Here’s a fun new game I’ve mastered in quarantine: Guess the voice of the cartoon character or show narrator. After close to 40 days of self-isolation, I got pretty good at identifying voices on TV and in movies. But Too Hot to Handle had me stumped.
I had my guesses, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on the witty, funny personality who always had a good burn up her sleeve. No contestant was safe from a voiceover zinger, and any time someone said something unbelievably out of touch, focused on the $100,000 final prize money a little too much, or broke the rules, the reality show’s Voice of God had something to say about it. She even called out Lana the robot for being the sneaky little cone she is.
But who is she? Her name is Desiree Burch, and she’s got some serious comedic chops.
Burch is a professional comedian.
Burch told The Independent in 2015 that her comedy is about life as “a big woman, a black woman, and a woman woman.” Her work calls out society’s biggest frustrations, including fatphobia, and her 2017 show “Unf*ckable” was a hit. The woman is funny and incredibly smart, and the rest of her work is worth checking out. You can start with her 2019 Comedy Central special Desiree Burch Live.
She lived in New York and London.
Burch was born in January 1979 in L.A. but lived in New York in her 20s before she moved to London to follow a guy. “I had gotten to my mid-30s and hadn’t done anything big and potentially foolish over a boy yet,” she told Funny Women in 2015. “Seemed about time. Plus, in my forays into performing in the U.K., during Fringe festivals, it seemed like there was much more of a culture for live performance.”
Burch expanded on this in a 2018 interview with The List. “In the U.K., there is a real economy for comedy in a way that there isn’t in the States,” she said. “Doing comedy on the road and having a family life is much more doable because things are closer together. There are a lot of TV and radio jobs for comics here that don’t exist in the States.”
She was a professional dominatrix in New York.
Much of Burch’s material comes from stories from her past, especially her New York City days. As she shared with U.K. talk show host Jonathan Ross in a May 2019 interview, Burch worked as a professional dominatrix in New York. “I got paid to beat guys up like every woman wants,” she said. “That was a way to make money like many of the amazing women I worked with…they were in school, they were actors, or they were doing other things, they were nurses. They were like, ‘Oh, yeah, I can also actually make money by doing this thing that usually a lot of women have to do for no money.'”
A comedian who normalizes sex work? Right on.
She’s an Ivy League graduate.
Burch graduated from Yale University and has a B.A. in theater. You know Yale, where Meryl Streep earned her graduate degree? “I watched a lot of ‘Live from the Improv’ type shows on cable when I was a kid,” Burch told The List. “I think I identified with that kind of one-person performance right off the bat. I concentrated on solo performance while I studied theatre at Yale, so I think that’s where that desire got focused.”
She was cast on Too Hot to Handle for a very specific reason.
As much as Burch likes to poke fun at the contestants, she’s never judgmental; she lets the audience do all the judging for themselves. And if you’ve watched the show, then you know holding your tongue when it comes to this cast is no easy feat.
“Her voice was just so perfect for that because she’s warm and non-judgmental, which is key,” producer Louise Peet told Oprah magazine. “We are not judging these people. It was key to just be on their side.”
If you’ve fallen in love with Burch, you can keep up with her on Instagram.
Her handle is @destheray and she has a very good cat.