Absurdity is on the menu in Drag Me to Dinner, a faux game show pitting drag queens against each other as they assemble the most glamorous themed dinner parties they can muster in 30 minutes. The roasts (verbal and edible) are served piping hot, and the stars try their best not to break as the drag queens rush to get dinner on table. But when you spend almost all of the time trying to crack a smile onto your co-star’s faces, you end up with more breaks than Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live.
Husbands Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka serve as “judger” (spelling intentional) and advisor, respectively, in the series, streaming now on Hulu just in time for Pride 2023. With Harris on the judger panel are RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar Bianca Del Rio and Hello Tomorrow star Haneefah Wood (she also sings the opening sequence and gives us a live rendition of it during our interview for this preview).
On the musical call with Wood was Bianca and Murray Hill, the hardest-working middle-aged man in show business, who serves as host. Hill, one of NYC’s most legendary drag kings (seen in Somebody Somewhere on HBO), is the one person in the cast who actually had a script to follow. While Harris, Bianca, and Wood feasted, Hill refused to try even a morsel. “That was part of my contract that I had my agent work out, because drag queens cook cooking? That’s a recipe for disaster,” he teases. This is the first Wood has heard of this. She asks: “Are you lying? Is this true?”
“Yes, it’s true!” Hill replies. “I might have been the only one scripted in the show, as you can see. I have to get some of the lines, you know, the business of what we’re doing. But the rest of it, you can tell that I went off script because I didn’t know what the hell was going on either. There’s no way I was gonna read the teleprompter when, you know, Vanjie’s drinking a bottle of tequila, Bianca’s rolling her eyes, Haneefah’s like, ‘f**k this sh*t.’ It was a full-blown circus, and I was very happy to be the ringleader.”
A circus is one of the show’s many themes. Among the lengthy call sheet are 40 beloved drag queens, most of whom have graced the Drag Race stage at least once. In the case of Jinkx Monsoon (above, with Burtka and performing partner BenDeLaCreme in Episode 1), she’s taken home more Drag Race crowns than anyone else — she won the first-ever all-winners season of Drag Race All Stars in 2022.
Given that, and BenDeLaCreme’s equally endearing comedic chops, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that their deserted island-themed dinner reigned supreme in Episode 1. The prize each episode: a golden cheese grater (remember, this is a faux competition. You’re meant to sit back and enjoy the hilarity, not stress over the victors).
Also a Drag Race victor (of Season 6), Bianca knows these queens well. “My favorite is the fact that they go home after one episode,” she teases. “That’s the best thing in the world.”
“Listen, it’s the perfect binge. When I see drag queens walk away, I go, ‘Yay!’” she jokes of the quick-watch season. “In the show itself, there’s over 40 drag queens. Thank God we didn’t have to have them for that many weeks, but it was crazy. Get ’em in, get ’em out. And that’s what I think makes it a lot of fun. And the girls also get to show their fun, crazy side. They don’t always get to show that on other television reality shows.”
If she were saddled with curating her won Drag Me to Dinner party, Wood says the theme would be “inclusion.” “Because it’s for everyone, every person, every race, every gender. Everybody come ride with us!”
Culinary show enthusiasts themselves, Harris says he and Burtka aimed to create the cooking show they wanted to see in the world. “David and I are big fans of all of the cooking shows. We’ve been judges on the Chopped‘s and the Top Chef‘s,” he says. “We wanted this to be intentionally comedic in that way where [there’s] clearly not budget constraints and clearly not time constraints, even though we say that it is. We’re trying to slightly take the piss out of things.”
Adds Burtka: “Neil and I talked a lot about that. It’s interesting. Everybody knows these shows. Why not take it and have respect for the viewer, because the viewers watching these shows are so much more intelligent than a lot of these shows give credit for. Why not take it another step further and show a completely different side? Take the show and turn it on its head.”
“Sometimes you watch these different iterations of competition shows, and they’re repeating all of the rules as if you’ve never seen a competition food show in your life,” Harris replies. “And so we wanted to play towards an audience that has already seen these shows and that is fans of this style, and then sort of turn it on its side.”
The couple loves making this unapologetically queer series that can provide a good laugh while celebrating drag. “In this drag world, unless you’re going to see their show in a nightclub in New York or L.A. or wherever they’re from, they don’t get the credit that they necessarily are deserved,” Burtka says. “A lot of these other shows that they’re on, they’re produced a lot more, whereas we let them be who they are and let them do what they wanna do and what they do best.”
“David and I are parents,” Harris says. “We love entertaining, and we really just, in our world that’s filled with all kinds of potential stress, it’s nice to be creating content that’s fun and positive and enjoyable, whether you’re by yourself or having a kiki with a bunch of friends.”
Drag Me to Dinner, Streaming Now, Hulu