With fashion already a caricature, it’s tempting to forget that Drew Droege’s portrayal of Chloe Sevigny—the very unauthorized phenomenon sweeping YouTube—is just that: an actor impersonating another actor. Suspend your disbelief too much and you might start believing him when, as Chloe, he deadpans: “I first discovered my admiration for King’s Hawaiian sweet bread at the First Annual Memorial for Ideas” and “It’s recently come to my attention that I love sending inappropriately astute texts to Tippi Hedren, Taraji P. Henson and Gorbachev.”
In the vein of Ab Fab, the hilarious sketches are designed to skewer not so much Chloe Sevigny herself, but high-concept hipsterdom and self-righteous fashion victimhood. Short yet slick and packed with snort-laughs, each clip is hotly awaited. The latest installment made its YouTube debut yesterday and already adoring comments are piled high. The theme is reading, or as pretentious fake Chloe over-pronounces it: “rayoding”…
Chloe “Reading” (Be sure to watch Drew’s other videos when this one ends.)
Drew has a great sense of humor about himself and what he does. He’s had to, after enduring “trust-fund disco shits,” bombing onstage, anonymous haters, and armchair joke-writers. And then there was that one meeting—exactly one—with the object of his affection and affectation, but let’s let him explain that…
You started the Chloe impression in 2002, when you tried on a blonde wig and observed a resemblance. At what point did you realize you had a thing?
The first time I ever played Chloe on stage, I bombed. If a bomb can be silent, humorless, horrible, and confusing all at the same time. For years, I played live shows and never knew if it would be a hit or a quiet-death nightmare. Then Jim Hansen came along and wanted to make videos. Then it became a thing. It still surprises me to this day that people like it—because many didn’t like it at first.
Your viral videos on YouTube, which you write with Jim, are now the stuff of legend. Did you know they would be a hit?
God no! They just made us laugh, and we had fun doing them. I never know what’s going to be a hit, or really why Chloe specifically is a hit. My guess is that my videos are well-timed along with a lot of hipster comedy that’s out now, like Girls and Portlandia. And I guess we all have a friend who name drops ridiculously.
To me you don’t look or sound that much like her, and the script isn’t especially Chloe-specific, yet the parody is spot-on. Is that because we’re ready to make fun of hipsters?
I’ve always been obsessed with the downtown urban world—full of homeless snobs and trust-fund disco shits. They are all so much cooler than I am, cooler than I ever want to be. And I happen to look a little bit like the queen of indie everything, Chloe Sevigny. But yeah, I don’t aspire to do a dead-on impression of her. I think she’s awesome, a great actress and an unapologetic original. I think lots of people want me to go after her and make Brown Bunny/American Horror Story/Opening Ceremony jokes, but I’m way more interested in the fantasy that I’ve created. The character I play lives in her own universe that parodies the society, more than just one person.
What does the element of drag bring to the impersonation?
I don’t really know. I’ve never considered myself a drag queen. I’m an actor who sometimes plays women. It’s always been about the point of view of the character more than the flawless look or alter-ego that comes with drag. I have incredible respect for drag queens. I’m too slovenly and sloppy to pull that off!
What kind of clothes do you look for to play Chloe? Have you built up a whole wardrobe and wig collection by now?
Jim usually designs the costumes. That’s what he does for a living, and he’s got a brilliant eye for all of it. He knows what will look best, and funniest, on camera. Also, I get a lot of donations from friends and fans. It’s awesome. I have an entire room at home dedicated to costumes, wigs, and character shoes. Out of context, it’s incredibly creepy, or maybe it’s just plain creepy. I always look for clothes with character, but not too wacky or flashy. I would never wear many things that I reference in the videos. A throat buckle by Skingraft? A neck shelf? A trio of gloves? Mainly because they don’t exist, but even if they did, it would tip the joke too far.
Have you ever gotten any real backlash? Or just the occasional comments-section hater?
I try not to read all that stuff, but usually I just get the mild haters. Nothing too horrible. I got the most backlash when I started to make money. That’s really hilarious and sad to me, that people would have such a problem with an artist getting paid. The phrase “selling out” is a wonderful thing when you’re making money doing what you love. I’ve tried to sell out for years!
Really? Can you elaborate on that a little? What kind of person would have a problem with your Chloe videos? If anything, you’re helping build her legend.
Thank you. I’m saying that I’ve done some videos and work in which I’ve endorsed certain labels or designers and then been paid for it. Some people resent that. I guess it makes their art less pure or something. I don’t get it, really. I mean, my Chloe’s always been a name-dropper. Why not get some rent money for it? And every time I get paid for something, it allows me to provide more free entertainment on the Internet.
Is Chloe so popular that she’s become your full-time gig?
I have a hilariously strange life. Some days I’m teaching class at The Groundlings and going to auditions and hanging out with friends. And then other days I’m in foreign lands, nightclubs, pride floats, weddings, dressed as this weird creature, spouting off nonsense. It’s not full-time, which I really like. I love being Chloe, but I couldn’t have her take over my life. I love doing lots of different things—writing, directing, and playing other characters.
Fashion Week is coming up. Do you already have your front row seats and photo calls lined up?
Sadly, I will not be able to attend. I’ll have to send the real Chloe in my stead.
I know the two of you have met, briefly, and it was friendly. Do you think maybe she’s playing cool and secretly performing artisanal voodoo on you?
(Laughs) I don’t know what “artisanal voodoo” is, but it sounds delicious. Yes, please! Two scoops! When I met Chloe, about a year and a half ago, she was super cool. It’s got to be a really weird thing for her. I don’t think my videos are mean-spirited, but it’s still strange to claim to be her and say all of these ridiculous things. She’s said that she’s irritated by me, and I get it. I wish she would get more into the joke. It would take the piss out of me and make her even more awesome. If she did a video with me, it would be the end—and I think it would be wonderful.
Yeah, being in a video with her might be jumping the shark. Have you ever not done something with her character because you felt it was going too far?
Yes. Jim and I have discussed that the character works best in her own universe, so I don’t usually do Chloe alongside other people, unless it’s someone like David Craig’s hilarious Martha Plimpton. That makes sense to me because we’re both doing such wacko, alternate versions of the real deal. And I’ve been asked to photo-bomb the real Chloe Sevigny on red carpets at events, which I won’t do. That’s just crazy and desperate to me. I have too much respect for her, and for myself, to do something like that.
Here’s a slightly rhetorical question: How funny would it be if you were asked to be on Portlandia as the fourth roommate?
Hilarious! I love that show. Can you get me on it?
I hear Fred and Carrie are pretty accessible. Lorne Michaels less so. Have you ever tried out for Saturday Night Live?
Yes, I auditioned for SNL a few years ago, and they were so incredibly nice to me. Doing that show would be a dream come true. I’m actually working with Broadway Video [Lorne Michaels’ production company], producing and starring in a new web series with John Roberts called My Drunk Aunts. We’ll be on the Above Average network this fall!
What’s else is next for Drew? Surely conquering the Internet machine isn’t the end. Guest spots, stand-up, late-night talk shows?
I’m doing shows in Austin [Sept 21, 22] and San Francisco [Oct 6, 7]. I’m officiating a wedding in Toronto, and I’m doing a one-man show about it called Good Evening America. I’m trying to stay open to what’s next. I love playing Chloe, but I want to be creative forever, whatever that means. I’ve done a bunch of indie movies and small TV spots, not as Chloe, but as a guy, and I love that too.
Are you ever inspired to impersonate other hipster darlings? Fashion is full of them. A designer maybe? Choupette?
Jeffery Self and I want to play the Brant Brothers, and I would love to do Karl Lagerfeld, Kelly Gray, who I find hilarious, Diane Von Furstenberg, Brooke Astor, Clinton Kelly, and any of the costume designers from my college theater department. Fashion is so ripe for parody. It’s beautiful and dynamic and exciting, but it’s also screamingly funny. When a dress is referred to as “an important piece,” I’m on the floor.