Shante, you slay.
We’re nearing the end of RuPaul’s Drag Race’s fifth season, and that means it’s time to make an important list: the 10 funniest queens in the show’s history. In an age when people like Vivienne Pinay and Ivy Winters insist that fishiness is more important than comic chops, we need to fight back. I watch this show for unbridled sauciness, wit, and unapologetic humor, and these ten queens all boasted fine gut-busting instincts.
I have to be honest: I nearly gave this spot to Tatianna, whose performance as Britney Spears remains Snatch Game’s most hilarious triumph, but Detox is truly the funnier performer. Her wise-ass commentaries, chicken fierceness, amazing side-eye, jaw-wagging lip-sync skills, and general weariness of everything are total treats. She’d probably laugh more at herself if her facial muscles were capable of abject glee. I’m always waiting to hear her next confessional, particularly after we’ve wasted another five to ten minutes focusing on the boring feud between Alyssa and Coco.
Follow her on Twitter @TheOnlyDetox
9. Manila Luzon
Manila Luzon’s key ingredient for comic success is a strong one: commitment. Think of her violently smiley take on Imelda Marcos (which was so freakish, I’d have believed it if you told me she was playing a Filipino version of latter-day Joan Crawford; it was certainly a better tribute to Mommie Dearest than whatever Mariah tried to pull in season three). Recall her campy genius as she lip-synced “MacArthur Park,” a song that began as an innocent ode to leaving dessert items in a storm but is now remembered as Manila’s power anthem. The pure comic prowess in Manila’s facial expressions is the stuff of superstardom, and I hope she uses her skills to horrify children on a regular basis.
Follow her on Twitter @manilaluzon
8. Alaska Thvndervck
Maybe I’m biased because I humbly believe that Alaska has, um, THE GREATEST SPEAING VOICE IN THE HOSTYR OF EARTH and therefore everything out of her mouth is a gloriously deadpan, slightly perturbed, witty, and righteous piece of wisdom. But you can’t deny the objective awesomeness of her fragrance ad (“Red… for filth”), the lovely obnxiousness of her signature greeting (“Hieeee”), and her inspiring origin story (“My spaceship crash-landed her in the mid to late 1980s, and I’m trying to get enough Twitter followers to get it up and running again.”) It takes a lot to stand out from a boyfriend like Sharon Needles, and Alaska’s droll showmanship more than does the trick.
Follow her on Twitter @Alaska5000
7. Tammie Brown
Tammie is one of the great enigmas of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a proud weirdo whose comic defiance is as surprising as the fact that her Carol Channing realness parallels Pandora Boxx’s. (She also looks quite a bit like Drew Droege’s version of Chloe Sevigny.) Sure, she’s fallen flat in the competition more than once, particularly when she “read” Michelle Visage as an impulsive defense during the All Star season, but she’s one of the few queens on the show who is a true comic artist and uncompromisingly silly. Her old-school vaudeville flair is polished and unmatched, and her batty quaintness is a one-of-a-kind delight. Her icons range from Marlene Dietrich to Tammy Faye Bakker, and like all legendary queens she clearly knows everything about drag.
Follow her on Twitter @thetammiebrown
6. Latrice Royale
I am already exhausted thinking of how much I’ve laughed at Latrice. How about when she neck-rolled into oblivion in her prison guard uniform? When she waved a fan and purred, “The shade — the shade of it all?” Her dramatic Aretha Franklin lip-sync? Perhaps no other queen on the show is as quotable. “Five Gs please — Good God Get A Grip Girl”; “Jesus is a biscuit — let him sop you up!”; and of course, “Let me explain to you what a b*tch is: Being In Total Control of Herself.” If Madonna hasn’t lifted that line yet, she doesn’t know what’s good for her.
Follow her on Twitter @Latrice Royale
5. Sharon Needles
It’s easy to remember Sharon Needles as a versatile queen who can transform herself into anything, but it’s almost easy to forget that her humor is just as versatile. We knew we were in for a season of macabre delights when black ooze dripped out of her mouth during her first walk down the runway, but I really raised my eyebrow with reverence when she NAILED, OWNED, AND SOLD Michelle Visage during her season’s Snatch Game. Excuse me, was that line about how Michelle and Ru were on “uppers, downers, and candy corn” ad-libbed? Because that is seriously funny and witty. Let’s all rip it off forever. I also cackled when she mocked Willam’s elimination with Phi Phi.
Follow her on Twitter @SHARON_NEEDLES
4. Jinkx Monsoon
I can’t imagine what’s more isolating — being so far ahead in your season of Drag Race that even your competitors seems to root for your victory, or being virtually the only person in your entire season to know who Little Edie Bouvier is. Jinkx Monsoon is polished, deadly in her kindness, and 100% funny. Her “Delusion” perfume ad was a hilarious and incisive joke, and her breathless, delicate femininity is a fine platform for naughty subversion. This is a girl who definitely grew up on the bawdy, wicked humor of Death Becomes Her.
Follow her on Twitter @JinkxMonsoon
3. Chad Michaels
Chad Michaels deserves all the credit in the world for his attention to detail when impersonating drag icons (Cher and Joan Crawford mostly, but don’t forget his jittery, scowling Bette Davis from the All Star season), but his brand of mature, yet bombastic humor is so endearing. All Stars was worth it just to watch him pull off a victory. Did I mention I interviewed him at last year’s NewNowNext Awards, and mere milliseconds after I mentioned the name Gregg Allman, he replied with perfect Cher tonality, “Ugh, Gregg’s been drinkin’ again”? He’s a comedy outlaw, just like Jesse James!
Follow her on Twitter @ChadMichaels1
2. Pandora Boxx
The original comedy queen of RuPaul’s Drag Race is, frankly, my favorite queen ever to perform on the show. Why? She combined silliness, maturity, and vulnerability in one self-assured, intelligent package. Her Carol Channing impersonation is still a scream, her disco commercial was a fabulous coup, and frankly, she wins extra points for delivering laughs in the face of self-serious, unfunny competitors like Tyra Sanchez. She was defiant and cool, and I’m so, so mad that she left so early on the All Star season.
Follow her on Twitter @ThePandoraBoxx
And the number one funniest queen in RuPaul’s Drag Race history…
Is this a controversial pick? Because based on comedy chops alone, Willam is the clear victor. Some have argued that he’s always “on” — and they’d be right — but the reason the other queens aren’t perpetually on is frankly because they don’t have the nerve to be. I loved so many of Willam’s choices during his (aborted) run on the show: his cardboard Jessica Simpson reveal, his cheeky facial expressions, his happily vulgar runway presentations, and the utter ownership of every joke he delivered. Plus, you cannot argue with his Twitter account (where he once schooled Mario Lopez after he boasted of eating Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday, quipping, “Hate meat is especially delicious on the Sabbath”) or his laugh-out-loud series Willam’s Beatdown. Could Willam have won his season of Drag Race? We’ll never know, but we’re constantly aware of how downright hysterical he is.
Disagree with our rankings? How would you rank the top ten funniest queens?