5 Ways 'The Tonight Show' Should Be More Like 'RuPaul's Drag Race'
Last night, Jimmy Fallon churned out yet another eminently YouTube-able clip, as he and guest star Paul Rudd engaged in "the first ever Tonight Show Lip Sync Battle." The rules are simple: each player chooses two songs, pretends to sing them to the best of his ability, and may the best man win. Fallon pulls out some admirable air guitar with Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero," but from the moment Tina Turner's "Better Be Good to Me" rockets through the auditorium, there's no question: Rudd's got this one in the bag. His subsequent butt-to-the-camera shuffle for Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" is just (delicious, delicious) icing on the cake.
Of course, the idea of a "Lip Sync Battle" is far from new to TV, as fans of RuPaul's Drag Race know all too well. The "Lipsync for Your Life" segment has always been each episode's suspenseful closer, with the two lowest-scoring queens duking it out to see who will have to sashay away. With Drag Race 's Season 6 premiere this past Monday, and news of its far-reaching influence making headlines across the globe, it seems like the show has hit an all-time peak of mainstream cachet. It makes sense that Fallon would want to cash in on that — and there's an argument to be made that he should borrow even more. There's the obvious, of course — sky-high wigs, sky-higher heels, an armada of glitter canons — but, okay, realistically, here are five simple ways that late night talk shows could be vastly improved by taking a cue from RuPaul's Drag Race.
Drag Race may no longer be sponsored by Absolut Vodka as of this season, but that doesn't stop the queens from partaking in an adult beverage or two on camera. Translated to talk shows, this concept is a goldmine: Instead of a potentially stilted deskside interview, now it's two celebs getting chummy over cocktails. Plus, watching, say, Clint Eastwood attempt to down a giant technicolor cosmo would be worth the price of admission alone. Or, even better, have each guest choose their own preferred beverage (virgin daiquiris for those sober among us). It's a conversation starter right off the bat — and offers marketing opportunities out the yang. Speaking of which…
2. The Interior Illusions Lounge
(Yes, this season it's called the "Form Decor Lounge," blah blah — I refuse to accept change. Moving on:) For those unawares, the Lounge is essentially Drag Race's green room, where the contestants retreat during the judges' final deliberations. It's also the setting of Drag Race's sister show, Untucked, a half-hour after-dinner-mint of a series that features the queens sipping said aforementioned cocktails on couches and gossiping — or fighting, or breaking down, dance-battling, you name it. Wigs come off, claws come out, and it makes for sincerely excellent television. In that vein, I propose that talk shows adopt the same policy: At the end of each episode, give us a peek behind the scenes to the (now alcohol-infused) guests, shooting the shit before and after their segments. Just imagine thirty minutes of, say, Kristen Bell, Aziz Ansari, and Liam Neeson getting boozy and bitching at each other. "You told an airplane anecdote?! I was supposed to tell an airplane anecdote! Bitch, I am from Chicago! " Ratings, through the roof.
3. Michelle Visage
Lest we forget, RuPaul had a talk show back in the day — and what did she do to make it as fierce as could be? Why, she hired Ms. Michelle Visage, of course. Yes, before she was everyone's favorite bling-sporting Drag Race judge, Visage was the cohost of The RuPaul Show for 80 of its 100 episodes. Sure, Andy Richter is all well and good, but if Conan's guests had Michelle to deal with every night, I'd predict a slew of viral clips, GIF threads a mile long — really, all the realness the airwaves can stand.
4. Constant (Dirty) Puns
Whether wishing one another "condragulations" or receiving "She-Mail," the queens on Drag Race are constantly tossing around wordplay — and their fair share of NSFW double entendres. "Match Game" becomes "Snatch Game," contestants are asked to show off their "Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent," and it's not a premiere, hunty, it's "RuPaul's big opening." Imagine what fun it would be if other talk shows took the same tack — if, say, hosts played up the probing nature of interviews or riffed on politicians' stimulus packages. Of course, I'm not suggesting they veer into terribly inappropriate territory, but a substantial injection of under-the-radar blue material would certainly be a way for "late night" to re-earn its name.
5. Shameless Self-Promotion
Fallon is already pretty adept at finagling his way to the front of social media, but on Drag Race — excuse me, RuPaul's Drag Race — the host won't let you forget her name. Not only is the show chock full of cheeky, Wayne's World-style product placement, with a big ol' wink at the camera, but the product being placed is frequently RuPaul-related — from her most recent album ("Now available on iTunes!") to her memoir, which she built an entire challenge around in Season 2. And, of course, there's her traditional strut down the runway, which gives Mama Ru a moment (or several) to shine each episode. Stephen Colbert comes close, with his audience-hyping pre-interview run, but I want all of these hosts to bask unabashedly in the limelight, from Jimmy Kimmel to Larry King (if he can successfully unslump his shoulders long enough). And if that requires some wigs and heels, I'm especially for it.