"Bea Arthur in the prison yard," is how musician and stand-up comic Daniel Webb describes his style.
Webb has more in common with Lady Bea than height, good bone structure, and a propensity for polyester slacks. He's also a funny guy, with a loose, slack posture and an easy laugh. When I waited tables with him briefly several years ago at Mother's Cafe, he was like a walking Xanax – a customer-chiller, a waitress-whisperer. It's part of his style not to sweat the small stuff. Which is no easy feat when you're wearing head-to-toe synthetic fabrics.
"I've been wearing the same clothes for 10-plus years, and they're all my dead grandparents' clothes. Everything I own is polyester. I can sleep in it. I can work in polyester pants and boots in the dead of summer." He gestures around his living room at the vintage furniture. "Everything in here is something from some dead relative. I got two Dickies suits from each grandfather when he died."
But Webb really scores points in the evening-wear competition. "I only wear sequins. It looks great, it looks fucking fabulous. You don't have to have a nice-looking body, necessarily, and it looks great, it pops. It's super-showy, and also easy. Other dresses, I look stupid in. That's when I look like a man in a dress, as opposed to a queen."
Webb has been performing on the piano and keyboards (including a vintage harmonium and a 1973 Fender Rhodes), sometimes in drag, sometimes not, for "over a quarter-century." He first started performing stand-up comedy about a year ago, with the encouragement of Ralph Hardesty, who co-runs Cheer Up Charlie's LGBT-themed storytelling series Greetings From Queer Mountain.
As Webb moves away from music performance and toward the dude-centric stand-up scene, the question of when to be a queen and when to play it straight has given him pause.
"I started out doing stand-up wearing a dress, and I think it was sort of a crutch, so I don't do that anymore. I liked it because it would break it down right away, let people know, 'This is going to be ridiculous.' But I wouldn't go to Cap City in a dress. You would be making up for it the whole time. It wouldn't be useful."
When is it useful, and for what? "You can be a little bitchier, and it makes sense." He gives an example from his set that is pretty much unprintable. Most of Webb's stand-up is, as he puts it, "vile" – but in the same easygoing, disarming manner as his clothing. He compares funnel cakes to anal sex and muses that famous people always die in pairs (one "gorgeous and fuckable" and one "you might have sex with, but only because they did something really good"). His temperature only rises when he gets on the topic of politics. "I feel like if I'm going to be screaming at people, it might as well be about something real."
Outside of Cheer Up Charlie's, the comedy scene can be a little – normative. "One time, I was talking about what I perform, and I said, 'I want to do less' – and I was going to say 'angry stuff,' and the guy said, 'less gay stuff.'" But Webb isn't too worried about it, or about how his performance style is perceived. "Look, there are always going to be straight men freaking out about a man wearing a dress," he says. "Drag is a parody. It's a parody of how gay men are treated, how women are treated. That's why it's funny – and self-defense is the whole comedian thing anyway."
Which brings us to his greatest style aspiration: "I want to get a tattoo of a Dooney & Bourke purse on my side with a strap tattooed over my shoulder." He gestures to his waistline. "That way when I get older and the skin sags and gets all leathery, it'll just look more realistic."
Daniel Webb is performing at Drag Out Funny at the Marc (San Marcos) on Feb. 9, Fantasy's Show and Tell at Firehouse Lounge on Feb. 11, and Greetings From Queer Mountain at the new Cheer Up Charlie's on Feb. 26. For beauty tips from Webb and his drag personae Drone Collins and Toyota Lopez, check out our online photo gallery.
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.