$#*!-faced in sequins: The lovely ladies of Drunk Dial take on YouTube one shotat a time
On a typical Thursday night in Austin, you can find best friends Jodi Frizzell and Emily Lowe making the rounds at East Sixth Street bars, chatting it up with the local color. Without fail, they’ll be the loudest ones in the bar—both vocally and fashionably—and they’ll be surrounded by throngs of their adoring fans.
“We’re drunk, you’re drunk, let’s talk about it,” is the concise theme of the weekly show that invites inebriated callers to phone them with super-honest questions about life and love.
Later that evening, Frizzell and Lowe will take their wobbly perch atop two captain’s chairs set up before a camera to host the latest installment of their utterly hysterical and totally unbelievable, locally-produced video series, Drunk Dial.
“We’re drunk, you’re drunk, let’s talk about it,” is the concise theme of the weekly show that invites inebriated callers to phone them with super-honest questions about life and love between the hours of 2:30 – 3:30 am. The whiskey-fueled hosts are reliably entertaining and have built a devoted following across the country with their even-funnier-the-next-day antics. Their most vocal supporters are gay men, but their callers and fans run the gamut of backgrounds and life experiences.
After building their fan base with two seasons of the constantly evolving series, the ladies at the other end of (512) 481-BONE are now working to expand their entertainment influence with a surprising amount of business acumen you wouldn’t expect from anyone who wears this many sequins.
“We’re at this spot where we’re doing as much as we can, so now we need to know the bigger picture,” explains Lowe. “We’re at a tipping point where it’s time to make this show a focus and really go for it.”
I met the two outgoing friends and their less attention-drawing producer, Tisha Sparks, at Rio Rita, located at the exact center of their East Sixth bar crawl route. Over their favorite drinks and a steady stream of Pall Malls, the advice mavens shared their story of friendship, their secrets on success and their vision for the future.
“We met in beauty school up in Pflugerville in 2006,” recalls Frizzell. “We were both the queen bees at the school, but Emily was really energized every morning. I thought, I really like her, but she’s way too excited about Paul Mitchell products.”
Luckily, Frizzell recognized the act was all a big game for Lowe, and they formed a friendship when they began teaming up for assignments. Shampooing and hair coloring allowed them ample time to talk and gossip. “I thought, ‘Yes, I found someone awesome.’ And then she gave me a horrendous haircut.”
“She asked for it,” adds Lowe.
“It was just not a very versatile cut,” says Frizzell.
“From that day on, we decided we were soul mate friends,” replies Lowe.
After years of developing their uncanny rapport that allows them to finish one another’s sentences, the two women found their “A-ha!” moment while watching Jezebel’s web series, Pot Psychology, where two friends get stoned and answer viewer-submitted questions.
“We were watching it,” says Frizzell, “And we thought, ‘Yeah, we could do this. But, knowing us, we should be drunk instead. We asked our friends if they would watch a show like that, and they said yes. So we tried it out one night at The Liberty. And I remember Emily was really quick with her answers about what to do with a dead hooker. That’s when I knew it would work.”
“I don’t remember that at all,” laughs Lowe. “But once we did the first show, the reception was so good, we just didn’t stop. We did about 20 shows in a row.”
This proliferation of skills puts the dynamic pair in the forefront of the alternative entertainment scene on the East Side. “We’re lucky to be in Austin, because the people we drink with are also the people that get things done here on the East Side,” says Lowe.
Filmed at their home, Drunk Dial spread like wildfire, first locally and then across the nation. “We have a lot of great fans all over the country who call in,” says Lowe, “and people are nice everywhere we go. I mean, we go up to people at bars and say things like, ‘Do you get drunk and look at the Internet?’ People are super receptive to that. When you put it out there that you’re excited to talk to them, people are willing to talk to you, too.”
One trademark element for the Drunk Dial duo is their flashy sequined outfits that help them stand out from the typical East Sixth crowds. Taking a cue from the satirical rapper and fashionista, Leslie Hall, Frizzell and Lowe are always seen in matching costumes that may include shoulder pads, gold lamé and fanny packs. “We won’t stop until we’ve bought out all the sequins in this town,” warns Lowe. It’s no wonder the gays love them.
Other than the uniforms, all three of the talented ladies agree there is no real formula to their success. While they know what combination of drinks gets them sufficiently sloppy (whiskey, lime and sodas; beer to maintain, then more whiskey shots), they recognize it is their constant reinvention of approaches that keeps everyone wanting more.
With the escalating success of the show, Frizzell and Lowe have been busy hosting other events along the East Side that are spiking their popularity and further increasing their visibility. As emcees, the duo brings their tipsy flair to an event, whether it be a talent show, a beauty pageant or a holiday party.
Last Valentine’s Day, they hosted a Valentine’s Mystery Match-Up that brought together 80 hopeful singles of all persuasions to Cheer Up Charlie’s in search of love. “Everyone was pounding drinks and so down for it. There was this amazing sexual vibe in the place and everyone was willing to show up and be set up,” Frizzell explains. “I hope we’ll get to do another one of those because that’s the number one complaint we get on the show: How do I find someone?”
Their matchmaking skills will also be highlighted when Monofonous Press puts out a Choose Your Own Adventure-style Drunk Dial video game in the style of their recent video game, Dry Hump. Players can choose to play a gay or straight man or woman, and then choose to go on the date that Emily chooses or the one that Jodi chooses. “There are about 16 different scenarios that way, which means multiple playing experiences,” amazes Lowe.
This proliferation of skills puts the dynamic pair in the forefront of the alternative entertainment scene on the East Side. “We’re lucky to be in Austin, because the people we drink with are also the people that get things done here on the East Side,” says Lowe. “There’s not a lot of difference between the people who make the parties happen and the people who drink here five nights a week.” Being friends with all the East Side bartenders also doesn’t hurt their campaign for notoriety.
Having left their mark on the east side of Austin, Frizzell and Lowe are now setting their sights higher. With the editing finesse of the tireless Sparks, the duo is stepping up their game to create even more quality content.
“We’re looking to showcase their personalities as much as possible,” says Sparks. “It helps that we’re all three good friends, so I know them and I’m looking out for their best interest. I don’t want to make them look bad.”
“We make ourselves look bad enough,” laughs Lowe.
The proverbial dial is about to get turned up as the Drunk Dial team switches their focus from Facebook to YouTube to increase their viewership. “There are a million people who aren’t as funny who know how to use YouTube as an interactive site for promotion, not just video,” says Lowe. “It’s time for us to diversify our approach so we can increase our standards and raise our viewership.”
To help with this social media campaign, they hired an intern to start dotting their (Mai Ta)I’s and crossing their (Long Island Iced) T’s. Says Frizzell, “Our intern is a guy in Baltimore who we call Daddy Judy who loves the show and knows people here in town. He’s really willing and smart, so he’s going to help us play the YouTube game.”
Sustainability is another serious consideration for the two natural enemies of their own livers. “There’s no acting in these videos—we really are that drunk,” Lowe states. Reaching the level of inebriation they do week after week has taken its toll. “If you asked us about this last season, we would say, we’re fine, we can do this forever,” says Frizzell. “But to say this hasn’t affected us physically and mentally would be a lie.”
“Which is why we want to branch out and do more hosting events. If we can keep producing content from the other things we do, then this is definitely sustainable,” says Lowe. “People want to party with us more than they want the advice, I think. So we want to give people access to us. So don’t worry. We’ll still be going out.”
If all goes according to plan, the team will even be heading out on a cross-country road trip to visit gay men living in small towns across the U.S. “We want to call it It Gets Better Right Fucking Now,” says Frizzell, “because we know that some of our fans are trapped in small towns and they don’t know any other gays because they never got the chance to leave their small town.”
“So we want to show up on their doorstep, take them to H&M, buy them some boat shoes and a V-Neck and introduce them to some other gays,” states Lowe. “It’s the least we can do to give back, really.”
“Plus, if the Travel Channel wanted to pick us up and travel us around to interact with the world, we’d be all for it,” adds Frizzell.
“We’d probably need to be a little bit drunk, though,” laughs Lowe.
Gotta love a couple of dames following their sequined dreams.
Season 2, Episode 2:"The Most F**kable Part of Nancy Grace":
Catch Emily and Jodi at The New Movement's Megaphone Show Wednesday night at 9:30 pm telling their best stories to inspire TNM improvisers.
Then join them in a Halloween seance and Drunk Dial taping at The Chain Drive during the Bearz Vs. Zombies party on Saturday, October 29.