Jerick Hoffer and Michael Abbott canceled their wedding rehearsal on January 6, watching online as right wing extremists stormed the US Capitol in an assault on American democracy. They almost postponed the ceremony. But taking their closest friends’ advice, the couple stayed on schedule, marrying three days later at Monsoon Manor, Hoffer’s Portland home and prepandemic B&B. The comedian Deven Green, Hoffer’s hero-turned-collaborator, officiated the multi-platform wedding via Skype as family and friends watched over Zoom. Monsoon Manor is adorned with vintage decor and fan art of Hoffer’s iconic drag/cabaret character, Jinkx Monsoon, who won season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race.
“[B]asically everyone close to us just kind of said, ‘We could actually really use this right now,’” Hoffer tells Portland Monthly on a rainy Friday afternoon. “A lot of people were appreciative of the break, a moment to focus on something positive and joyful amidst a really crazy week, and that’s what it really ended up being. Everyone who attended our virtual wedding was there to celebrate us, but also to celebrate the moments in life that are good despite the rest of the world being on fire.”
Hoffer met Abbott, a singer and sound technician, in Manchester while touring Monsoon through the UK. They began dating long-distance in March 2019, and married while Abbott was visiting the United States. Hoffer’s marriage rounds out a busy first year back in Portland—they moved from San Francisco last February, unaware shelter in place orders would follow. “I’m really happy to be home in Portland, and even though I can’t see my family, I’m in the same city as them, and that’s kind of reassuring,” they say.
Hoffer would’ve toured the globe if the ongoing coronavirus pandemic hadn’t canceled live entertainment as it was once known. With those plans sidelined, they joined the growing number of entertainers producing work from their living rooms-turned-home offices: hosting livestreams, making personal videos for subscribing fans, and appearing in digital festivals.
“I’ve always enjoyed cabaret because I can talk directly to may audience, and I still do that with my digital shows, but I just don’t get the response I’m used to,” Hoffer says. “I’ve very quickly had to adapt to being okay with silence, which is a very difficult thing for an entertainer. But we’ve figured it out, because everyone’s been in it together and everyone’s been so supportive.”
One of Hoffer’s stage shows—their annual Yuletide play with Ben Putnam, AKA fellow Drag Race alumnus Bendelacreme—was adapted for Hulu in half the time a movie might get under normal circumstances. Jinkx and Dela’s Holiday Special joins Pee-wee Herman, Lady Gaga, and Xena: Warrior Princess in the pantheon of unconventional gay Christmas classics.
Several of Hoffer’s peers have also cast them in recent projects after falling in love with Monsoon’s self-deprecating “cool mom” caricature. The actor-director Clea DuVall gave Monsoon and Dela prominent cameos as local queens in her queer holiday rom-com, The Happiest Season. The writer Brandon Rogers asked Hoffer to voice a character in Vivienne Medrano’s adult animated series Helluva Boss, but Hoffer wanted to voice stock characters instead. Starting as a homewrecking homemaker named Martha, they will voice multiple characters during Helluva Boss’ first season. Hoffer supports a cast that includes Richard Steven Horvitz and Erica Lindbeck, who've voiced Invader Zim and Barbie, respectively.
“If I could have a career like [voice actor] Tress MacNeille’s, I would be very happy,” Hoffer says. “It was a real dream come true, not just because I’m a fan of the writing on the show and the animation, but Richard Steven Horvitz … is like an icon to me. Growing up being an outcast queer kid obsessed with Invader Zim, then to be an adult voicing a character in a cartoon and Invader Zim is my reading partner, that really strikes my world.”
Hoffer and Abbott’s plans for the next stage of their lives together are on hold indefinitely until widespread vaccine distribution is achieved, but they’re working to bring Abbott to Portland, and to send Hoffer to work more often in the UK when it makes sense to do so. Hoffer is relieved Abbott’s family has stayed healthy throughout the pandemic, but they remain anxious about new coronavirus strains found both in Oregon and the UK.
For now, Hoffer is planning Monsoon’s next online drag performance, and slowly working with musical partner Major Scales on Monsoon’s third album—a high-concept space opera Hoffer describes as a mix between “60’s-70’s hippie acid rock” and gamer-influenced narratives that nod to shows like Steven Universe.
“I’m trying to use the word ‘unapologetic’ in my work more often: unapologetically queer, unapologetically feminine, unapologetically anti-racist,” Hoffer says. “I think we’ve been made to feel like we should apologize for our ‘radical thoughts,’ when really it’s what we should be moving toward, and what I shouldn’t have to apologize for.”