If you’ve checked out our Week in Drag recaps, you’ve no doubt heard of one of our favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race podcasts, “Drag Her”. Each week, comedians Mano Agapion and Nicole Byer recap classic Drag Race episodes and inject the proceedings with their infectious laughs and raunchy jokes. It’s wonderful. Mano first flexed his comedic chops with the Upright Citizens Brigade and, in addition to being a frequent podcast guest on such shows as “Las Culturistas”, “Why Won’t You Date Me?” and “Best Friends”, Mano is also an actor, most recently taking a memorable turn on an episode of Comedy Central’s Drunk History.
Socialite Life had the chance to chat with Mano about the evolution of “Drag Her”, his thoughts on oversharing on the air and the future of podcasting, including an exciting new project he’s got up his sleeve.
Socialite Life: We love “Drag Her” here at Socialite Life. How did the podcast, in its current iteration, start?
Mano Agapion: A while ago me and Nicole pitched something to Earwolf and it wasn’t a hard “no”, but more of an “Okay, we’ll think about it.” And then “What the Tuck?” happened and Nicole said they specifically approached Joel and I but she said I’m going to keep you in mind as a guest host. Which is very nice of her because she’s just an angel. It’s even nice of her to say that because you don’t have to say that. So, I came on as a guest host a couple of times and her and Joel were getting crazy busy and Nicole suggested me and I think Joel suggested Matt (Rogers) and they were like, “We need to keep this train going and we need consistent hosts. You’ve both already guested on the pod. Do you mind taking over?” I was so over the moon happy about it because I love drag so much. I love the whole world. I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race for so long since I was watching it on my laptop on Logo.
SL: How did you decide to move on with “Drag Her”?
Mano: It was really organic. You know, Vulture, they were actually more interested in covering pop culture and they’re interested in covering drag when it’s on TV, so they were like, “We’re really not dying to keep doing this because we kind of wanted to talk about what’s on TV right now.” And then Headgum was nice enough to be like, “We love it. Obviously, we’re in the business of podcasts and we would love to keep going, so why don’t we keep going and so that everyone’s happy, let’s just change the name and keep on trucking,” essentially. It just worked out really great. We just love Drag Race so much and I want to keep talking about it. It’s what I do all of the time. I rewatch episodes meditatively. They’re just on in the background all of the time, so I was just so down to keep on going.
SL: What made you decide to do All-Stars season one for this first season of “Drag Her”?
Mano: We talked about some options. We talked about doing Drag Race Thailand. There’s this Mexican version called La Mas Draga and we even talked about doing Dragula. We mostly just wanted to do something and we don’t want to tread too deeply on what “Race Chaser” has done – I stay a big fan of them – and let’s do something a little different so that we’re not just retreading what they’ve done. And then, ultimately, we decided on All-Stars season one because we thought it would bring in people when we’re talking about queens that people know. I think we’re still going to do international seasons, but I think a lot of listeners are excited to hear opinions on our beloved legacy Drag Race queens. Maybe once we get a following, we can dig into more obscure queens because they’re amazing.
SL: Is there a season that you’re really excited to take on?
Mano: Probably All-Stars season two, because I think it’s the best season of Drag Race. It’s so good! Of course, it was produced, but it feels organic. It feels like all of those Game of Thrones moments that happen – they feel like you’ve been reading these drag novels for years and there’s a payoff you didn’t know you were going to get.
SL: On an episode of “Race Chaser” Willam recently said (and later retracted after our call) that CIS people shouldn’t critique drag queens. What do you think about that?
Mano: I think it’s a little unfair. I think everyone has a right to enjoy pop culture and enjoy entertainment and I think they’re more qualified in terms of their exposure to the drag queens – that’s their family and their sisterhood and they’re certainly closer to those queens than me or other comedians are. But I don’t think it’s completely fair to say that they have the only point of view on it. I really love it and I love what they do and I just really want to add to the conversation and kind of create a podcast that is about drag but is also about two lunatics hanging out and talking too much about dicks. I think they’re fully in their right to feel the way they feel. I still think we’ll have a day when we’ll be able to talk face-to-face and really share how we feel towards one another in a way that totally strips down any of the misunderstandings that have come up. Willam is a true delight and pop culture diva. I love her – even when she’s mad at me. I adore her.
As far as I’m concerned, I am not mad at people outside of the sphere coming to enjoy drag because I think what we love about drag is that it’s pretend. It’s like saying food is only for chefs or movies are only for directors.
SL: Let’s talk about some of your other podcast appearances. Tell me a little about “Las Culturistas”.
Mano: That’s Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang and they’re amazing. They’re gay geniuses and I think they do a really amazing job of contributing intelligently to the conversation but also having some dumb fun in the process. We need it more than ever. We need escapism more than ever. There’s been a decline in more serious comedy, the more grounded and real comedy and I feel it’s because people need to escape so damn bad that we need more sketch comedy, more cartoons and more lunacy.
SL: Tell me about your new project with Betsy Sodaro
Mano: We just started a Patreon called “We Love Trash” and it’s been awesome. We’re already close to 200 patrons and it’s amazing, it’s really fun. We talk about all things trashy because who doesn’t love trash? We’ve come to a realization lately where we were like, “Wait a minute, is it a guilty pleasure if it’s just fun?” We’re kind of sick of feeling guilty of the reality shows we love; feeling guilty about gawking at men in underwear; feeling guilty about wanting to eat a deep-fried banh mi on top of tortilla nachos. What if we just liked what we liked? So, we decided to start a little podcast where we talk about movies, celebrities, food, websites, anything trashy that we love, which happens to be 98% of what I love.
SL: What is the trashiest thing you will admit to loving?
Mano: I think it has to be reality TV shows like Ex on the Beach or Are You the One? If you haven’t watched that, you need to. It’s really nasty. Just to give you a little scope into it, it’s 22 hot, dumb idiots. Usually, in most seasons, it’s 11 men and 11 women and in this mix of young, hot lunatics, there is your perfect match. You have to find your perfect match and if everyone finds their perfect match, they all collectively win a million dollars. There’s love on the line, there’s money on the line and of course, there’s non-stop tequila. It’s awesome and the people are hot and more stupid than a flat rock. They’re really the dumbest people in the world and I love them for it. And they just released a season – and I haven’t seen it yet – where the whole cast is bi or pan and that’s the gimmick of this one, now there are 22 people and it’s not just men with women. Two women could be the perfect match. Two men could be the perfect match. It’s even harder now.
SL: You’ve been on a lot of podcasts and you reveal a lot about yourself. Do you ever feel like you share too much?
Mano: I do (laughs) but I never feel bad about it. I’m just the kind of person who if I have a secret, I feel crazy, you know? It makes me feel crazy or weird or uncomfortable to have secrets so I feel better when I just say everything that’s in my brain. I’ve genuinely never felt a good feeling from hiding something. And I’m not saying it’s better or it’s worse, that’s just part of my programming. I totally understand some people genuinely are more private people, but for some reason, I like to be the kind of person that makes other people think, “That guy is mentally ill, but they’re very real. They’re very honest and they’ll say anything. They’re not hiding anything.”
SL: Is there any topic that would be off-limits for you?
Mano: What is off-limits? Let me see, I talk about my boyfriend, and doing stuff with him a little too freely on podcasts – and he reminds me, “Could you please not talk about that on the podcast and tell the world we had sex last night?” I mean, people know we’re having sex, I think they’d be worried if we weren’t having sex. I don’t think anything is off-limits, but I would try not to volunteer information about people in my life who wouldn’t like that information volunteered. But I’m a young, queer brown man and I feel like I’ve been an outsider – maybe just because I’ve been an outsider for so long – I’ve never felt any need to hide anything and maybe that’s because I spent so much of my youth feeling like I was in hiding. And, now that I’m out, it just feels super good to be free.
SL: What podcasts do you listen to?
Mano: This is going to sound crazy, but I really enjoy listening to my friends. I enjoy listening to Nicole on anything, I enjoy listening to Betsy on anything. I enjoy “Doughboys”, I enjoy “How Did this Get Played?”, I love anything with Jon Gabrus. When I’m in a goofy mood, I like listening to that. I do dip my toe into some true crime stuff. And I’ve recently been dipping into “The Root of Evil”, it’s the mystery of the Black Dahlia. Let me tell you, it is dark-sided.
SL: How did you get started in comedy?
Mano: In college, I was just doing drama and then I did one play that was too sad. It was a German surrealist play about how the sky’s on fire and I somehow got the lead because I think no one else auditioned for it. But I was not even thinking about what I wanted to do with my life but I was like “I’ll audition.” And then I got the lead and I was like “Fuuuck.” It was this man who literally thought the sky was literally on fire and killed his wife to save her from the fire. It sucked, I hated it. Out of that, I was like “I need a break.” I wanted to take an improv class., I had never taken one, so I thought I had better take an improv class. This was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and luckily there was a comedy improv scene there, so I took an improv class and that was definitely the beginning of the rest of it. I really loved it, I preferred making people laugh than getting deep in on a dark role. I started there and then I was exposed to UCB community through the Del Close marathon. I went to the marathon a couple of times and felt that whatever this is, it’s blowing my mind that people were doing it on a higher level. A little internship brought me out to LA. That was no fun. I did an internship at TruTV for a couple of months. but I literally came here because I was like, “I can take a couple of classes at UCB.” So, I started taking classes and I sort of fell into this comedy community where I met all of these people that are doing podcasts now. I just met people in that community and it was really fun, because, after college, how do you make friends? I have no clue how the rest of the world makes friends but that created a little world for me to enjoy LA and start enjoying comedy and start making connections with people I wanted to do other stuff with, like podcasts.
SL: Out of everything you’ve been doing, what are you most proud of?
Mano: I have another project that I’m hoping comes out, but it’s another podcast. It’s almost like an improvised cartoon podcast. It’s a little different. It’s going to be called “We We Ho” and it’s about a future West Hollywood where the gay scene has gotten even more elitist and even more tech-savvy and the division between the hyper beautiful and the hyper earthy has become even more disparate. It follows the improvised story of a Carrie Bradshaw-esque character trying to find himself in this new, posh We We Ho scene. I’m really excited about it. It doesn’t have a launch date yet, but the pilot is swimming around podcast companies, trying to find a place to launch it. It’s something different, but I think it speaks to the audience I feel I’m already, thankfully, getting to chat with which is young queer people or just people who enjoy the world.
SL: What do you think about the future of podcasting?
Mano: I think we’re going to see more shows. I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but one of the reasons I think I’ve been getting positive feedback on this idea for “We We Ho” is because people are like “this feels like where podcasts are going.” Even though it’s improvised, it is serialized with a story and season arc even though I don’t know what’s happening in each episode, I’m basically “season-afying” or “TV-afying” podcasts. I think there’s going to be more of a blurry line and I think people are going to start using storytelling more in podcasts as we move forward because people realize how easy it is for people to consume them and how inexpensive they are to make.
SL: Any advice for aspiring podcasters?
Mano: I’m still learning so much, I feel. Okay, I have flippant advice and I have real advice. Let’s start with the flippant advice. Get someone with a huge following on the podcast somehow. It’s so stupid and silly but it will at least get your foot in the door with some listeners. My real advice would be to find a subculture that’s dying to be heard or dying to express themselves. because I think one of the reasons why some of the drag podcasts I’ve done and some of the horror podcasts I’ve done in the past have gotten successful is because they spoke to a group of people who just love what they love so crazily. You’ve got to find those people and you’ve got to tweet at those people and you’ve got to be a crazy social media sleuth and tweet at those people, use the hashtags they’re using and you’ll be surprised because when something speaks to someone, they’re excited to share it with their friends.
New episodes of “Drag Her” drop on Sunday night, so make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss out on the fun and fabulousness. New episodes of “We Love Trash” are available at Patreon. And for all things Mano, follow him on Twitter @manoagapion and on Instagram.