> Interview - Lawrence Chaney On House Of Laughs & RuPaul's Drag Race - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Interview – Lawrence Chaney On House Of Laughs & RuPaul’s Drag Race

“‘Scunnered” is a way of life.”

For anyone who has been living under a sad, grey rock for the last three years, drag superstar Lawrence Chaney became the first Scottish winner of any RuPaul’s Drace franchise when they were crowned the champion of Drag Race UK season two and has gone on to achieve incredible success.

They have been featured in Vogue, released an award-winning autobiography, starred in several TV shows here and across the pond, and in 2022 won the Scottish BAFTA Audience Award.

Simply, no one is doing it quite like Lawrence Chaney.

SNACK was lucky enough to grab time with Lawrence, currently representing our humble nation in Las Vegas as part of RuPaul’s Drag Race Live, to discuss their new comedy show on WOW Presents Plus, House of Laughs on 2 April.

Is it nice hearing a Scottish accent?

It’s been my favourite thing about today so far! Because I’m in America right now, I’m so used to pronouncing every word and not using words like “scunnered” around my American friends. Don’t even make me explain it! “Scunnered” is a way of life.

Just tell them it’s a clan from which their family descends, the Scunners from Glasscow.

Don’t get me started on “Glasscow!” I tell everyone it is “Glazgo.” When I spoke to Maddy Morphosis, you could tell the persona was there at the start, but when she started asking deep diving questions about my life, you strip all that back.

Deep diving personal questions were next on my agenda actually, what are your blood type and social security number?

Let me just give you and everyone reading my number, hold on… But that’s how people get you, when you feel relaxed. I probably would telly Maddy Morphosis my social security number! Not even just for tax purposes, just for the sake of it.

How is life in Vegas, and how the hell do you cope with the desert heat?

I’m lucky right now it’s not too hot: I think it’s 69° in Fahrenheit. I love it here, though it does get too hot sometimes. We’re so lucky at Drag Race Live: we’re at The Flamingo where the air conditioning is cranked up and it is freezing. I love it here, though: I didn’t expect to be taken under the wing as much as I have been.

It’s been amazing seeing you, a queen many of us remember from the Glasgow scene for many years, rubbing shoulders with drag legends like Kennedy Davenport. What is it like when you are taken under the wing of such iconic names, especially those who have gone through the pageant system?

When I first met Kennedy, it was so weird because the pageant system raises you in a different way; even in the sense of how you are in a dressing room. I’m very quiet getting ready, whereas Kennedy’s in the corner singing Donna Summer, fully going for it! Little by little I’ve come out of my shell. One of my favourite people I’ve ever worked with truly is Coco Montrese from season 5 of Drag Race, who does the Vegas show. We have a wicked sense of humour and always have a shade fest. She sent me a picture of someone getting surgery to rid of their double chin, with the caption, ‘Look Lawrence, it can work!’ I love queens who don’t take themselves too seriously.

In House of Laughs, you are hosting and get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the best comics in America.

I’m truly shocked. While I was hosting the show in Vegas, the Drag Race producers and RuPaul came and asked if I’d ever done much hosting before. I’d done stand up and one-woman shows at the Fringe but had never hosted a TV show. They asked for a list of comedians I’d like to see, so I wrote down the likes of Joel Kim Booster, Cameron Esposito, Abe Farrelly, Justin Martindale… I cannot believe how lucky we are.

The show is important because not only is there drag – Darienne Lake, Jimbo, Kylie Sonique Love – but we have so many comedians that it’s not just a drag thing. It’s not just make-up jokes. This show is so needed because the queer community is going through so much. We get attacked for just living our lives. But in a show like this, we’re seen as funny, creative, light-hearted people. We need that now more than ever.

LGBT+ equality has made such strides in the last decade that it feels alien to see rights being compromised in countries across the world. Do you see firsthand how delicate this progress can be when you travel internationally, especially in the States?

Growing up in Scotland, I was bullied in school. Then I lived in the Gorbals and would walk to Polo to do gigs and get looked at and called names. But I’ve realised in Scotland, we have come so far. There are still things that need to change; we’re not equal. But Nicola Sturgeon always had our backs, especially trans people, which I always appreciated.

I’ve noticed internationally, you are treated differently depending on where you go. The good thing about Vegas is that it’s the land of show business: they couldn’t give a flying f**k what you look like! People sing on the streets here dressed as showgirls and Elvis!

They aren’t phased by a drag queen. But we still have a long way to go politically: for me, equality is a social [matter]. Morally, you should want everyone to be equal. Shows like this didn’t exist five years ago, so I’m grateful to be its host.

That certainly reflects in the diversity of the show’s casting. Look, you had Jimbo: he isn’t of the same species. 

We flew Jimbo in from Jupiter.

Is he as unhinged as he leads us to believe?

When you say a ‘different species…’ I am so in awe of how Jimbo thinks, as he is so out of the box. We’re told if you’re weird, that is bad. But Jimbo had us all hooked as soon as he walked on set in Canada’s Drag Race, screaming with the flag. We were in love!

In House of Laughs, Jimbo is Joan Rivers with a massive breast plate, and puts false teeth in. It is unhinged, in the best possible way.

House of Laughs coming to WOW Presents Plus April 2nd!

RuPaul is certainly tickled by Jimbo and all things absurd, but also authentic. You have the luxury of being one of RuPaul’s favourites – he doesn’t remember everyone’s name, but never fails to give you shine. What has your behind-the-scenes rapport with Ru been like over the years?

I love Ru. There will be Trixie Mattels and Pablo Vittars, but RuPaul changed the game: a Black drag queen who has the most Emmy wins ever, who has done so much for the community. Whenever I meet him, I’m always in awe. I remember he came to the 500thDrag Race Live show and calling him “my liege, my liege, my king!” He came onstage and he slapped me!

With your huge success in the US and your place in RuPaul’s heart, would you be down for another round of All Winners, and if so, who would be your dream competitor?

If I’m not on the next All Winners season, I’ve not been asked! When I had just won Drag Race UK, I didn’t want to. There was a “Bimini was robbed” thing, that still goes on now. But I’ve grown as a person and a drag queen, and I look back on the season with fondness. But there are things I’d do differently: I’ve thought about who I’d do for Snatch Game. I want to do Susan Boyle! #SusanAlbumParty. And I would want to go against the following queens: Bob the Drag Queen, Priyanka, and Aquaria. Can you imagine?

We miss you in Glasgow. What are the chances of seeing you pop into Del’s or Katie’s any time soon?

I come home all the time and love supporting the shows, like Suck at Delmonica’s. I love going to Katie’s and seeing Geezah Gobble. I’d love to just pop up at a show in drag one time and perform for the people I used to perform for.

And put Bella Houston in her place.

Oh, I’m putting her in her place: above me!

House of Laughs is available on WOW Presents Plus from Tue 2nd April


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