Bianca Del Rio, the sharp-tongued stand-up comic who won season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race, is returning to Provincetown just in time to scare up some laughs for Spooky Bear Weekend.
Del Rio bills herself as an insult comic. “I’m like Don Rickles but in a dress and prettier,” she says. She’s vicious, filthy, jaw-droppingly rude, and full of hilarious vitriol — but somehow you leave her shows feeling like you just got a big hug. It’s part of the Del Rio magic.
A little over a decade ago, Del Rio was hosting a middling drag show at New York City’s XL Nightclub. Most of the participants had Broadway dreams but not the talent to make them real. The show seemed programmed for an audience of straight, drunk Times Square tourists. Del Rio, however, with her acerbic wit, was a stand-out at the club.
“Drunk people give you so much,” says Del Rio. “If you’re bold enough to talk to me, get ready. I’m coming after you. No one is safe. I don’t care if you’re in a wheelchair. It’s open hate for everyone.”
Del Rio looks back at her childhood self not as brimming with humor but as fine-tuning a survival tactic. “I don’t think I was a particularly funny child,” she says. “I knew that I was different and that was an issue. I tried to find humor in everything. That was how I dealt with those feelings of being different.”
Del Rio’s early comedy influences include Carol Burnett and Don Rickles, but Joan Rivers takes the throne. In 2014, Del Rio was a guest on In Bed With Joan Rivers, the internet talk show. Each week, Rivers invited a celebrity to get in bed with her and dish on their lives. Del Rio’s episode aired just two weeks before Rivers died that August.
“She was wonderfully kind and gracious,” says Del Rio. “The finished shows were only 20 minutes long, and after 20 minutes of taping she could have kicked me out, but Joan kept our interview going for over an hour.”
In high school, when Del Rio was known as Roy Haylock, costuming joined comedy as one of her talents. In 1993, at 17, she won a Big Easy Entertainment Award for best costume design. Those skills helped keep her afloat in New York before she hit the big time.
“I still work on my own costumes,” she says. “I’ve got two other guys I worked with before. They come out to Palm Springs. You get to catch up with friends and get some great costumes out of it.”
But Del Rio’s act, unlike those of other drag comedy performers, isn’t at all dependent on her being in drag. Her look is an accessory to the stand-up, not its raison d’être. She could do the same material out of drag and still eviscerate an audience — which she had to do once when a piece of her luggage was lost right before a gig and she had no costume.
As Del Rio continued performing, she shaped her nascent humor into an idiosyncratic style. This, too, was a way of dealing with the world’s harsh treatment. “Do your act in a drag bar at 2 a.m. in New Orleans where absolutely nobody gives a shit about you, and you learn a skill set,” she says.
Although Del Rio is now performing in large venues rather than comedy clubs, she’s still very much a road comic. Her most recent tour ran for nine months with 130 shows in 99 cities. Most of the travel is by bus.
“I hit the road hard,” she says. “This year I had some surgery. Not elective face surgery, but some foot surgery from years of wearing cheap shoes. That slowed me a down a bit, but now I’m ready to go.”
So many different cities, so many different local politics. Rather than adjusting her act for different audiences, Del Rio sticks to what is tried and true. “I just assume everybody knows what I’m like and that everyone is on my page,” she says.
That doesn’t mean she wants an audience that’s preprogrammed to laugh at anything she says. “If they just liked everything then I would be bothered by that,” she says. “I prefer to work for it a little.”
As for Provincetown, “I hate it,” she says. “I hate the people. I’ve been with those people walking too slow on Commercial Street. I can’t stand the smell of lobster. There will be fewer drag queens there this time of year, which is good because I don’t want to face off with all these other queens I can’t stand.”
She’s Coming After You
The event: Stand-up comic Bianca Del Rio
The time: Saturday, Oct. 28, 8:30 p.m.
The place: Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St.
The cost: $75-$200, provincetownarthouse.com