9:50 PM: “Who’s had a shitty week?” asks Edie Cheezburger, every Friday. The audience, without fail, gives a cheer. Edie and co-host Jaye Lish feed the energy of the room, calling for “worst week” stories, saying hello to friends, taking shots, and welcoming the audience into The Other Show. The camaraderie in the room is tangible. Many of the spectators are loyal regulars, Friday night buddies, the broad social circle of the performers’ friends and lovers, sisters and roommates and coworkers.
When Jaye asks who in the audience has never been to The Other Show before, only a few people respond. The rest of us know what we’re about to see: six inventive, dedicated queens, helmed by the comedic interludes of Edie and Jaye, whose crowd banter is unlike that of any other show in Atlanta.
The Other Show was borne of Dragnique 2012, the precursor competition show to Dragnificent. Edie, Evah Destruction, Violet Chachki, and Miami Royale competed that year, and with her win, Edie was offered the reigns of a new Friday night show at the Jungle. She and Jaye hired Violet, Miami, Justice Tyana Taylor, and Jasmine Antoinette, and Evah was added while the show was still in its infancy.
Jaye says of the time, “I feel like that the early stage of the show was born out of naiveté in that we didn't know what to expect from the audience so we literally did whatever we wanted. We were raw and vulnerable. A few years in, we have the means and following to have polish, but maintain a vulnerability that makes the show genuine and accessible.”
The competitive spirit that birthed The Other Show has driven its success through the last nearly-four years: the performers in this cast have always pushed each other to become excellent queens. For the first couple years of the show, the cast challenged themselves to present production numbers every week and theme nights every month, ranging from old lady paint to celebrity icon illusions to faux drag kings and beyond. These experimental numbers and evenings would daunt queens made of less stern stuff.
In a city where many new weekly drag shows fizzle out within their first year, the queens of The Other Show were hungry to prove that a cast could build a loyal following by challenging themselves to be fresh, funny, and absolutely different from the other drag shows happening then in Atlanta, week after week.
The show grew in popularity, and the legendary Celeste Holmes joined the cast following the departures of Jasmine and Justice, bringing her own tradition of competition with more than thirty years in the drag pageantry game. Meanwhile, seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race passed: in season four and five, Atlanta didn’t send anybody, and in season six, Atlanta sent Trinity. As her season broadcast, we were already pumped about prospects for season seven.
It’s a Monday night in mid-March of 2014, a few episodes into season six. I’m at a RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing party at the Cockpit, watching alongside Violet, Edie, Evah, and Jaye, among a dozen other friends. We talk about season seven in pie-in-the-sky hypotheticals; everybody who’s applying is hard at work on her audition tape, and although casting is still weeks away, we’re sure, absolutely sure, that one of “our queens” will make it, has to make it. We start a lot of sentences with “When I’m/you’re/she’s on the show next season. . .”
On TV, Gia Gunn is being Gia, and Violet is cracking up at Gia’s shade. “That’s going to be me. When I’m on, I’ll be the Gia Gunn of my cast.”
I shoot a glare at Gia through the television, then turn to Violet, sidelong. “Please don’t do that.”
“What? I love Gia!”
It was in that moment, with Gia on the bar TV screen and Violet smirking back at me, that I thought, you can’t win Drag Race if you’re coming across like Gia. As a rule, to win this show, RuPaul has to see that you’re smart.
But in the couple of years between Dragnique 2012 and RPDR season seven, Violet grew, pushed by her sisters and with all of us watching, into a world-class drag queen. Then she was off to Ecuador, and yes, we were all rooting so hard for her. Still, I came to The Other Show to watch Edie and Evah while Violet was gone, and I’ll admit now that I worried that summer, Violet couldn’t beat Edie or Evah at Dragnique. How’s she going to win RuPaul’s Drag Race?
But she did. RuPaul saw a brilliant young mind at work, and Violet won a bigger prize than Atlanta could offer her. It’s of particular note that she’s only the third queen in the show’s history to win without having ever lip synced for her life. Bob didn’t accomplish that, Jinkx didn’t, Sharon didn’t. Violet did.
The Other Show prepared her to achieve that.
Back in Atlanta, Miami and Celeste parted ways with the show, and Kryean Kally, Biqtch Puddin, and Delerea Dae were brought in as fresh blood to the cast. Kryean had won her season of Dragnificent, and Biqtch had been a finalist in hers; Delerea was selected as the prizewinner of the Other Pageant, a one-night event in which Kryean and Biqtch also competed. Even in sisterhood, being on-cast at The Other Show is never not an ongoing competition, and it’s no place for complacent queens. Recently, Biqtch competed in her third cycle of Dragnificent (judged by Evah, no less), making it to the finale and losing the title by only two audience votes. Meanwhile, after Kryean’s departure from the cast, D’Asia Blush Cassadine joined, a decorated pageant queen who, among other titles, just won Ms. Charlotte Black Pride 2016 this past weekend.
With any luck, Violet won’t be the only Drag Race winner produced by The Other Show; fully half of the cast applied for season nine this year.
11:50 PM: Edie is performing the last number of the evening, “Lean On” by Major Lazer. Evah stands by the stage curtain, holding the mics, cheerfully drunk and lip-synching along. Edie dances to the side of the stage to collect tips, and they catch eyes, exchanging flipped birds and smirks as Edie takes dollars. “Blow a kiss, fire a gun: all we need is somebody to lean on.” The vignette would sound overladen if it weren’t a truthful account—the dozen queens who have been on-cast at The Other Show have been coworkers, friends, frenemies, and sisters, but they’re always striving to outperform the last queen on stage. The longevity of The Other Show can be attributed to the community of fans that has grown around it, but that community would never have built itself around a show with less engaging hosts than Edie and Jaye, or less dedicated queens than the ones they’ve handselected for this cast.
Catch The Other Show this Friday, June 10, for their country western theme show.
Chris Clatterbuck is an unapologetic drag hag, a once and future blogger, and a werk-from-home mother of twins in Atlanta. Her Snapchat Clatterbabies is 65% toddlers calling her "mama" and 35% grown-ass gay men calling her "mama."