Season 5

#131. Number One Search Result w/ Eric Jaffe

64 minutes

Released: June 7, 2021
Recorded: March 25, 2021

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Entertainer, songwriter, and a favorite host in Philadelphia’s queer scene, Eric Jaffe talks makeup, masks, beards, composing, and being the #1 Google result for “drag queen.” A genderless glamour monster Mx. Jaffe has been thrilling folks with their satirical sendups of your favorite musicals and pop hits, and recently claimed the title Drag Queen of the Year at the annual Philadelphia Drag Awards.

On this edition of WEBurlesque the Podcast, Viktor talks to Philadelphian drag performer, singer, and producer Eric Jaffe.

After more than a year of getting used to staying home and creating digital content, Eric is back out in the world of live entertainment post-quarantine:

EJ (5:28) : “So I am working again in person. Right before the pandemic started I was supposed to start a residency at this new club called Fabrica up in Fishtown….the week that I was supposed to start there everything shut down. The summer goes by, I haven’t really heard anything. I sort of reached out to them because I didn’t know if that job offer was still going to be on the table or if this place was even going to reopen…I’ve been working there a couple months in person and luckily I’ve been fully vaccinated…for a month now, but before that it was scary.”

Like many people in nightlife, Eric’s love of the performing arts started young. Though they grew up wanting to be an actor, drag was the art where they found they could take the parts of themselves which were considered negatives in a traditional theater setting and embrace them fully:

EJ (15:35-17:28) : “Theater has always been my first love. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was a child, my answer was Broadway star…when I was in school I had a really interesting experience with my theater department. They basically told me that in order to work as a working actor I would have to do things like deepen my voice and make sure I can pass as a straight person…you either need to be two things as a “male working actor”: you either need to be a really thin dancer chorus boy and you can be as femme as you want or you need to be the masculine leading man or best friend who can be on the heavier side, but you have to be able to pass… When I left school I realized I didn’t want to do that. And so I just started doing cabaret work and realized I could be as queer as I want. The things that I was told would not get me work were the exact things that would get me work in the cabaret/drag scene.”

While Eric may not be what many people think of as a “classic” drag performer, they have found their own brand of success in the Philly scene and are actually the first Google result when you look up the term “Drag Queen”, even beating out the likes of Rupaul.  For them, drag isn’t a set of standards one has to meet to be a professional performer, but an outlet of artistic expression that can help you show off your gender with pride:

EJ (19:45) “I am a nonbinary person and I feel very strongly about the construct of gender and how beauty standards have led us to believe and think certain things and I love the idea of throwing that in the garbage where it belongs. I think you can still be a beautiful feminine person and still have a beard and a mustache and there’s nothing wrong with that. “

Known mostly as a singer and songwriter, Eric’s work often involves racy parodies of musical hits and show tunes. Though this type of drag performance can be shocking to more traditional audiences, Eric believes it’s all about knowing your crowd and trusting them to be in on the joke:

EJ (35:15) : “If I’m asked before an event to keep it family friendly that is totally fine. And if I’m ever booked somewhere where I don’t really know what the crowd is like I will always ask because I don’t want to go somewhere where there is a family audience and be singing about getting peed on. But, I do think whether an audience who is an adult audience maybe don’t love that kind of humor or they are the type of audience who doesn’t think that’s for them, I think they can appreciate the parody and the jokes. There is something to be said for nuance….”

Digital shows during quarantine did teach Eric how to use a green screen and edit their own content, but they are very happy to be back at a club performing live again. Even with the anxiety factor, one of the things they missed most during the pandemic is just the ability to content with their fellow queer performers:

EJ (53:10) “It’s difficult especially when I came to realize how many beautiful queer people I had the privilege of being around every week without even having to plan it or think it. Just being in the work that I’m in puts me in the lap of a beautiful community four to six nights a week. And having that taken away from me and having that sense of community completely stripped it was so jarring in the beginning. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so empty and it was because my interaction with people just went from 100 to 0.”

With Philly nightlife slowly coming back, Eric wants to continue producing shows and writing musical parodies. Along with focusing on their own craft, they want to take some of the community wide conversations the Philly scene has had about diversity and inclusion and continue their efforts to hire other performers with broad representation in mind. For Eric, making an effort is the only way forward for a better nightlife community:

 EJ (56:55) “I feel like I’ve always been part of that conversation as being someone who produces shows and someone who casts inclusively. Especially when it came to putting on these larger productions. It was always a focus of ours to include everyone in these shows and to highlight trans people, POC, and queer people in general….I’m glad there is now a more noticeable action plan around that. Especially in Philly….I think people need to be held accountable for what they choose to do with whatever power they have.”

  • Eric on IG: @theericjaffe
  • theericjaffe.com
  • facebook.com/jaffe123

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