Benito Skinner Is All About Drama

Benito Skinner was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, however has lengthy felt destined for Hollywood, by the use of a stint in New York Metropolis.

“There’s house, and I simply wanted to suit extra of my wigs and costumes in my condominium,” he mentioned of his new West Hollywood rental.

The 27-year-old author, actor and digital creator, recognized on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter as Benny Drama, moved to California in the course of the pandemic to increase his profession as a sketch artist and comic — a phrase he’s nonetheless barely snug utilizing to explain himself. (“It’s just like the scariest phrase on this planet, however I do really feel like a comic,” Mr. Skinner mentioned in a latest interview. “That’s one thing that I’d by no means inform, like, a straight man, as a result of then they need to hear a joke.”)

Like many internet-incubated skills, Mr. Skinner labored a day job (as a video editor) whereas constructing his following, honing a model of comedy that pulls closely from movie star impressions, together with of the Kardashian clan, Lana Del Rey and Shawn Mendes.

He additionally performs a wide range of characters he dreamed up himself, together with Jenni the hairdresser, a consummate oversharer who smacks her gum and rips out grays; Kooper the intern, who’s egregiously unaware of tips on how to behave professionally at work; and Throat Rippin’ Annie, a deranged chain-smoking, beer-drinking, gun-wielding model of an grownup Little Orphan Annie.

At a time when teasing humor, particularly parodies of celebrities who can simply seem to be caricatures of their public-facing lives, can look merciless or bullying, Mr. Skinner has mastered the advantageous artwork of mocking individuals with out dragging them via the mud. It usually seems like they could possibly be in on the joke. Generally they really are.

The Kardashians, for instance, routinely reward Mr. Skinner’s parodies of their present on Instagram — even though Mr. Skinner portrays Kris Jenner, the household matriarch, as an evil puppeteer, full with pink taloned satan fingers. And Ms. Jenner made a cameo as herself for a parody video Mr. Skinner made marking the ultimate season of “Conserving Up With the Kardashians.”

“Kris is essentially the most enjoyable for me to do as a result of I used to be in a position to give her a full different story,” he mentioned. “I leaned into this web notion of her that the satan works arduous, however Kris works tougher.”

His movies of personifications of the astrological indicators additionally routinely go viral. One, by which he performs the completely different astrological indicators coping with life in quarantine, had greater than 1,000 feedback inside three minutes of being posted, Mr. Skinner mentioned, a primary for him. It featured a Virgo dressed like Hannibal Lecter obsessively cleansing; a Libra styled as Kim Kardashian saying she’s going to medical college to avoid wasting individuals; and a Most cancers having an emotional breakdown after convincing themselves that everybody hates them.

Although Mr. Skinner has begun writing and producing larger initiatives, together with a popular culture podcast with the comic Mary Beth Barone referred to as “Obsessed” and Halloween particular that featured the band Haim and Drew Barrymore, his course of stays scrappy.

He’s nearly at all times the author, stylist, make-up artist, director, video, sound and graphics editor for his sketches. Generally Mr. Skinner’s boyfriend, Terrence O’Connor, and their buddies assist out.

Rising up in Boise, Mr. Skinner hid that he was homosexual. He knew that his household would help him, however thought that if individuals at college knew, life would solely be troublesome. Consequently, he steered away from performing (or dressing up as Lindsay Lohan within the film “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” or as Woman Gaga in her 2010 “Phone” video, the best way he needed), he mentioned, and performed soccer and “completely hated it.”

“Generally if I’m on a set and one thing’s taking a very long time or troublesome, I’m like, ‘It’s OK, I performed soccer. I can actually do something on this life as a result of nothing could possibly be extra reverse of my liking or core being.’”

It wasn’t till he was learning movie at Georgetown College that he started to really feel extra snug writing tales and being in entrance of the digicam, each issues he’d loved doing as a baby. By means of studying about queer characters in media and discovering buddies who he thought he could possibly be himself with, Mr. Skinner felt snug sufficient to come back out at 22.

“My work is me sort of taking the reins of these issues and taking the facility again,” Mr. Skinner mentioned. A lot of his characters are manifestations of his love of popular culture and the queer icons that he admired, secretly, whereas rising up. He needs “different youngsters who’re rising up in Idaho and different locations that aren’t New York Metropolis or L.A. to really feel like there’s somebody on the market who’s doing it and it’s being celebrated and that there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel,” he mentioned.

On the onset of the pandemic Mr. Skinner was residing in New York and initially uncertain about whether or not it might be insensitive to maintain posting nearly every day movies as information experiences of individuals dying rolled in. However individuals caught at dwelling and afraid have been requesting extra of his movies and have been seeking laughter and pleasure, so he delivered.

He launched new characters, reprised some outdated classics and revisited even older sketches he’d written however not adopted via on, like a parody “sequel trailer” to “Name Me by Your Title,” which he’d written some three years earlier.

“I used to be like, OK, we’re going to dig into the archives as a result of I do know the dolls want new video this week and, you already know, and it made me really feel higher, too,” he mentioned.

Mr. Skinner’s impressions of Timothée Chalamet and Billie Eilish have been hits. However not all followers wish to see their favourite stars parodied, no matter whether or not it’s meant in good enjoyable.

“It’s been an attention-grabbing factor of stans simply decoding one thing and being like, ‘That is the satan’s work,’” Mr. Skinner mentioned. “I’m like, ‘No, it’s actually an impression. I promise this isn’t like coming from a horrible place.’”

Mr. Skinner didn’t specify which celebrities and followers haven’t been receptive, however a scan of his accounts exhibits followers of Shawn Mendes being notably displeased. They noticed, for instance, a Mendes impersonation — lower with footage of astronauts from the house station — as disrespectful to the precise occasion that Mr. Mendes participated in with the astronauts.

Mr. Skinner mentioned he solely parodies individuals whose work he enjoys. And he tries his greatest to think about his movies via a really earnest lens to keep away from hurting emotions.

“The factor I at all times return to is: Do I really feel like that is coming from a pal or does it really feel like this coming from an enemy?” he mentioned. “If it feels bullying, I’m like, OK, no, we’re not doing this. That’s not going to be enjoyable to observe.”

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