Send in the Clown
BY Jeremy Kinser
April 11 2011 4:00 AM ET
The age-old show business adage “dying is easy, comedy is hard” is lost on Drew Droege. In fact, the opposite has been true throughout the career of the versatile comic actor who recently came to the attention of mass audiences with his compulsively watchable series of “Chloë Sevigny” videos.
“I realized I had a knack for comedy when I tried to do drama in college,” Droege says, taking a deep sip from his Starbucks grande nonfat latte. “I’d be onstage doing Ibsen and getting laughs,” he recalls. “I’d get madder and try harder to be more dramatic and get even more laughs. I eventually realized that my energy is more for comedy.”
Droege acknowledges he first developed the skill for making people laugh while growing up in a funny family in a tiny suburb of Charlotte, N.C., where he knew everyone, including his local funeral director. “My brothers are hilarious,” Droege says. “You had to be fast and quick in our family.”
Droege, who admits to being “30-something,” also counts childhood viewings of The Carol Burnett Show and his teenage discovery of John Waters’s films as seminal influences that shaped his singular sensibility. He even feels pangs of remorse that he didn’t suffer more for being gay in a small, idyllic town. “There was a time in my life when I wanted more pain,” he says. “I had a really great childhood. I always idolized people who had these horrible upbringings. I remember hating my life for being so boring, but I’m so thankful now.”
After graduating from Wake Forest University in 1999, Droege immediately headed to Los Angeles to study with the Groundlings and hone his improvisational and sketch comedy muscles. Working with the esteemed company, which has launched careers for an array of entertainers including Paul Reubens and Kristen Wiig, gave Droege a focus that had previously eluded him.
“I always felt like I was a musical theater actor who can’t sing or dance, so where do you put that? Sketch comedy,” he says. “I love being big and loud and over-the-top.” Droege also found a day job with the troupe; he’s been an instructor for the past five years. “Teaching has made me better as a performer,” he says. “For several hours I have to not think about myself and just focus on other people.”
But thanks to the series of “Chloë” videos (directed by Jim Hansen), other people are focusing on Droege. By donning outlandish drag as the blond actress–fashion icon and spouting a checklist of boldface names or outré fashion items that have nabbed her attention, Droege has become an Internet sensation. While he admits the videos have definitely been a game changer, he also finds the sudden success perplexing.