If your Instagram or TikTok algorithm feeds you comedy bits and sketches, chances are you’ve come across Benny Drama. Benito Skinner, known as Benny Drama on the internet, initially rose to fame with a zodiac-themed sketch series. Personifying the zodiac signs with unique characters while simultaneously lambasting every single sign.
Since then, he’s continued to make the world laugh with an assortment of characters he’s created over the years. Some standouts are Throat-Rippin’ Annie (a version of Annie who never seemed to escape the hard-knock life), Kooper the Gen Z intern (wherein Benito plays an intern with no grasp of social niceties), and Jenni the TMI hairstylist (pretty explanatory). After years of Instagram and TikTok videos, Benito now has his sights set on playing parts that last longer than a few minutes. But don’t worry, he’s not quitting the sketches any time soon.
In conversation with Schön! Magazine, Benito discusses his favourite characters that he’s created, his new role in the upcoming film First Female Director, and thinking about dead dogs so he can avoid breaking character.
Hey, Benito. It’s so nice talking to you. I’m so excited. How are you?
Oh, I’m so excited. Hi, I’m so good. How are you?
I’m wonderful. I’m gonna say I’m really happy it’s audio only because I think if you were seeing my face you would see how excited I was. You would see my little Grinch smirk. It would just be embarrassing.
If you were seeing mine… I have an audition after this. I have an insane amount of makeup on. This is for the best, babe.
So I want to get started by asking you a little bit about all of the characters that you do. You’ve got like a million and six. They’re all so well formed. Where do all these ideas come from? Are they inspired by people that you meet in real life, exaggerated ideas of certain people, or are you just coming up with it off the cuff?
I think it’s probably like a combination of maybe someone I’ve kind of met out in the wild. Probably a lot of them are just like me. Every time I make a Jenni the TMI hairstylist makeup artist video, my boyfriend will watch it and say, “That’s just you. She’s just talking like you. What did you do? Put on makeup?” I think they’re a little bit of me. It’s fun to watch them kind of grow based on what I put out there and the longer I sit with a character I feel like the more colour I can add to them. The costuming is also a huge part for me that’s where they can start to feel like real people.
I remember when I was doing Deliverance Richards, my real estate agent, I was looking for what would her hair be like and then I found this wig that was platinum with this bad root. I knew it was Deliverance!It’s just a range of things. The easiest thing for me is just to go out and meet people and try to have as many experiences as possible. I do find my characters out in the world, but then I merge them with me and then you get some obscene characters and, hopefully, we’re still making people laugh.
I’m obsessed with Deliverance, she’s my favourite right now.
Oh my god. Thank you. I think we’re trying to figure out like, I think I might have her maybe selling like timeshares or something…
Can she sell timeshares with Armie Hammer?
Exactly. She’s in the Cayman Islands. I’m just finding that there’s so much on the internet, which can be a good thing. I just feel like everything’s been made at this point. I am trying to make my characters feel like they do exist. That’s been my current thing.
You have all of these unique looks for all of your characters. Where did you learn to do the makeup and the costuming?
Oh my god, well makeup I honestly give so much credit to Nikki Tutorials. I remember I think she had one, and maybe Patrick Starr had a “how to do Kardashian makeup video.” Then I used to be just so deeply anxious before I came out of the closet so I would watch all these like ASMR videos to relax me. I found the makeup videos when I was just starting to do my videos because I wanted to get the makeup right for the characters. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but I still wanted it to be within reason. I started watching on YouTube and then I would practice with friends who were gracious enough to let me do their makeup.
It became kind of like the peaceful time before a video for me to do my makeup – that was fun for me. It was a nice time to get into character and makes me feel very much like I am the character. It just became kind of like a peaceful thing for me and now I’m obsessed with it. I watch good people on TikTok and YouTube all the time. It’s so peaceful. I just think it’s such an art form and I feel like that it interests me. For costumes, I’ve always just kind of like obsessed with clothes and fashion. It’s really fun for me to go out and look for things that work for characters. I love being in a thrift store and finding something and being like, “Oh my god, this is so Jenni.”
Do you ever find pieces that inspire characters later?
Oh, totally. I had this Annie wig that I got from a Bob Ross place. When I put it on I looked like Annie. I was like, “Oh my god, I have to do Annie.” So I bought the wig. Then, that same week, I was at L Train Vintage in Bushwick and I found this red polka dot dress and I was like, this is Annie’s dress. What I find dictates it, or it’ll dictate the next iteration of a character. I’ll find something and be like, “oh my god, this works for this character.” That’s always been such a fun process for me and it helps me get into character but lets me do something that I love to do, which is fun.
I know that you’re also friends with one of my other favourite people on the internet, Meg Stalter. You guys were just working together on a film. I just want to know if you can tell me a little bit more about how that friendship came to be and what it’s like collaborating with her.
She’s honestly heavenly in every way. She’s like such a true force and a star. We met I think late 2018 or 2019. I met her when we were doing a show called Cruel Intentions in New York. Mary Beth Barone said, “You have to meet this girl Meg Stalter, you’re gonna die at her set.” I have never had such a witch cackle came out of me. I could not believe how funny she was. She immediately just turned it on and then turned it right off and walked off stage and was just like the warmest, sweet angel ever. We’ve been friends since then.
Then, I got this role in this movie from Chelsea Peretti. The script was so fun. I just was so honoured to be in it and then I show up to like the table read and yeah, it’s Meg. I was like, oh my god, this is a dream come true. It’s Meg and also Kate Berlant who I just have idolised forever. She is so amazing to be in scenes with and also hard because sometimes Meg will just do something and I could not break. I would have to think about the most despicable thing that could happen. I had to think of something so awful – like a dog being killed – so that I didn’t laugh at Meg or ruin the take. I’m so excited for people to see this movie. Hopefully, I think, it’ll come out next year and it’s just really special. And Chelsea’s incredible.
This film is insane. It has all of my favourite people in it – especially Blake Anderson. I’ve been watching Workaholics since I was 16.
Daddy! I told Blake the first time we met, I was watching Workaholics and it was the only part of straight culture I didn’t hate. I genuinely love Workaholics. And he was like, “Oh my god, that’s so sweet.” I did teach him the rain on me dance.
What are the major differences between playing a character that you’ve written versus characters that are handed to you for roles?
I feel like sometimes it’s really exciting because you haven’t had to do so much of the creativity of like the costumes, the makeup, the writing. It’s freeing at times. I feel like I have so much energy when I come into the part and Chelsea was so collaborative and I got to add to the character and find things that were you know, making both of us laugh. I would say that’s what’s the most interesting. Getting to think of it in so many different ways as opposed to me writing it. There’s something fun about something that you don’t know what’s in the head of the director or the writer. But then also getting to collaborate with so many people on who that character is. So the makeup department, hair, the producers, the director, like that’s exciting. And finding the voice.
Luckily I have had so much practice with creating these characters on the internet. If I could do that, I can do this. It’s a different challenge, I would say. I feel like I come into it with more in my tank. I’m not sitting in front of the green screen having written it and also dreading the edits. I’m so glad I’m not editing the movie. I think about that all the time – I’m like, what a gift. The editors do god’s work. I would say that’s kind of the difference.
In doing my research I saw an interview that you did where you were saying when you first got into creating your videos and stuff you previously had been writing for other people and getting them to do it and you’d be like, hmm, not how I would play that part. Do you feel a little bit of that fear, taking Chelsea’s work and then maybe not delivering it the way she was imagining?
Oh, totally. It’s like being terrified that you can’t do it. I knew based on my audition that she was excited by what I was doing. It was so collaborative. The voice I was doing and the mannerisms. I think I can reveal that I play a theatre kid so there was a lot to play with, which was fun. I think no matter what, there’s always the fear of wondering: is this what they want? I think I always feel like if it’s making me laugh it’ll probably make someone else laugh.
For Queer as Folk, that was interesting because it was a drama. It needed a sharp character. The character they had written was a darker comedy, and getting to practice with that was interesting. How to make that character real and someone that people within the story would both idolise and also the main cast would think was disgusting. It was such an interesting challenge because it’s like trying to find a way that comedy can be a part of a drama. I had all of that and I took it into the Chelsea project, but then that was a part of a comedy. So I could also have a little bit more room to play. I am writing something right now and I am really curious if I’ll be back to that college phase of someone acting it and me being like, “That is not right. That is not what I wrote on the page.” I don’t think I will be. I think I’ve chilled out a little bit since college… hopefully.
Your career has been insane. I’ve been following you since you first did that video where it’s Thanksgiving and you step outside and you’re crying about being the best-dressed person in your family.
Oh my god, thank you so much! Damn. That’s a damn throwback.
It’s been a minute. I’ve been following you forever. I’ve been so inspired by your career and just so proud of you as a fan. I want to call myself an OG fan so I just will. Your career has changed and grown and developed so much over the years. But I’m wondering if there’s anything that you thought was so outrageous, you would never be able to do it – and then you did.
Oh my god, honestly, all of it. I just visited my mom in Idaho. She was saying that she has always wanted this for me. It’s crazy that it worked in a lot of ways. I’ve had these moments on film sets with these people that I’ve been fans of for so long and I feel so lucky to have done this. I’ve worked hard but I think there’s also something special about coming up on the internet. In a lot of ways it does feel kind of communal. A win feels like I’m doing it with the people that are a part of this too. I feel like they’ve given me so much support and that’s rewarding.
I wanted all of this but I grew up in Idaho. This was not something that I would have ever thought was possible. God bless Instagram, honestly, and the people around me for being like, “Honestly, post that shit. Like, just do it.” I feel lucky to have had that support. I think maybe in my heart of hearts I wanted this but you never know.
Now TikTok has come to be more popular. Did you feel any pressure to hop over onto that platform? Do you feel like your content has changed at all since TikTok has risen?
I think the beauty of it is that I don’t feel the need to create a fully produced film for every sketch. It is hard for me to pick off a little bit of slickness that I like in edit or maybe just to post something that’s 10 seconds. That feels crazy to me. I didn’t feel pressure at first. I took my time and tried to figure out how I fit into it. I realised quickly that I’m not a trends-based person. The one thing about it that I think you know, hopefully, will change is that comedy is not trend-based. Doing someone’s bit is like actually taking their joke. It’s not like with makeup where you credit someone and then we’re all a part of it. It’s like no, that’s the bit of my video that you just took. That part of it is strange. I’m like wait, you just made my video. That’s not what people do. I’m like trying to throw my hands up in the air and kind of vibe with it.
I feel much freer to post whatever and maybe post things that don’t feel perfect to me. I am a perfectionist, so being able to just post a video or maybe a BTS rather than making a full sketch is fun. I love the community there. I’m also very inspired by what I see on there, too. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have changed too much of what I’ve done. I probably am not going to be great at the lip sync, or dance stuff. I can lip sync, but as far as dancing… that’s probably not part of my journey. Not knocking anyone who does – you look great. I think the earnestness of that platform is hard for me to wrap my head around. But other than that, I’m having fun.
Yeah, the earnestness is funny to me. I feel like Gen Z wants to come off as hardcore and be like, “We’re edgy.” But at the same time, it’s like the softest, most vulnerable platform, too. That binary is wild.
Vulnerability as like social media currency is fascinating to me. I am trying to figure that out and how I could use that. It has inspired some formats. I feel like Kooper the Gen Z intern came into his own and kicked off. I think Jenni works well on that platform. She’s really fun to do on there. It’s been fun and I’m glad people are still watching my videos and are excited by them because I still am too, that’s been fun. But yeah, new platform, why the hell not? Let’s do it.
Are there any other comedians whose work you love that you’d love to work with in the future?
You know, I’ve always really respected and loved Amy Schumer. I would love to do something with Amy. Watching her sketch show when I was in college inspired me so much and I love her writing. I think she’s also just an incredible actress. I love her so much. Who else do I love? This is hard because also comedians are sensitive. If I don’t say somebody I’ll get in trouble. I might get a text. Luckily, I did get to work with a lot of my heroes. Amy Poehler… that was crazy. Working with her was bizarre and it was so funny because we just had this second together and I was like, can we talk about Mean Girls? She was like, “Yeah, of course.” I had to get that out of my system which was so good. It’s just like heavenly. I grew up watching Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey. Honestly, to do something with Maya or Tina would be crazy. They are all just geniuses, and since my experience with Amy was so amazing, I think that would be great.
I like that I’m only listing women. That’s probably it. Was there anyone else? I’m sure there will be after this call. Actually! You know what Jerrod Carmichael. I would love to do something with him. And Bo Burnham I think? Yeah, okay, those are two guys.
You’ve worked with a ton of celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. The Kardashian family. Is there one particular celebrity that you’ve been most nervous or excited to meet?
Who was I nervous for? I get nervous for all of them. No matter what I always take my boyfriend with me. I would never just drive there alone. I need someone else so that I don’t dissociate the whole time. Every time I meet someone, I’m about to film a video. I feel like I have to stay pretty focused and maybe try to channel the character. I was nervous about the Kardashians because I knew that I would be filmed for the show being just me, so that was terrifying. It was weird and the camera is immediately on you — that mic pack was on and I was ready to go. I was a little terrified, but it was so much fun and Kourtney’s like… we ride at dawn. She’s the damn best.
Who has been the most fun celebrity to work with then?
Is it bad if I answer? Brent [his agent], are you there? I will say that every single one has been so much fun. I cried with Jennifer Aniston. That was insane. I couldn’t believe that and also I was dressed as Jenni, so that was fun. Cameron Diaz, that was insane because I had pitched this sketch to her where I was talking about Something About Mary. Well, the initial thing I pitched but we couldn’t do Shrek with an alcohol brand… But I was gonna be in full Shrek costume with her. That was so much fun.
I feel really lucky though. I’ve had only fantastic experiences. Very much meet your hero. I’m enjoying it. Loving it. I guess I have collaborated now quite a few times with Charli XCX. She is a dear friend and I cherish all our time together. I was such a fan before and yeah, that is crazy that I feel like I get to call her a friend and that feels very special. So in case, you’re reading this, it’s you, Charli.
What’s the next outrageous thing where you’re like, “oh my god. How do I climb this mountain? I really want to do this.”
I am definitely in it right now. I’m writing a TV show and it’s such a mountain. I am so excited about it and it’s so much fun to tell a full story. It’s a little bit about me but finding its way into like a really fun thirty-minute comedy. I am so excited for people to see it. It’s a long process and the longest I’ve spent on something which I think also makes it crazy. I’m on a call every day with an agent who is like reminding me that it’s a marathon. I’m happy and proud of myself for that and I cannot wait for people to see the show. I think it’s gonna be very me and I’m proud of it. Especially for people that have just been with me, like you, an OG. It’s a lot of me, but it grounds it and yanks out a few of the wigs and tones down the makeup just a little bit. And you know, we get a little bit more of the emotional side. But yeah, that’s the damn mountain. It’s a fucking climb baby — Miley’s “The Climb.” Then also maybe touring again and doing another live show. I’ve worked on a variety of musicals to maybe take out on the road or to be filmed for a special. And that, I think, is also a mountain but I’m excited to make it.
Who has your dream career, and would you kill them to have it?
I always defer to something that Mary Beth Barone always says, which is, “No one has my career and that’s why I root for everyone.” It sounds kind of corny, and a little cliche, and that’s my girl, I love her to death. But I do feel that way. I’m so excited by TV and film and the internet. Because of the internet, so many more voices are being heard. People can tell authentic stories that are true to them. They get to be real people. Now people have to experience these things in their roles and the writer’s room.
I don’t know if there is one person. I think Nick Kroll has an incredible career – I love the range of what he’s done, I think he’s amazing. And Amy Schumer – I love what she’s done. I love her writing, from the sketch shows to Life and Beth. There’s so much range there I think the ability to do these sketches and also do things that are a little more minimal is really exciting. I like being able to do my own thing.
Well, is there anything else you wish I’d asked or something you’d like to bring up?
Oh my god. No. I think we did it. These were my favourite questions ever. This was so amazing. We covered it all. Oh, wait, one thing. I am bringing back the podcast with Mary Beth. We’re so excited. This is something I get to do with a close friend. The guests coming on are amazing.
Can’t wait to listen. More exciting things to look forward to coming from you!
Babe! Everything! Whatever you want! And you love Deliverance, so I’ll get a new one out for you.
Yes! Please! For me! Much appreciated.
Queer as Folk is out now.