For the Kinsey Sicks, politics is no drag

Meet the drag queens running to be the GOP nominee
Meet the drag queens running to be the GOP nominee

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    Meet the drag queens running to be the GOP nominee

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Meet the drag queens running to be the GOP nominee 04:14

Story highlights

  • Kinsey Sicks is the traveling drag show with its eye on the 2016 election
  • The members each have alter egos related to presidential candidates

New York City (CNN)There are four singing drag queens hoping to win the hearts of the American people and change the conversation around politics in 2016. They are the Kinsey Sicks, "America's favorite dragapella beautyshop quartet."

The San Francisco-based group is currently touring the country with their political satire show, "Electile Dysfunction 2016." The act centers on the premise that the quartet (consisting of four Republicans with competing ideologies) is running for the GOP presidential nomination.
    The group has produced nine albums and their songs range from playful with "America's Next Top Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star Gone Wild!" to political with "Anchor Baby" (sung to the tune of "Santa Baby").
    "In drag we get to say really outrageous things that people would not tolerate in any other situation," said Ben Schatz after a performance at the Metropolitan Room in New York City. "What surprises me honestly is how few people leave and I think it's partly because our characters are so lovable."
    The cast of characters includes Rachel, a Libertarian played by Schatz, Trampolina, a tea party conservative played by Spencer Brown, Trixie, a Wall Street conservative played by Jeff Manabat and Winnie, a religious conservative played by Nathan Marken.
    "Rachel gives Ben a fighting chance at being socially appropriate," said Schatz of his character. "I used to be much more like Rachel before I had her on stage."
    The group started in 1993, when Schatz and a group of friends went to a Bette Midler concert in San Francisco dressed as the Andrews Sisters in drag. They received so much applause that they got the attention of a publicist who asked them to sing at an event. They stayed up until three in the morning practicing that night and decided to form a drag acapella group immediately.
    The group's name, Kinsey Sicks, is a nod to the Kinsey scale developed by Alfred Kinsey in 1948, which showed the various degrees of human sexuality. The scale ranged from zero (completely heterosexual) to six (completely homosexual).
    "We first started singing at the Castro Muni station and we earned $37, which blew us away -- that 37 people would want to give us a dollar. So we decided to keep doing it," said Schatz who is the only remaining founding member. The group has worked full-time since 2001.
    Many members of the Kinsey Sicks had an interest in politics before joining the Kinsey Sicks. After graduating from law school, Schatz went on to be the director of the national Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and help write Bill Clinton's HIV position papers during his 1992 presidential campaign. Marken volunteered during Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and helped organize against Proposition 8, which aimed to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in California.
    "Oh there's a lot I'd like to see happen with this election. There needs to be some significant change in how money plays out in elections," said Marken. "And there is such an absurd absence of civility in this campaign that it's dehumanizing people to a degree."
    Brown, who grew up in Kansas in a family where politics wasn't discussed at the dinner table, says he pays more attention to the news since doing the show.
    "Now we live in a world with social media where it's like everyone has an opinion, which is great because I think that's why this election year I've seen so many people taking stands and making their voices heard," said Brown, who also plays another drag character, Daisy Buckët (pronounced bouquet), at home in Kansas City and helps raise money for local AIDS charities.
    "It's a very democratic process that we have in actually putting the show together," said Spencer Brown on the group's collaboration process in voting on ideas.
    All four approach drag in different ways but for Schatz drag has always been political.
    "My character in drag is very much a feminist statement," said Schatz. "I don't try to look pretty, I try to look ridiculous. People are always like, 'Oh your forgot to shave your chest.' It's like' I did not forget to shave my chest God made me this way.'"
    Manabat, who is in charge of the group's glamorous wardrobe, was a part of the award-winning U.C. Berkeley's Men's Octet as an undergraduate student. He says his money-obsessed character Trixie couldn't be further from who he is in his daily life, but he doesn't judge her. Being a part of the Kinsey Sicks, he said, is unlike anything he's ever done as an actor because his character continues even after the curtains fall.
    "This show in particular -- we're coming off stage and we're still the characters and we get to communicate with people about the issues we're bringing up," said Manabat. "I'm able to be more open and challenge people on their views or even just communicate one-on-one about something that personally I'd feel uncomfortable talking about."