GIGGLE CITY: 25 years to life in drag for Guy in Disguise

What do you say if you’re such a convincing drag queen that a guy asks for your number? “911.” What do you call a drag queen’s girlfriend? A fruit fly. What do you call a group of drag queens? An embarrassment of bitches.

Darrin Hagen has a million of them. Edmonton’s Transvestite Laureate and founder of Guys In Disguise may favour us with a few more between fabulous numbers being performed Saturday night at the Guys in Disguise 25th Anniversary Gala at the Yellowhead Brewery. The difference between drag and stand-up comedy is merely in the size of the fake boobs involved. Read into that what you want.

Q: If you could be any celebrity other than yourself, who would it be and why?

A: I would’ve loved to have been Bette Davis and Joan Crawford at their height of their careers. They did some fun stuff: Handsome leading men, slap them across the face, throw drinks into their faces, wear fur coats, smoke. What gay man doesn’t want that?

Q: Best heckler story?

A: I was a mermaid at the Street Performer’s Festival. I put on my mermaid tail and they put me on top of the ticket booth in the middle of Churchill Square and I sat there and waited for the kids to adore me. Then I heard a little voice: “You can’t be a mermaid! You’re a man!” And they all started chanting, “You are a man! You are a man!” For two and a half hours. I’m fucking serious. It was noon and there were packs of day care kids. One would leave and another would come, and they just kept chanting. I can put drunk straight guys in their place no problem, but my arsenal doesn’t actually allow me to insult pre-schoolers. Three hours in the sun and I had to put up with children taunting me. It was so much like Grade 3.

Q: What’s the worst meal you ever had on the road?

A: I can think of a lot of bests. There’s this burger place in the back of a hotel in Winnipeg. We call it Con Burger because it looks like ex-cons running it. It’s one of those alley burger joints where you sit outside at a picnic table. You’ve seen the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld? We got in the line up wrong and the guy yelled at us in front of everybody. So we just sat there and humbly ate our burger, but it was delicious.

Q: Do you have an old bit you were sad to let go?

A: Me and my drag mother Lulu would do this bit. She would lip sync to “I Am Changing” from Dream Girls and I would do sign language for the hard of syncing, a made up sign language. It was a huge hit. It’s been stolen by every drag queen across North America. But Lulu’s no longer with us so I don’t get to do that anymore.

Q: New material that’s killing?

A: Linda Karenko and I formed a country duo, a couple from Balzac, Alberta, the Bud and Yolanda Experience. And we do a song that was a little drag number, called My Pussy. It’s about her cat going missing.

Q: What’s the difference between kids today and when you were a kid?

A: It’s way harder to shock the kids today than when I was a kid. I could be wrong, I could just be an old fart looking back, but they seem a little more jaded than we were.

Q: Do you have to be a pessimist to be a good comedian?

A: No, but you need a dark side or a sad streak. People who experience pain early on often turn to comedy. I grew up gay in Rocky Mountain House in the ‘70s, in a trailer court, I wore glasses and I played accordion. I had a lot of things going against me. A lot of that stuff formed what I do, even the fact that I do drag.

Q: How has the drag scene changed in 25 years?

A: When I started doing drag, it was limited to the gay bars. You didn’t see it on TV or the movies at all, and then when we went public in 1987 at the Fringe, the first drag at the Fringe, there happened to be two other shows. It went from no drag to suddenly three drag shows. And since 1987, we’ve seen all these movies, TV shows, drag queens are almost everywhere now, and that’s huge. I’m not claiming responsibility, but we were a part of that movement.