By some strange miracle Hot Ones, the scrappy low-budget YouTube show, just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The concept is simple: Host Sean Evans, with his robotic delivery and iron stomach, interviews celebrities as they sample a punishing series of increasingly spicy wings. Now, 19 seasons in, it’s not unusual to see Oscar winners, musical geniuses, and all-around living legends take on The Last Dab.
Two weeks ago, our heads turned when Viola Davis sat in the (literal) hot seat. She handled herself with grace and humor, of course, but when she began to sweat and wince in pain while biting into wings, it marked yet another shift in the ever-changing pop cultural landscape.
In moments like these, Hot Ones feels almost like a fake TV show from 30 Rock or BoJack Horseman, designed only to bring our most talented and distinguished celebrities to tears, stripping them of their dignity to remind us all that we’re only human. There’s a reason that earlier this year people thought the ridiculous clip of Maya Rudolph’s character from Loot on Hot Ones was real—it’s really not far off from the real thing.
And now this week, Cate Blanchett has taken the Hot Ones seat, prompting us to ask: What the hell is going on?
Why would someone like Davis or Blanchett appear on Hot Ones? It feels like more of a get for Evans, whose show surely gets a boost from fans of the actors who want to see the celebrities squirm. Davis and Blanchett in particular have all but received their Oscar nominations for The Woman King and Tár, respectively. So why suffer through this culinary challenge when they could be doing run-of-the-mill press junket interviews?
It seems like Blanchett is genuinely having fun. It must be a relief to do something a little different on a press tour for a major film, especially with packed promotional schedules; internet sources suspect Blancett’s Hot Ones episode and her appearance in The Criterion Closet were filmed on the same day.
Blanchett is not active on social media—and perhaps that’s why her presence on a very online show feels so off. Hot Ones gives her fans (me, in case you couldn’t tell) a rare chance to see what it’s like when Blanchett is just Cate, hanging out, talking about her husband, reminiscing about her days doing theater in an old tomato sauce factory in Australia.
It’s all fun and games until Hot Ones’ signature score turns malicious and Blanchett’s eyes start watering.
On one hand, the fact that Sean Evans would do this to our international treasure invoked a fiery rage in me, one that had me screaming “DON’T YOU DARE HURT HER!” at the screen toward the end of the episode. On the other hand, Hot Ones allows celebrities to show a side of themselves that we don’t often see, one that makes us think, “Wow, we would totally be friends.”
“It’s probably the closest you’ll ever get to what menopause feels like,” Blanchett says before even biting into a wing, instantly removing her deep purple jacket to reveal an impossibly cool bright blue blazer underneath.
“I don’t understand leaf blowers, and I don’t understand golf.” Me neither, girl.
“A thing that makes me scream is magic tricks.” Me too, girl!
At many points throughout, Blanchett turns the tables on Evans, asking about his life in wings with wide-eyed wonder:
- “Has anyone ever thrown up?”
- “Have you ever drunk a whole bottle of it?”
- “When did you realize that this was your gift?”
- “Do you cook?”
- “Do you play golf?”
It later seems this line of questioning could be helping to prepare her for the role of a lifetime—at one point in the episode Blanchett discusses her work with Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader on Documentary Now and her standing invitation to share any documentaries with them she’d like to see parodied.
“Make a documentary about yourself, I’ll send it to Seth, then I can play you,” she tells Evans. I can hear the awards buzz already!
And upon biting into The Last Dab Apollo (a sauce that I personally can attest is very hot), Blanchett says with a disgusted wince, “It’s really not good.”
International treasure. Protect her at all costs.