Since its first appearance in Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Snatch Game is the one challenge that queens and viewers could rely on. An improvised celebrity impersonation game, Snatch Game forced queens to amp up the funny while staying in character. Snatch Game is responsible for some of the best moments in Drag Race history — see: Alexis Mateo as a pregnant, butch Alicia Keys hitting on guest judge Amber Rose; Alaska’s vulgar and regal portrayal of a deep-voiced Mae West; Willam literally leaving the stage while impersonating a dazed and stubbly Jessica Simpson; or Yara Sofia’s iconic approximation of a British accent in her impersonation of Amy Winehouse, performed just before the singer’s death.
Snatch Game also offers us the rare opportunity to directly compare the queens who performed as the same celebrities in different seasons. Out of the long history of Snatch Games to choose from, here are five (ish) recreations representing some of the best and worst of the Game’s progress over the seasons.
1. RuPaul — Jessica Wild vs. Trixie Mattel
Season 2 of Drag Race was the first iteration of Snatch Game, and there was a lot of pressure on Jessica Wild to deliver as RuPaul. But I think she pulled it off! Nothing earth-shaking, for sure, but her irreverent and bewitchingly nonsensical performance kept us interested, in the same way it did throughout and after her season. If we had to compare queens (which is literally what I’m doing), then Jessica came out on top.
I had high hopes for Trixie Mattel, and though she later rallied and delivered some great performances in All Stars 3, her impersonation of RuPaul was one of the biggest let-downs in Snatch Game history, especially because she thought she was gonna knock it out of the park. Trixie’s Ru impersonation is practiced and well-received — Shangela even blamed Trixie’s fans for celebrating it too much in her confessionals, in between GoT references. But when forced to do it for longer than 30 seconds, the bit quickly became boring.
2. Carol Channing — Pandora Boxx vs. Bob the Drag Queen
Maybe this is a bad place to start because I’m literally 12 years old and don’t actually know who Carol Channing is, but it should be obvious that Bob is the clear winner. Even though Pandora’s look was right for the character, there’s just no beating the funny of Bob’s game. And maybe Bob has an edge here because by season 8, there’s a lot more Snatch Game to study off of, but I think if Bob had picked any character, it would have been Hall of Fame-worthy.
Whatever happened to Pandora Boxx anyway? What’s she up to now? Did she become some kind of racist or is she chill? Does she do tours? It’s shame that she sort of disappeared, because I feel like All Stars 1 wasn’t really the return that she deserved, probably because it was honestly a hard season to watch. For anyone who forgot, Pandora dipped in the first week of AS1 because the show’s team-based format tied her fate to that of Mimi Imfurst, who really had no business being there, despite Pandora’s obvious disdain for working with her.
Too often, queens mess up Snatch Game by over-delivering on the look and under-delivering on the performance (see: Morgan McMichaels as Pink, Tatianna as Ariana Grande, etc.). But the fact that Bob doesn’t resemble Channing at all is part of why this bit landed so successfully. What’s even better is that this was Bob’s second character of the Game — he opened it up as Uzo Aduba, playing her role as Suzanne Warren from Orange is the New Black. Bob delivered a convincible performance as Aduba, but I think quite rightly saw the limits of the bit and changed characters at just the right moment for her impersonation to have maximum impact. Bob truly understood the assignment.
3. Lady Gaga — Sonique vs. Phi Phi O’Hara
There are no real winners in this particular game, but if I had to give it to someone, I’d give it to Phi Phi. Season 2 queen Sonique has a special place in my heart as one of the show’s first contestants to later come out and live as a woman; she’s still working as a showgirl, and she looks fabulous. In fairness to Sonique, she didn’t exactly have much Gaga to work with at the time. Filming of season 2 took place in the summer of 2009; by the time the show aired the following winter, Gaga had already entered a new phase of her career. The Lady Gaga era that Sonique was channeling was that of The Fame, released August 2008 — think “Poker Face”— is a completely different Lady Gaga than the one of The Fame Monster, released November 2009 — think “Bad Romance”. Still, there’s no denying that Phi Phi’s look was much better, and she looked great in it, but she really get her own character. Her answers and antics were confusing, and her roar of “Give it a twirl, give it a twirl, give it a twirl-irl-irl!” is still one of the most uncomfortable moments in Snatch Game history.
Phi Phi is one of those queens, like Milk, that’s just too unlikeable for me to like as much as I want to. Her looks are consistently great, and as much as I resent her attempts to play a dommy fem top out of drag, I can’t pretend that I don’t find it kind of hot coming from a 5’6” 32-year-old drag queen. But I just can’t get past her whole……schtick. She seems so bitter all the time, and it’s uncomfortable to watch.
4. Cher — Delta Work vs. Chad Michaels
No contest, it’s obviously Chad. In fairness, he’s literally a professional Cher impersonator, and his face proves it. But he also delivered as a performer. He gave us three unique wig changes, a perfect Cher voice, and jokes that actually landed and felt totally right, because Chad genuinely loves and understands Cher as a character. It was a shining moment in a Snatch Game that was otherwise generally uncomfortable to watch.
No shade to Delta Work, who I completely adore despite her giving me virtually no reason to in her season, but her Cher was just not right. The voice wasn’t even there, and that’s really what defines the role. I wish she had had the confidence at the time to attempt a more challenging and complex character. Nowadays, Delta impersonates Adele all the time, and I wish she been able to deliver that on the show. But I also think she has the right energy to have handled a good Mariah Carey, who I still can’t believe no one has impersonated for Snatch Game yet.
5. Fran Drescher — Jujubee vs. Courtney Act
This one is important for me, because I love Fran Drescher and would probably do her if I was ever on Snatch Game, especially because she’s gone through a bit of a brand evolution in the last few years, and I think her embrace of explicitly anti-capitalist politics would make for good Snatch Game agitprop material.
Jujubee is one of my favourite queens, and even though both of these queens did a safe job, I think Jujubee came out on top. I think it mostly came down to the voice — Courtney had a hard time delivering the iconic nasal voice and gorgeous, grating laugh that Fran Drescher is famous for. Maybe it’s just because I can’t stand Australian accents, but, like Cher, the voice is half the battle for this character, and I think Courtney’s accent gave her unexpected trouble.
6. Honourable Mention…
Tyra’s Beyonce was better than Kenya’s, Alyssa’s Joan Crawford was better than Mariah’s, and Tatianna was a better Britney Spears than Derrick Barry, and now I am turning off my twitter notifications.