Drew Droege is a character. Yes, he plays a lot of characters and is known from computer screens across the world for his satirical take on Chloë Sevigny–but he, himself, is a character. He sits at his kitchen table, which frames him in a window that is lined with pop cultural monuments and representations of his work. “We’re going to take pictures of me next to pictures of myself, right?” he says with a smirk, inspiring a laugh from his audience of two. Drew is one of those performers who is not always on but always on his feet, even when sitting. He is tapped into a comedic genius that runs at a supersonic pace.
Drew grew up in Lincolnton, North Carolina, a small town outside of Charlotte. His family is full of funny people but he never considered himself to be one of them. “When I grew up, everyone in my family was really funny. My dad was really loud and boisterous and the funniest person I’ve ever met. My younger brother is hilariously funny, too. I was always the quiet one, the shy one who was reading, watching them and rolling my eyes. I was that kid.”
He liked to perform and intended to be a serious, dramatic actor. He stayed in North Carolina for college attending Wake Forrest University. “I was a theatre major and did plays–I didn’t do comedy,” he explains. “I did legitimate theatre. I wanted to be a respected actor. I tried to do a lot of drama and I would either not get cast or I would get laughs on stage and it would be horrible.”
“I resisted doing comedy for a long time because I had legitimate things to say and I’m a serious person. I realized that I enjoyed making people laugh, which I realized after my lack of dramatic acting experience,” he says. Comedy was always something in the background that he was used to. He’s naturally funny: comedy was maybe too easy.
Realizing he wanted to pursue comedy, he moved to Los Angeles in 1999 and started taking classes at the prestigious comedy theatre The Groundlings right after college. “I saw the movie Go and there was this one girl in the movie who had maybe three lines and was brilliant. I told myself that that is what I wanted to be able to do,” he said. “I went to The Groundlings, walked into the lobby, and her photo was on the wall for the Sunday Company. Her name was Melissa McCarthy and I thought, ‘I want to do whatever that Melissa does.’ She’s really a big reason why I do what I do along with people like Will Ferrell, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Coolidge, and more.”
Even though classes at The Groundlings were a bit scary and took a lot of time, Drew felt that he was among his people, that he had found his tribe in Los Angeles. In effect, The Groundlings has grounded Drew in Los Angeles. “I had friends out here, I liked the weather, and I had this weird feeling about LA that was intangible,” he noted. “I thought I would give it a try. I had no idea that I would live here for the past twelve and a half years, though.”
Drew is aware that his being in Los Angeles is slightly non-sensical since he wanted to do theatre and live performance: he was more suited for New York but ended up in the television and film town. “New York was really big, loud, and expensive at twenty two. I felt the vibe was much more casual here. To this day, I still haven’t lived in New York and I always think when I grow up that I’d live there. If I had a job, I’d move there in a heartbeat. LA is a lot easier to be creative–and there’s just more space, physically and mentally. I love the fact that I can leave this apartment and, in five minutes, I’m up in Griffith Park going for a hike.”
He finds that there is also room in Los Angeles for artists, which is something a lot of other cities don’t have. Drew can make his own identity and career in Los Angeles which he doesn’t necessarily think he could do anywhere else. LA–specifically The Groundlings, where he now teaches–helped him discover his point of view, too. “I learned [at The Groundlings] to write what makes me laugh and discovered my point of view and what I thought was ridiculous. I realized that all the characters that I do have crazy weird specific information and labels. If you look at all these photos, they’re characters I did at The Groundlings. They all involve some sort of food, drinks, name dropping, etc.”
This knowledge of what he finds funny led him to the character that has gotten him all sorts of attention: Hollywood alternative sweetheart, Chloë Sevigny. “The Chloë thing came out of reading so many interviews with so many different celebrities,” he explains. “Even in LA, when you ask someone, ‘Oh, did you have fun at the party?’ they answer, ‘Oh my god, yes! So-and-so was there!’ That didn’t answer the question of if they had fun. That didn’t tell me anything about your humanity. It was just ‘So-and-so was there and we had specialty cocktails and I was wearing Dolce & Gabbana.’ There’s nothing human there. I think that’s really funny and even more funny that people actually describe that as ‘having a good time.’ I find it funny that people are always presenting themselves in a certain way.”
“I started this Chloë thing because I looked in the mirror ten years ago and said, ‘Oh my god, I look like Chloë Sevigny,’” Drew continues. “I love her and she is an amazing actor and is so defiantly weird. I wondered what I could do with that so I did this sketch in 2002 based on those advertisements in New York that were saying to come to New York, after 9.11 happened. There were very anti-terrorism that people like Nathan Lane would do and were happy and peppy and said, ‘Everything is just wonderful here!’ I wondered what it would be like if Chloë Sevigny had an ad for New York and it was just this totally bizarre, underground thing that no one would get and would cause people in the Midwest to say, ‘New York seems terrifying and weird!’”
The character first started on stage in town. The first incarnation was much more lo-fi and rough: she was still being defined and performed without a wig or makeup and just with Drew in jeans, heels, and “some weird, glittery top.” “I started performing as her before Big Love. Most people didn’t know who she was. The very first audience sat there in complete stone cold silence. It was dead quiet. I always knew when I did it on stage and said, ‘Good Evening, America. I’m Chloë Sevigny.’ and they laughed, I had them. They would be okay. If they didn’t laugh, there was no getting them back. They’d just sit there and say, ‘Huh? What?’ Now that she is well known, it has certainly helped. I mean, in 2002 she was still an Oscar nominee and known as that girl in Boys Don’t Cry who isn’t Hillary Swank. I was obsessed with her since Kids so it’s weird that, to this day, some people still don’t know who she is.”
“Before the videos, it had this wildly inconsistent effect,” he continues. “I haven’t really developed it a lot or made major changes. Now that they are a hit, it blows my mind because they weren’t always a hit onstage. I do think that things have shifted from this obsession with hipster culture. My videos have come of age in this period, a part of the same culture as Portlandia and Very Mary Kate. They are these hyper-literate, referential comedic entries that I’ve been perfectly timed with. When I was doing Chloë as a live performance a few years ago, people didn’t get it and thought there wasn’t a joke there. There is no obvious punchline so people didn’t get the joke of Chloë just endlessly name dropping.”
The Internet has also been huge for him, his work offline and online being equally necessary for his career. “We all know that the Internet has really changed life. We’re no longer watching just what is on TV. People are following it and, in a sense, they are saying, ‘I like that.’ Internet followers are always a smaller market than television but they are incredibly loyal because they feel like they are each the ones who discovered the video. It blows my mind how much people like it since I’ve done it for so long–and I did it because I thought it was funny.”
“It’s been really nice,” he says of his current successes. “For years, I couldn’t get hired to do anything. I was just running around with my wigs in my car trying to get someone to put me on stage.”
He does have to attribute a small part of his success to the base of his character, the real Chloë. Because she became more well known, so did he. “It has to be weird for her that this side-thing has happened in her life,” he says. “She’s had such a bizarre career–and she has this added thing atop of it. She’s done a weird indie film where she gave a blow job and she has this fashion life and she’s done these bizarre, arty performance pieces that people don’t even know about AND she’s had her own show on HBO–AND there’s this dude in LA that puts on a wig and pretends to be you. What a life!”
Drew’s performance has gotten him attention from hosting Bears In Space at Akbar to even creating a video for this year’s Outfest. It’s been adopted by the fashion community, the LGBT community, and–of course–the comedy community. He now has more opportunities and can do a lot more in general. “That character has given me wings to do other things,” he says. “I really want to do a lot of other things and, because of my popularity as Chloë, I’ve gotten my own podcast where I rant and rave as myself, bringing on friends, doing different characters, etc. I host a lot of things now and I’ve started to ask if I can host as myself. Sometimes it feels wrong to do things as Chloë because the energy is wrong. I never did stand-up and I was always very scared to do things by myself. But, this character has give me confidence and others confidence in me to do whatever.”
Drew is glad to be doing what he is doing: he’s perfectly content with where his life in performance has led. However, he does understand how semi-silly his situation is when analyzed. “Sometimes I think, ‘Yes, this is what I was meant to be doing.’ while other times I have moments where I’m thinking, ‘Really, this is happening? This is what I’m doing?’ I’ve always wanted to entertain people. I’ve always wanted to be creative for a living. But, I didn’t know specifically that it would go this way and I certainly didn’t know that this Chloë thing would happen. For me, I thought my path would be different but I love where it’s gone. It’s mine.”
Los Angeles is Drew’s home base for the time being. “I want to be open to new opportunities,” he mentions, noting that if the right opportunity came he would of course move. He’d even like to get into writing more, too. “I would love to write a movie. I think a situation like Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo with Bridesmaids inspired everyone. Those are people that I studied with at The Groundlings and put on stupid wigs with–and now they’ve made all their dreams happen. That’s really inspiring because everything is so tangible.”
“I don’t need to be a movie star,” Drew adds regarding his future. “I’ve never been excited to be the lead in anything. I want to be busy. I’ve always said that I want to be third billed in everything–but never be first. I really do not care about that. If I can have a dream career, it would be to have John C. Reilly’s career: you’re in everything, you’re doing some big movies, you’re doing Tim & Eric, you doing some weird viral things–you’re doing all sorts of things! That’s what I want to do. I want to stay open and just say yes.”
For more on Drew, give him a follow on Twitter. You can also catch him at this year’s Outfest, which starts in town July 12: he’s in July 14th’s Sassy Pants and both July 18th’s Big Breakin’ and Something Real. He’ll also be participating in an Outfest panel on July 21 entitled Queer Internet Superstars. You can also watch his Chloë videos here.