee-Wee or Elvira, doing a three-dimensional character. In that way, we’re cut from the same cloth. During the pandemic, he would drive by my place and scream out his window, and by the time I’d look out he’d be gone.

EL: And I have to ask because it’s your namesake, but what do you think of the upcoming Barbie movie?

TM: What’s funny is I’m very connected in the world of Mattel and if something Barbie happens, I’ve heard about it before. Like when Kacey Musgraves wore a Barbie Moschino look on a runway — I already knew that was happening the day before. So I’m excited for the movie. The plot sounds great. I love Margot Robbie. I’m not surprised I wasn’t considered because she is flawless. I love Ryan Gosling. I love Will Ferrell. I’m really excited to see this fucking movie. But everybody keeps tagging me about it. I get tagged in shit all day. And I just want to use this as an outcry to the masses: I’ve seen it by the time you’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Please stop tagging me in photos of Margot Robbie on the beach — I’ve seen it. Unless you have new information. I will set up a 1-800 hotline for people to call me directly, just so you can stop tagging me already. ■

Trixie Mattel will perform a free show as part of Just for Laughs at Scène Beneva on Friday, July 29, 9:15 p.m., free

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