Snatch Game is a tricky beast. While it’s presented as merely about giving your best celebrity impersonation, in reality, it’s so much more. No matter how accurate, the imitation alone isn’t enough to stand out in a crowd of eight queens. When Chad Michaels won as Cher, she didn’t merely repeat Cher quotes or sing some known Cher songs. She poked fun at Cher’s absurd dedication to showmanship and drew our attention to how ridiculous it would be to watch Cher appear on a Logo reality show. But to hear others recount it, Chad was just good at doing Cher’s voice. So let’s talk about what makes a good Snatch Game. Or, rather, what makes a bad one.
It’s easy to recognize when something is funny. Take Bosco, for example. Along with the rest of the world, she correctly recognizes that Gwyneth Paltrow selling kooky products is comedic. But merely pointing out that fact is not in itself comedy. Sure, Bosco can (and must) use it as a baseline, but only as a tee-off for something more. In Bosco’s case, she decides the comedy comes from the products escalating in grossness. Last year a vagina candle, this year a probiotic made from come. It’s ridiculous and silly, to be sure, so why doesn’t it work? Well, the reason Goop’s $75 vagina candles are funny isn’t because a vagina-scented candle is “gross.” They’re funny because they’re the final evolution of the Gwyneth Paltrow persona: an exorbitantly wealthy, self-styled aesthete who erroneously believes herself to be on the cutting edge of all things health and beauty. Starting there gives us a little more to work with. Maybe this Paltrow is so out of touch she thinks she’s the first person to discover that cows can produce milk (“not just oats and almonds!”), so she starts selling 2 percent milk for $40 per ounce on Goop.
Willow (another demonstrably funny queen) falls into an adjacent comedic trap by playing her Snatch Game too close to reality. But while there is some humor to be found in the accuracy of an imitation, the best comedy comes from elevating an impression to some ludicrously heightened context. Mimicking the nonsensical platitudes and non sequiturs Drew Barrymore herself could conceivably say on her own talk show? A good place to start. Deciding that Barrymore brings that same whimsy and unfaltering saccharinity to, say, her new gig as a boots-on-the-ground war correspondent abroad? Well, now we might have a joke.
Of course, not all successful Snatch Games follow a set pattern or obey a strict set of rules. (We need only look as far as Katya’s off-the-wall Björk or Kandy Muse’s Patrick Starrr to see that sometimes unstructured absurdity works just fine.) But the most memorable ones often do. In All Stars 5, Jujubee dominated with her Eartha Kitt by describing mundane activities (like turning up the thermostat) in the most sensual way possible. In season 12, Gigi Goode won as a self-aware, potty-mouthed version of Sophia the robot. As did BenDeLaCreme with her time-traveling Maggie Smith. But there are other options. Not a fan of painstakingly workshopping possible personas to make your impression pop? You can always take a page out of the really savvy RuGirl booklet and pick a celebrity who’s already done the legwork of finding a comedically viable persona for you. Think Alaska as Mae West, the queen of the double entendre, BenDeLaCreme as master of innuendo Paul Lynde, or Shea Couleé as the rambunctious catch-phrase-spewing Flavor Flav. The takeaway? Comedy rules are made to be broken, but if you’re not willing to take that risk, they’re a great place to start.
Ironically, the frequently maligned Snatch Game of Love alleviates many of these issues. Snatch Game of Love eliminates much of the guesswork involved in structuring a character by giving each contestant a fixed structure they must play into. As opposed to being asked questions that could be taken a million different directions (“What did you have for breakfast this morning?”), the new format gives enough specifics to narrow the options down to just a few (“Where would you, Lady Gaga, take Tommy Dorfman on a date?”).
But I can’t lay all the blame at the queens’ feet. Not helping matters is that there’s no duo on Earth worse at giving Snatch Game advice than RuPaul and Michelle Visage. They know what they want (“Be funny”), but they have no way to express their notes in a way that’s helpful or actionable. “Go further,” RuPaul says. “Do more,” Michelle pleads. “Don’t flatline,” they chorus. Honestly, the person able to give the most astute analysis this week is guest judge Dove Cameron. She sees right through Willow Pill’s insecurities and has good performance notes for Jorgeous, and honestly, she is pretty funny in the Snatch Game! Maybe I need to go binge Liv and Maddie. Notably missing from the critiques this week? Any emotion resembling anger from RuPaul. Ru is no stranger to a runway outburst (I’m sure Joe Black still shudders every time she passes an H&M), so it’s surprising she’s in such good spirits given the quality of the Snatch Game. It speaks to how much RuPaul likes this group of girls (read: Jorgeous) that even a flop of a Snatch Game is merely met with a little chiding and some good-natured giggles.
So with all this talk of how horrific Snatch Game is, you might expect the elimination to be a bloodbath. What have the producers at RuPaul’s Psychological Torture Facility cooked up for us this time? Six-way lip sync? Sextuple elimination? Ritual sacrifice? Hunger Games–esque tournament? Stanford Prison Experiment? On the contrary, this week we get … nothing. No elimination. Huh? You’re telling me after possibly the worst Snatch Games in the history of the franchise, there isn’t one elimination? Ru announces that next week she will hold a LollapaRuza lip-sync tournament where everyone but Deja has to participate, but something tells me this challenge would have occurred regardless of the quality of the Snatch Game. It’s a cop-out, and it feels more like a ham-fisted way to meet an episode quota dictated by a network executive than a shrewd way of determining who should be eliminated.
With no one heading home, that means we’ve eliminated just six queens in ten episodes. Not to mention that the gold chocolate bar is still very much in play. I’m not quite as anti-non-elimination episodes as many online seem to be, but stacking said episodes back to back like this is certainly a choice. It drags down the pace at a crucial juncture and risks the latter half of the season feeling a slog. Such things happen, though, and I’m not writing the season off just yet. On the contrary, I agree with the judges that this is a uniquely strong bunch of girls, and I’m excited to see how they bounce back next week and beyond.