Daniel Webb

Interview by
David Mills
Photography by
Celesta Danger


32-year-old Daniel Webb of Austin voted for Roseanne Barr in 2012, so you couldn’t exactly call him an Obama supporter. Naturally, Texan queers have a healthy skepticism when it comes to politics. Can you blame them? As recently as 2003, when statewide sodomy laws were finally struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court (Lawrence v. Texas), Lone Star gays couldn’t even lawfully fuck in the privacy of their own home. When the U.S. President dropped by the popular barbeque pit where Daniel works the lunch shift, he seized the moment and brought up the issue of gay rights where Obama probably least expected it. As their encounter becomes a media sensation (The Fist Bump Heard Round the World), BUTT had fellow funny guy David Mills investigate.

David: Is that Daniel? How’re you doing, sister?
Daniel: I’m good. How are you?
I’m well. Great to hear your voice. What time is it over there?
It’s early. It’s seven. But I’d normally be up by now.
Oh really? Are you early to rise?
Early to work.
You have to be at Franklin Barbecue?
I have to be there in about an hour. So I’m there at like eight.
It seems kind of early if it’s just open for lunch, obviously you’re more than just the register girl.
Sometimes I’m a waitress and sometimes I work the line.
How long have you been at Franklin Barbecue?
I’ve been there about a year and a half. I’ve done the barbecue competitions on and off. I’ve basically waitressed my way across Austin, Texas.
So you’re sort of ‘the face of’…
I do take the trash out and mop the floors.
So you’re mostly hosting, basically.
Exactly. It’s like front of house kind of stuff. I’m a piano player, so I refuse to work with a knife.
Yeah, that’s someone else’s job.
And in stand-up, I need to hold the mic, so I need all my fingers.
Of course you need your fingers. You don’t need to justify that. What’s so special about Franklin Barbecue anyway?
Barbecue itself is this weird sub-culture. It’s something people travel great distances for, and pay lots of money for. We’re part of that phenomenon.
Has your world been turned upside down by the fist bump?
I wouldn’t say it’s turned upside down. It was a cool moment, so yeah. But it also has like — I love all the negative energy and feedback. It’s so fun! There’s a lot of like people who’ve called me out for my hair clips.
Were they right to?
From a health code perspective, absolutely not. But am I embarrassed that I didn’t have a good ponytail? Absolutely.
Sometimes it takes the world media focused on your hairstyle to realize the mistakes you’ve made.
But I’m usually so much better than that. So show up to be photographed.
Yeah. You’ve learned an important lesson.
Next time, it’ll be a good wig.
Let’s get into some of the negative commentary. That’s always so much fun.
The really scary stuff is the people that are hoping I get HIV, or that I have infected the President with HIV, which I find very —
Well, I think the President’s taking Truvada so you’re safe.
Of course, there are the people who are going to boycott the restaurant.
Did you know beforehand that the President was coming to the restaurant?
Not too long before he showed up, a bunch of Secret Service men came in in hats and suits and they briefed the room. Then they started frisking everybody with security wands. That’s kind of my favorite part.
Was it a strip search?
No, but it was hands-on and they had a couple mean-looking dogs with them. It was kind of sexy. Then the President just came in. He came through the line, shook hands with a bunch of people and ordered a bunch of food.
And what brought on this impulse to bring up the issue of gay rights?
Well, our Governor, Rick Perry, is like super anti-gay, and here’s lots of primitive thinking in Texas when it comes to gay rights. That’s kind of where I was coming from when I told the President, ‘Equal rights for gay people’, because it’s not what the situation in Texas is at all. Surprisingly, he asked me if I’m gay. I don’t know if people ask you that a lot, but people don’t really ask me that a lot.
I usually say I’m a lesbian, and that sort of ends the conversation. How did Obama respond?
He just kind of looked up and immediately asked if I was gay. There was no pause.
And then when you delivered the punch line, ‘Only when I have sex’.
He just like kind of rolled his eyes and laughed. And then our fists met.
Is that really your thing, the fist bump? Like is that how you normally greet someone?
No. I’m all kisses. I’m cheek-to-cheek and very huggy-huggy. Now some people are wanting to take fist bump pictures, which is scaring me because I certainly don’t want it to turn into that.
No, you don’t want to become a meme. That is a very short career. How true is it that you’re only gay when having sex? Is that really a valid statement?
I’m super-gay when I’m watching Designing Women, and when I’m downloading Tori Amos bootlegs.
And how’s Barry looking?
Very trim. I must say his waistline was great. He seems very polished. I’m a tall person — I’m like six, three — but he seemed very tall. You know, most famous people are smaller.
Is he moisturizing?
Probably. He had a nice, healthy glow to him.
Obama spent three hundred dollars on lunch. Is that atypical? That seems like a lot of money for barbecue.
It was actually over four hundred dollars. He paid for the people behind him too. But honestly no, I see people spend five, six, seven hundred dollars in one purchase. He tipped a hundred bucks, which I think is pretty generous.
And did you have to split the tip or is that your tip?
Of course, we split the tips and share them with all the people who make the food — everybody. We share it all.
Sounds a little bit like socialism to me. Where’s the incentive to work hard? Do you have any tips for tips? How do you pull it out of them?
I wear short, flat front slacks. They’re short, short, short. And, you know, I’ve got long, long legs, so I work the legs and a lot of hip action… I like working the line.
With legs like that, you can’t keep them hidden. Is there another world leader you’d like to serve?
I would love to serve Putin just to be able to get real nasty. I would love to serve some meat to Imelda Marcos.
Looking at the menu, there’s at least one item I’m not familiar with — what’s a Tipsy Texan?
It’s a sandwich with sliced beef, sliced sausage and coleslaw, all mashed together.
To be honest, I’m both gluten and lactose intolerant, and root vegetables are triggering for me.
What roots can’t you have?
I can’t — even the word. Are there free refills on fountain drinks?
This isn’t New York City — we’ve got nothing but free refills for you.
Do you ever eat at the restaurant yourself?
I’ll have just a little, like a little snack, but it’s usually just like a very light something. I definitely don’t indulge on barbecue daily — I got to fit into my sequined gown.
What do you recommend?
Food wise? The turkey is delicious, just because I like me some mayonnaise.

BUTT - Drw_beard_web
Before he shaved his beard, Daniel was working a serious caveman look. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Since your fist bump with the President, have you gotten laid?
No! I need to get out of the house really. I need to get off the internet.
You need to start working it.
Well, I do have a show tonight. If I get drunk enough, maybe someone will take me home.
Who are your comedy icons?
I love Foster Brooks. I love Lucille Ball and Gracie Allen. I love Joan Rivers. I love Roseanne Barr. I love Phyllis Diller and George Carlin — basically, I like old stuff. I’m also a huge Carol Burnett fan. She’s a Texas girl too, I like to remind people.
Oh, is she?
She’s from San Antonio. I also love Jack Benny.
I love Jack Benny too — such a great stylist, Jack Benny. When you look back at those older acts, you find they all had style. So much of stand-up comedy now is, you know, all the same… Jeans and a T-shirt. No one has that kind of signature look anymore.
There’s a great Phyllis Diller HBO special called ‘On Location’ from 1977 where they kind of show her in the green room beforehand, like getting ready. Also, you should watch when Roseanne interviews Phyllis Diller on YouTube. There are only like a couple thousand views, but in the first few segments, Phyllis Diller is really giving it away. She’s just spilling all her stuff, and she talks about what you were just talking about regarding style. It’s a fascinating interview.
I noticed you’re performing at Stargayzer.
Yeah! Stargayzer is this cool, mostly music festival going on at this beautiful place called Carson Creek Ranch. I’ve partied there. The festival’s one of the first of its kind just because all the artists are gay. They’ve invited a lot of Austin-based artists. You have a lot of festivals that come to Austin, and the organizers will import all the talent. I can’t wait to tell jokes in that environment. And it’s a great place to wear a sequined gown.
Let’s say I’m coming to Austin. Where should I go out?
There’s a bar called Cheer Up Charlies. That’s where everybody starts. They closed Rick Perry’s favorite place — there are longstanding, unsubstantiated rumors that Perry is gay, but everybody knows his wife wears the strap-on in the family.
Who’s his wife?
Her name is Anita Perry. She’s blonde. There’s no real story about her other than the fact that every time her husband runs for re-election, ads are taken out in the local papers that say stuff like, ‘Are you a masseur? A steward? A concierge? A host? Have you had sex with Rick Perry?’
I used to know this drag queen, Anita Perrier. Maybe they’re related.
Maybe… Anyway, Rick Perry’s favorite bar was called Charlie’s. It was conveniently located right next to the Texas Capitol building. That was the place you could like score a bag of blow, and get a hand job in the men’s restroom in the first thirty seconds of being there.
Sounds dynamite! Was it like full of pretty sweater queens?
No, it was like old sufferin succotash, like Patti LuPone queens. Lots of tunics, lots of linen, lots of turquoise jewelry…
There’s still a lot of that around. I mean, it’s really Washington D.C., that kind of establishment queen.
Totally. Like retired real estate queens…
Speaking of retired queens, I just got booked to do stand-up on an Atlantis gay cruise.
Oh, you’re kidding…
I know! I’m kind of thrilled and terrified at the same time. I don’t know if I can handle all those middle-aged queens in rainbow sarongs.
They’re going to think that they can touch you.
They can!
Do you get your own bathroom?
I have my own room with my own bathroom, yeah.
They’re going to want their money’s worth. You know what I mean?
You don’t exactly fit into the women-and-children-first category anymore, so I would bring a gown if I were you. Just in case… The world needs entertainers, David.
Well, I have to remind myself of that because with these queens it’s not always pretty — these American gays on vacation can be very demanding. They get the wrong cup at Starbucks, and it’s a fucking civil rights issue.
You should have seen the old queens — covered head-to-toe in amber jewelry — who were rushing me to get their brisket orders at the restaurant because they had to get to the Melissa Etheridge concert on time. Where are you cruising?
They fly me to Barcelona, and then we set sail to Malta. I do three nights, one show per night. Then they fly me back from Sicily.
That’s a lot of deck time.
Absolutely… Another gay comic threw that gig my way. We got to look out for each other.
I should go. I have to get my barbecue outfit on.
Go slather yourself up for the grill. Great chatting with you.
Right back at you, sister. Smooth sailing!

Look for Daniel Webb at Stargayzer in September, and David Mills 16, 17 and 18 August 2014 at The Hive on Niddry Street in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Published on 19 July 2014