'Saturday Night Live' Sketch Featuring RuPaul Echoes Recent Drag Queen Story Hour Controversies

RuPaul's DragCon UK
RuPaul Charles at RuPaul's DragCon UK presented by World Of Wonder at Olympia London on January 18, 2020 in London, England. Tristan Fewings/Getty

A skit on yesterday's episode of Saturday Night Live addressed a controversy surrounding events that have drag queens reading stories to children.

Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) is an organization that has chapters across the United States and some abroad. According to its website, DQSH is "just what it sounds like—drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores."

The organization stages these events to allow children to "see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real."

The story hour events have caused controversy in some communities, where people alleged that it would be inappropriate to expose children to drag queens. The Journal News reported that a scheduled DQSH event at a library in Putnam Valley, New York, prompted protests, and another in the nearby city of Rye that was outright canceled. And a Missouri Republican lawmaker proposed legislation that would jail librarians for holding such an event.

The flap surrounding the story hours was lampooned in an SNL skit titled "The Library" that premiered on the sketch comedy's Saturday episode.

The skit opened in a library, with two employees played by Aidy Bryant and Mikey Day speaking in front of an audience of parents and children. The pair introduced the person who would be reading to the children that day—famous drag queen RuPaul, who was also the episode's guest host.

RuPaul began to "read" a selection of children's books to his audience.

"First up: Eloise by Kay Thompson," he began. "Ooh, Eloise, you need to call the front desk and get a hot oil treatment for that broom on your head! And girl, Victoria's Secret called—they want their wallpaper back!"

Putting Eloise aside, the drag queen then held up another famous picture book: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. He again poked fun at the illustration on the cover, which depicted a nun walking with several schoolgirls on a forested road in front of the Eiffel Tower.

"Miss Madeline, I have bad news, child," RuPaul said. "The Eiffel Tower is not in the woods. Girl, you better draw France right, b----. Somebody trying to act like they been to Paris. Pshaw. You ain't never been there, girl."

Later, at Bryant's character's prompting, the audience learned that there had been some miscommunication between RuPaul and the library. The type of "reading" he thought he came there to introduce to the children was something more than simply exploring the magic of literature. In drag culture, it refers to a specific kind of mockery.

"Reading is throwing shade," RuPaul said. "A brutal insult wrapped inside a glorious wordplay."

He quickly dismissed the character on the cover of Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy before proceeding to roast the one on The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

"Ooh, child, this girl is shaped like a BMW—body made wrong," RuPaul said, referring to the caterpillar. "And what's up with your foundation? Why you look so orange? And your body is green, girl. Pop off."

One of the mothers in the audience, played by Ego Nwodim, suggested to another that they should leave. But that mom, played by Kate McKinnon, said that RuPaul's "reading" of the book characters was the most fun she had had since her daughter's birth.

Shortly before the skit ended, Day's character timidly suggested ending the event, because the type of "reading" RuPaul showcased probably would not prove useful to the children.

"Well, sir, these children are spending their Saturday inside a library with RuPaul," RuPaul responded. "A well-timed read is going to save their little booties on the playground, right?"

Saturday Night Live