Comedian, actor and writer Benito Skinner — also known by his millions of followers on social media as Benny Drama — has captured the internet’s heart with his hilarious characters and celebrity impressions.
For one of his best impersonations, he dons a widow’s peak wig to act out scenes between Kourtney Kardashian and members of her famous family. He has gained so much attention that his impression landed him an appearance on an episode of “The Kardashians” in which he met his muse face to face.
In an interview with Skinner, he opened up to TODAY about his career taking off and how he bounced back last year after facing backlash for a White House visit.
During episode nine of “The Kardashians” on Hulu, the 28-year-old comedian visited Kourtney Kardashian’s home, and she playfully critiqued his impression of her.
Skinner said the experience was exciting, but he couldn’t watch himself on television. “My part came up and I was like, ‘This is so weird,’” he told TODAY. “So I obviously had to fast forward, but everyone else should not fast forward."
He laughed, adding, "Watch my scenes."
When he met Kardashian, he was happy to learn that she understands the impression comes from a place of love.
“They’re very much in on the joke and are very supportive of it, which obviously is the goal,” said Skinner, who has also met Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian.
Despite Drama being his stage name, he certainly doesn’t want to upset anyone. As a comedian, he values knowing that the real people featured in his sketches get his brand of humor.
“My recurring nightmare is that someone sees (my videos) and doesn’t see what I’m trying to do," he said.
“I do feel peace knowing that I usually never go for anything personal. I go for more of an internet perception of someone, like Shawn Mendes being your sister’s very earnest boyfriend, or Billie Eilish being stuck inside and being kind of like a Nickelodeon kid.”
Avoiding personal subjects seems to be the most important rule in his comedic code of conduct. Through his shtick, he wants to ensure he comes across as a friend and not a bully.
“I've been bullied in high school, middle school and elementary school,” he shared. “So I’m not trying to be the internet bully in any way.”
He said watching “Saturday Night Live,” “Key & Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer” sketches have helped him see how comics can approach material without it coming across as malicious or hurtful.
For Skinner, he doesn't feel restricted when telling jokes.
“I think if your comedy is racist, homophobic, sexist or transphobic, that it just shouldn’t exist,” he shared. "If your jokes are at the sake of a marginalized community, that’s not a joke. That’s just disgusting.”
Hulu isn't the only streaming platform Skinner is gracing these days.
He currently stars on Peacock’s “Queer as Folk” reboot. Skinner said he grew up watching the original show in secret after renting it on DVD from Blockbuster. Now, he finds it surreal that he gets to star in the new drama series as Jack Cole Jordan, whom he refers to as JCJ. His character is a performative influencer who takes advantage of a recent tragedy for his own self-gain.
He said he appreciates the show speaking to the current diversity within the queer community. His extra bonus is “getting to be an absolute demon in it for more than one minute — like I’m used to on the internet.
“(It) was truly a dream.”
Opposed to feeling constrained, Skinner said removing the “iron gates of Hollywood” means more comedians — particularly content creators like himself — are being welcomed into an industry historically gatekept. Like Chloe Fineman or Meg Stalter, comedians are using social media to show off their work. If it's good enough, it goes viral, and can be proof one can build a career on social media. Instead of asking for a platform, people are making one.
But a bigger audience can attract more criticism and hateful comments.
Last year, Skinner partnered with the White House to encourage young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He dressed up as an intern named Kooper and posted a TikTok video of him pretending to assist former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Although Skinner felt honored to promote getting vaccinated, he was hit with an unexpected wave of frightening responses.
“I got to see how lies can be spread and how people can take something that is obviously satirical and a bit. There were people who thought I was a real person who worked at the White House, which is terrifying,” he explained.
The replies weren’t just from confused social media users. There were also troubling homophobic messages. Skinner said that he was sent photos of guns and death threats after the clip was posted. “People sent things to my family members,” he recalled. “It was really disgusting.”
He added, “I think it kind of woke me up — I’ve been in the New York and Los Angeles bubble for a lot of my adulthood — to the rest of this country and the way that they view gay people.”
The content creator pointed out that some of the comments made him especially fearful for the trans community. “It was kind of very eye opening for me and scary,” he shared.
At the same time, the situation also energized him. He said he is proud of the character and the video. Going forward, he wants to continue using his platform to speak out about global issues.
However, he said he did initially take a step back from social media after becoming a “Republican meme,” which he added was not on his bucket list. After the reaction, he temporarily canceled live shows and did not post any content.
“It’s OK, I guess," he joked, adding, "My skin looks good and I love that I’m in a Thom Browne suit for it.
"I'm consistently shocked that I’m still a Republican meme, but I kind of wear that badge with honor.”
To celebrate LGBTQ pride, TODAY is sharing this community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and special features throughout the entire month of June.