Few can argue that Miz Cracker isn’t one of the City’s hardest working–and most entertaining–drag queens (not to mention a widely read journalist). A protege of none other than Bob the Drag Queen herself, Miz has taken up the mantle of working everywhere, slaying with looks and laughs, and spearheading lofty humanitarian efforts, including a major benefit for Uganda Pride this Thursday. Read Thotyssey’s exclusive interview with the reigning queen of Funny Fish Philanthropy, Miz Cracker!
Thotyssey: Thanks so much for finding this time for us, Miz Cracker. It’s Pride week, and no one in nightlife generally has time for anything now, but you in particular are always endlessly busy. Do you just like to be busy, or do projects come when they come, and you just make it work?
Miz Cracker: I like to be busy, Jim. There are so many problems in the world. Whenever I’m not working, I feel anxious–like I’m not doing my part. So I don’t have dating apps, I literally don’t play games–board games, Angry Birds–and I usually don’t see friends unless it’s work related.
Well, that’s busy! Overall (under normal circumstances), are you a fan of Pride, or is it hell for you?
Pride is like your beloved buddy from back home–you can’t wait for her to visit NYC, you spend all your money on her, have a blast… and then Lord, when the weekend is over, you can’t wait to have your place to yourself again.
I read your Slate article about how vulnerable the gay community feels now, after Pulse. I guess that’s unavoidable, but are you predicting a lot of added tension this weekend?
I think we’ll see more armed police folk. I think everyone will feel their heart skip a beat once or twice when they realize how vulnerable We are when We gather. I think someone will see something and say something. But mostly I think we’ll just be humbled by Orlando–aware of how lucky we are for the moment, conscious of the incredible loss that has been suffered.
What do you think about the whole Nick Jonas thing, shifting gears slightly? Is there such a thing as pandering to the gays, and is that a negative thing? Are some people in the community being too hard on him?
I’m remembering a story Malcolm X told. A young white woman approached him and asked “What can I do to help?” He told her, “absolutely nothing.” Years later, he looked back on that moment with regret, thinking that he should have asked for help from whoever offered it.
I see you’re from Seattle. I cannot begin to imagine what you were like growing up and what your interests were; I’m guessing reading, writing, and performance art were always a part of who you are?
Well, in recent years I’ve avoided identifying with Seattle because people associate it with backward laziness.The vintage aesthetic, I mean. But I grew up Jewish in Seattle, very closed off, spending all my time with my sister, Sylvia, who remains my closest friend. We would create shows, dinner theater, radio plays, primarily for ourselves. We’d research a country like Brazil, and try to recreate it in our back yard. Learn some of the cuisine, the language, the style. I guess now I’ve made a profession of that.
Were you Orthodox?
Let’s just say there’s a lot of video of me twirling like a ballerina, while the other boys were dancing the hora.
I subscribe to that YouTube channel! What brought you to New York?
Honestly, three things: First I had a past to escape, second I had just finished Felicity, and most importantly I was obsessed with Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughn in The Hours. She was a New York editor, walking through Soho snow with flowers and manuscripts for work. And I was like, I wanna be that. Five years later, I was walking through snow with manuscripts en route to my job as an arts editor and I was like, OMG I’m MERYYYYYYL.
We all want to be Meryl.
I once spent $500 to see Meryl do Mother Courage in concert.
Worth it! How did you first meet Bob the Drag Queen?
I met Bob when he was struggling a book shelf home in the snow. I was like, “Who is this man? Maybe I can get into his apartment if I help him with this crumbling Ikea crap.” So I lent a hand, and the rest is history.
It’s so interesting that Miz Cracker the queen wasn’t born on the stage or at a Halloween party, but as a product of a civic demonstration in Times Square! We saw some photos on RuPaul’s Drag Race of you, Bob, Honey LeBronx & Frostie Flakes performing symbolic same-sex marriages on the streets before gay marriage was legalized. Who’s idea was all of that, by the way?
Who else’s? Bob’s.Bob always has three projects going: her career; then something so stupid you can’t believe she’s serious until it goes viral; and then a social justice project.
Did any of that process scare you; being in drag the first time in public, the possibility of getting arrested (like the others were, for blocking traffic), etc.?
I was, like, super busy on the day of the arrests, so I couldn’t be there. But as far as fear goes, I was never afraid during the Times Square demonstrations. Bob tells me that she was more concerned than I was–watching me go far afield to chase people with brochures made her nervous.
As far as performing in general is concerned, do you have any inhibitions?
My close friends can tell you I tremble before every performance, especially at my bigger venues. The distance between who I want to be as a performer and who I actually am is so broad–I’m always terrified to fall short of my expectations once again. I’m not afraid of injury, or of groping audience members, or of getting sweaty, or of speaking my mind. I’m afraid of being average.
Are you a perfectionist?
Let’s say this. My right arm Katelyn May films all of my shows. Afterward, we watch the footage together so that we can figure out how to make the act a little better. And I usually hyperventilate during this time. When you work on the same stage as Pixie Aventura, you can’t ever get lazy.
Wow. How did you drag name yourself, by the way?
I was Brianna Cracker after my favorite cheesy snack. But another Brianna Cracker surfaced in SLC, so I became Miss Cracker until Facebook rejected the name, and I had to opt for Miz. It works well, because I’m a Harlem gentrifier and my performances are stuffed with racial issues.
What was your first performing gig?
Boots & Saddle, with Roxy Brooks. One night after I stepped off the Cattle Call stage, she called me over and said, “Look, I didn’t see your number, but I could hear the audience liked it. Would you want to do a number at my show?” I had done competitions before, but that was my first gig.
Did you have a clear idea in those early years what type of drag queen you were going to be–what your stage presence would consist of?
Well, actually my gig with Roxy Brooks gave me my first time on the mic. I stepped off stage, and the sound system went nuts, but I didn’t flinch. I just said, “Oh sorry, I forgot my shock collar was still on” .And from there, yapping was easy as can be. Bob was there and she said, “You’re a mic girl, queen.”
So, when did you start writing pieces for Slate?
About two years ago. Bryan Lowder, Editor of Slate’s Outward queer blog and a very foxy gentleman in my opinion, used to attend my shows at Suite Bar, and he liked my “voice.” So when he heard that I would be doing a research project in Senegal, he approached to ask if I’d like to write about queer Senegal for Slate. He’s been one of the most influential people in my life to date.
In fact, he’s still at Suite to see me almost every week. He’s part of what I’d call the Suite Elite–a group of intellectuals, artists, designers that converge there. They include Danielle Synera who makes all my gowns; Larry Darnell Penn Whitfield, a performer who recently opened for Bob; Lance Richardson, who takes selfies of himself getting signed by major publishing houses (eye roll) and Brenda Dharling who is Number Four Prostitute.
Also, Ruby Powers loves Blackout Fridays at Suite! Is that your longest-running show now?
Four years, girl. Brenda and I have been married longer than Heidi and Seal were. It’s also the late-late-late show, where uptown queens can escape from their gigs to really let loose in a crowd that accepts literally every stripe of human being.
It is kind of a fascinating environment. And a really fun show. Back to Slate for a sec. Probably your best known and most widely circulated article with them was a piece on how poorly many straight women behave in gay bars, especially towards performing drag queens. It definitely struck a nerve with a lot of readers who work in nightlife, and I gotta say that since that article, I see a lot of drag queens posting negatively about bachelorette parties, etc. in the gay bars. Do you ever worry that there is a growing anti-woman vibe in the drag world, as some critics claim?
This is such a complex issue. This is what I’m going to say. Queer people do not have many safe places. If you are straight, and enter a queer space, queers will notice you–for better or worse, you will be noticed. Whatever happens, remember that you have many other bars to attend, and we have these few. For the most part, straight people who respect queer spaces as a queer refuge are utterly welcomed. Even if they’re wearing Jersey knit material.
That sums it up pretty well. Are you surprised to find drag queens in your business who seem oversensitive to certain jokes about them? Don’t you need a thick skin to be in drag, or showbiz in general?
It’s so hard to make a place for yourself in the drag scene, and so easy to fall from favor. In that kind of environment, no one wants to be mocked. Jokes make you wonder, Oh G-d, am I a punchline now? Is my 15 minutes of fame over? Very few queens can say they brush those jokes off without flinching. Some queens who have no bookings within the US are particularly sensitive about jokes, because they’re not here to defend themselves.
I feel like I want to ask your opinion about everything that’s happening in the world right now, and you would have an interesting answer for everything. But sadly, we don’t have time for that! So, I wanna get right into talking about your gigs. First off: Sundays at Hardware, you’re with Monet X Change for “Turn It On.” You and Monet are a great and funny team, work together a lot, and have for awhile. How do you two approach performance differently, and in what ways are you the same?
Oh Lord, I think Monet and I approach numbers in the exact same way, which is why we go together like rama lama ding dong. We like clothes, we like hair, we like makeup, but most of all we like acting the fool so hard that we sweat our brows off.
Cheers to that. Tuesday you’re paired with another queen, Judy Darling, for “Knocked-Out” at Barracuda. I just read a Musto article in Paper about how he stopped into a show, and you two were making Chekov jokes! Do bar audiences like highbrow humor, or do you kind of have to just sneak it in sometimes for your own peace of mind?
Judy and I make Your Mom jokes and Chekhov jokes in the same breath. Imagine the Gilmore Girls in Chelsea–that’s us. We say four clever things and four idiotic things in a single minute, so that everyone is pleased.
Do you two, like, box or something on that show? What’s the Knockout factor?
We each bring a protégé, and then force them to battle. Think Star Search meets Pokémon.
Got it! In general, you’re usually paired with somebody else in your shows. Do you prefer to bounce off other people onstage, or did it just kinda work out that way?
A show is like an orgasm for me. I can have a good one by myself, but there’s nothing better than sharing it with someone who knows what they’re doing.
Good point! Thursday is usually a solo gig for you, actually, and it’s your newest: “Show-Off” at Therapy! That’s a lip sync contest you host, frequently with drag contestants. I’m not entirely sure how that one works–do drag queens compete with non-drag queens?
We’ve opened it so that any person with any talent can sign up to compete. People can contact me via Facebook, Instagram, mizcracker.com and say, “Hey, I think that Therapy will love me.” As long as you make Therapy cheer, you can bring your unique talent to our stage.
And we covered Fridays at Suite with Brenda. So Saturdays you’re at Boots & Saddle with Marti Gould Cummings for “Politically Incorrect.” That’s an interesting pair, because you both come from a place of improv and standup, and in that respect you’re both kinda alpha. Is it ever challenging for you two to give each other room with your material?
We talk over each other fairly aggressively all night, which gives it a FoxNews type charm. Hardball with Marti and Miz.
I would love to see a Miz Cracker showcase at the Beechman, or Feinsteins, or one of those big classy, venues some night. Would you ever do something like that?
If you put a wad of cash in my sweaty Shylock hand at the end of the night, I will perform literally anywhere. Ask Holly Box-Springs, she’s seen the proof.
Do you sing, by the way?
Never. By court order.
Maybe some day! Okay, getting serious again… When did you become involved with the Uganda LGTB community?
My friend Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi is a photojournalist whose images of queer Uganda have drawn attention to the human rights crisis in that country. I’ve been following her coverage of the issue for almost three years, and just last month I found a way to get involved–the organizations she works with are under attack, and they need our help.
Under attack, meaning funding?
No. A law firm that works with queer people in Uganda was recently attacked at night–property damaged, sensitive files stolen, and a security guard murdered. Queer people are being attacked at an increasing rate, and the organizations that help them are being sabotaged too. Yet all they want is support for their Pride event this year–donations of wigs, heels, and money.
Holy shit. That’s an extremely brave community.
I do not represent an American charity, ideology or cause. I’m simply saying, hey, a number of queer people in a difficult place have personally asked me for wigs, heels, and cash. Bring those things to me, and I’ll send them over.
So that’s what you’re doing for the Pride World Wide show at Therapy this Thursday night that your hosting, and where Monet is performing, too. What else can we expect from that night?
Like, my favorite queens in the city gathering to give their best performances. It’s going to be a star studded night.
And 100% of the donations are going to be sent directly to the folks that organize Pride in Uganda, which includes not only a parade, but educational events, and a pageant.
What else is going on with you, down the road?
Legendary nightlife photographer Davide Laffe is returning to New York. That means queens have an opportunity to do a shoot with him, first off. But it also means I will be flooding your internet with new projects. So keep your eyes peeled, and stay on my Instagram.
Cool. Here’s a very important question: what are you looking more forward to, the Golden Girls-themed café, or the Wicked movie adaptation?
I feel nothing for Wicked. Nothing. The Golden Girls-themed café is good news, though. At last, gays will have a place to gather and talk about pop culture over brunch. Wait…
Okay, last question. Do you think there is not enough activism in drag and nightlife, like there was decades past? Is it true that drag queens should really be ambassadors and teachers to the community, or is that unfair to expect?
The great thing about drag is that it is lawless and ever-changing. So, no drag queen has any obligation to anything that doesn’t interest her. Monet doesn’t even wear wigs, damn it.
Also, I’m suspicious of activism, which often includes small, pointless gatherings where people look for someone to hook up with before patting themselves on the back for “caring.” I do not want people to become activists for the sake of being activists.
I do think that people who are passionate about the issues of our time should hear my cry, and start making sacrifices. Spend less time with friends and partners, spend zero time on dating apps, ignore home décor, stop shopping. Lives have been lost, which means this is a time of war. Act accordingly.
Thank you Miz Cracker! See you on the front lines.
Miz Cracker hosts Pride World Wide, a benefit for Uganda Pride, at Therapy on Thursday, June 23rd (11pm). During the week, She performs Sunday nights at Hardware with Monet X Change (10pm), Tuesday nights at Barracuda with Judy Darling (11pm), Thursday nights for a solo show at Therapy (11pm), Friday nights at Suite with Brenda Dharling (midnight) and Saturday nights at Boots & Saddle with Marti Gould Cummings (10pm). Miz Cracker has a website, and can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.
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