Drag Queen Coco Peru on crafting a lasting character ahead of two SOLD OUT RTP shows
“Life is often ridiculous, and that’s great and I celebrate that but I think there’s something underneath being funny that really resonates with people that has more to do with how we all go through things.”
If you know anything about drag and comedy (or frequent YouTube, for some of us younger folk) then the name Miss Coco Peru probably makes you perk up. The drag persona of Clinton Leupp, Coco has been taking to the stage since the early 90s to deliver monologues that combine comedy and depth in the hopes of reaching the universal human experience.
“I get a lot of emails from people from all different walks of life; gay, straight, young, old–always asking me for advice, and not silly stuff, real serious advice,” Peru said. “I thought I wonder if I should write a show where I just give advice based on my experience.”
And so ‘Coco’s Guide to a Somewhat Happy Life’ was born, a show that will see the iconic performer take the Richmond Triangle Players stage for two sold out nights this week. Peru’s monologues, though autobiographical, always have an appeal that transcends, something she has seen reflected in her audiences.
When Peru started her audience was mostly gay men in their 20s, and though that audience has aged with her, Peru also saw her audience grow more diverse.
“I have noticed young gay guys, straight women, I’ve had straight moms bring their straight daughters to my shows because of my YouTube videos,” Peru said. “What’s amazing to me is these teenage girls are relating to me and my experience in life even though you’d think we’re from two completely different worlds.”
Peru said she has always sought to make her performances universal, to strike a chord that everyone can relate to no matter who they are.
“Years ago I remember my parents saying ‘Why are you going to talk about being gay onstage? People aren’t going to be able to relate to you’,” Peru said. “I watched sitcoms for years and straight comedians talk about their love lives and their families and I laughed at them even though that wasn’t my experience. I can laugh at a black comedian or a latino comedian and laugh with them at their experience because it’s human.”
Though drag is now well known for being an exceptionally diverse scene that wasn’t the case when Peru started. Finding a confidence behind the character and the performance, Peru saw herself able to say things she may not have been able to otherwise.
“Back in the early 90s when I created Coco I was speaking onstage about gay rights, about AIDS, and I don’t think back them people were used to a drag queen speaking and doing monologues,” Peru said. “I wasn’t pretending to be a woman, I was up there talking about being a little boy and acknowledging that I’m a man in a dress and I was talking about issues that were relevant and I still do that. I think drag gave me permission to do all of that, to find my voice. It was a very healing experience.”
The versatility the drag community sees today is owed in part to Peru’s work, and though it’s gotten easier to become known thanks to the growth of the internet it’s still just as difficult to make a career out of being a queen.
“Back when I started, if you wanted any kind of career you had to create something very special that really stood out from amongst the rest. When I started people worked very hard on their craft in order to be recognized,” Peru said. “And nowadays I think I’m always reminding younger drag queens that if they really want a career rather than just the fame or being recognized they should really work on a craft and set themselves apart, and make themselves something special in order for that career to really last.”
Unfortunately both nights of Peru’s performance at Richmond Triangle Players theatre have already sold out, but if you can snag tickets from a friend it sounds like it will be well worth your time. And shout out to Virginia Pride for working with RTP to get the event together.
Tyler Hammel is a college student who has an unhealthy obsession with comic books. He’s a proud cinephile, owning a sizable film collection that lets you know he doesn't have any friends. An aspiring filmmaker, Tyler currently works with the VCU student organization The Horn RVA, a group of like-minded video journalists with a passion for Richmond based music. When not crafting his own bio Tyler can be found misusing commas,
While narratives on trans rights and issues are starting to appear in the broader media, it is still uncommon for these stories to be painted in a positive light. Often, there will be sad stories of violence or crass comedic comments made against the trans community instead of the breadth of stories that get told [...]April 19, 2017
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