In His Skin, In Her Shoes — The Incomparable Drew Droege
It’s remarkable that if you search for Chloe Sevigny on YouTube, the first person you find isn’t Chloe. It’s Drew Droege dressed as her in some awkward hipsteresque ensemble, delivering quirky one-liners that are obscure and often mispronounced, yet incredibly funny.
Fop: Most people recognize you from your videos impersonating Chloe Sevigny, of which there are close to 30. What do you think has made that character so popular and enduring?
DD: I'm still baffled by Chloe's popularity. When I first started playing her on stage, audiences usually just stared at me, bored and angry. Many times, people would just tell me, "I didn't get those references", as if that was the point. I would always say, "No, I don't get them either- that's the joke." Then they would casually say "Oh" and wander off. I was then labeled an "alternative comic". But then Jim Hansen had a vision to make these quick videos with brilliant images and wild electronic music, and the character completely took off. I think that you have to watch at least two videos to get what's happening. Also, I think that my Chloe is far less like the real Chloe Sevigny, and way more like your hipster friend who loves to namedrop the hottest everything and seems weirdly disappointed when you know what she's talking about.
Fop: How long have you been developing the Chloe Sevigny character? What made you choose her?
DD: I've been doing this character for over a decade. I was in a sketch comedy group called The Deviants and was playing a little girl who was obsessed with snickerdoodles. I was trying on wigs for her, looking at myself in the mirror, and I just saw Chloe Sevigny looking at me. Then I read an interview with her, in which she referenced hyper-specific names and labels as if we all were in her world. It just fascinated me. I thought, “Who lives in this space, with DJ Keoki and Dries van Noten and ironic coin skorts?"
Fop: Is the character a commentary on Hipster Culture?
DD: I guess so - sure. I've always thought that people who use names as currency are hilarious. And, I guess it's very hipster to know all the latest and hottest and edgiest styles, boroughs, coffees, beers, whatever. I live in Silver Lake, so I'm surrounded by it. No one needs pickle juice or unicycles or Gold Rush beards.
Fop: Have you ever met Chloe? Do you think is likes your sketch?
DD: I met Chloe a few years ago, and she was really sweet. It was awkward, since I'd never thought about what I would say to her when we finally met. And at the time, I didn't know if she'd seen my videos. I didn't want to ask her about them, and I didn't want to apologize to her. But also, my character is so far removed from the real Chloe Sevigny, and she's an incredible actress and fashion genius, and above all, a human being. So I just said, "I hope you know how much I love you. Thank you for being you." I meant all of that. And she just gave me hugs and kisses, and then we talked about vodka, which we both know a lot about!
Fop: If you were to impersonate anyone else who would it be?
DD: I'm really not a great impersonator. I like to find an aspect of someone and then develop a more original character based on that. I have a few videos online in which I play Tanya Roberts, but it's not really Tanya Roberts. I just imagine her to be a filthy reckless party girl who guzzles afternoon Chardonnay and fights with children in her neighborhood. I mean, I don't THINK that's who Tanya Roberts really is. I would love to play Sarah MacLachlan and just cry about everything. I would love to play Justin Bieber as a bitter old queen. I would love to play Prince and just stare into the camera, saying nothing.
Fop: Are you writing any other new material, new character? What can we look forward to seeing you do?
DD: My brilliant and hilarious friend Sam Pancake and I have been doing this two man show around LA called Strong Choices, in which we play awful life coaches and former lovers who now hate each other and run a sex-positive retreat out of an abandoned puppy mill in Temecula, CA. So, we're developing it into a web series called Celebrity Self-Help, in which we go into famous people's homes and wreak havoc on their property, lives and souls. I just wrapped a dark and hilarious mumble core horror comedy called You're Killing Me, written by Jim Hansen and Jeffery Self. And I found out today that I'm doing an episode of THE KROLL SHOW, which is one of my favorite things on TV right now! YAY!
Fop: As an out gay actor and comedian, what wisdom did you gain over the course of your career that has contributed to the success you have today?
DD: I've been doing this a long time - and I've spent years in the trenches, waiting and hoping for something to happen. So, I'm forever grateful when someone thinks of me and asks me to do something. And I grew up doing community theatre, then ensemble theatre in college, then sketch comedy and improv at The Groundlings and UCB, so I'm a big believer in being a part of a team. I try to respect what everyone's doing. Not be an asshole. Remember that I love my job and bring that love to the job. Also, I learned to simply not be competitive. Successful people aren't worried about what other people are doing. They just stay busy doing their thing.
Fop: You play the epitome of an arrogant, fork-tongued acting coach in the web series Hollywood Acting Studio. Are there real people or experiences underlying that character?
DD: Ummm . . . hell, yeah! Professor LaFrange was one of my all-time favorites to play. He was so horrible to his students. The tragedy was that he actually thought he was a great teacher and that his nastiness was essential to helping these people. At the end of most classes, he heaped praise onto his students and told them he loved them. When I first read that in the script, I was in.
I've had so many teachers and directors like that — just misguided people who thought that the meaner and more soul crushing they were, the stronger and more art-y they would appear. In college, I had a student director make us lick a 9-volt battery if we were late to rehearsal. I had a director tell me that I had no business being an actor, or even trying to be one. I had a teacher tell an entire class that she's taught lots of stars, yet there were no stars in the room today. And the sick part is that, in the moment, I believed these people every time! I've had amazing teachers too, of course, but they aren't nearly as fun to play.
Fop: At what moment in your career did you realize that in order to become more successful, you needed to carve out roles and projects for yourself rather than wait for those roles to be written?
DD: Starting out, I was auditioning for everything, and I was right for nothing. People would always say, "You're interesting, but I have no idea what to do with you.” I would watch movies and TV shows and never saw characters that I would play. Then my friends started writing weird fun parts for me to play, and I realized that there were roles for me, when they were written for me. And then, I realized that even Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had to write their own movie to start their careers. And I was working with the Groundlings, developing my own material, which I could always perform easier than awkward generic stock parts for which I was auditioning. After I started making my own projects, better projects started coming to me. Also, simply waiting is crazy-making and unproductive. I don't think you can just wait. You have to make yourself busy doing your own thing.
Fop: What comedians and performers have inspired you most as an actor?
DD: Carol Burnett, John Waters, Divine, Sylvester, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jan Hooks, Jack Lemmon, Julie Brown, Charles Busch, Mark Rylance, Lily Tomlin, Sandra Bernhard, Jennifer Coolidge, Patrick Bristow, Tim Bagley . . . I could go on . . .
Fop: You’re a member of the cast of the web series Not Looking, which is similar to the HBO series Looking based in San Francisco. What can you say about the progress mainstream media is making to capture the authenticity of contemporary gay culture?
DD: We will always have a long way to go, and part of me thinks that struggle is essential. I don't think it's one show's responsibility to represent an entire community. I love that Looking is just about this one group of friends in San Francisco, and not about every aspect of gay culture. And Not Looking, I think is the same thing — albeit a very different group of losers and derelicts. Hopefully, there will be lots of diverse gay programming in the near future to represent the evolving stories of contemporary LGBT people.
If you could run into any celebrity, past or present, on the street and give them a piece of your mind, who would it be and what would you say?
I wish I could meet Gore Vidal. I would love to hear his thoughts on this season of "Revenge".