“There are lots of rights to go round. It’s like the Royal Mint – just keep making money, just keep making rights”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY DYLAN WOODLEY
With her fierce wit and strong comedic vision, Jordan Gray is on an upwards trajectory. Taking her brand-new show Is It A Bird? to Edinburgh Fringe in August, she followed its success with a two-week stint at Soho Theatre. Now, she’s gearing up to present it to The London Palladium on 28 October, and if last night’s strip tease on Friday Night Live is anything to go by, it’s sure to be riotous. We caught up with Jordan to chat about her new show, her comedic vision and her coming out journey.
DIVA: Hey Jordan! Congratulations on your new show! How has it been received so far?
Jordan: This is the first time I’ve done it, so I don’t know how unusual this is. People keep telling me that this is a very unprecedented situation. I’m very lucky and very grateful. Finishing a show, you’re reminded of the first few weeks of doing stand-up when you could barely string two sentences together and get a laugh out of maybe one of them. Suddenly, I’ve got an hour that is solid and I can use forever.
DIVA: The show brings together your strong Essex roots, your love of superheroes and your life as a trans woman. How did you find creative inspiration?
It’s called Is It A Bird? for what I thought was an obvious reason. It’s amazing how many people don’t get that part until they get there. So, is it a bird, is it a plane? But also, I’m from Essex and I’m transgender. It’s been about finding what makes me stupidly, giddily happy on stage. What makes me feel alive. There’s never a dip in joy, it’s just a lightning bolt throughout.
DIVA: You only started comedy in 2017, which is quite remarkable. What inspired you to begin comedy and how did you get into it?
I was a singer for 10 years and I never really thought I was going to do anything else. There’s a cliché but it’s really true, that most rockstars want to be comedians and most comedians want to be rockstars. I was secretly thinking that I wanted to do it but I didn’t know how, and then I found The Voice. You can say more in comedy – music is very subtle and it’s more up for interpretation. Comedy can make you laugh and hopefully make you think about stuff. It’s more immediate.
DIVA: Your Comedy Central web series Transaction has been acquired for TV by none other than Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, which is incredible. What can we expect from it?
Going from a shortform series to Comedy Central means that if you’ve got 22 minutes or more to play with a character you can give them more. There are bigger stakes, bigger emotional arcs. You can create a story that you want to come back and watch, week on week. People do love Liv, the character that I play, for the reason that she’s a charismatic maniac. She’s a Robin Hood, crazy-type character. In a longer series, we’ll care about her more for relatable reasons.
DIVA: You’ve opened up about coming out as a trans woman – what was this journey like for you?
I’m not naïve to the fact that I will have had it easier than so many people because I’m in the arts. It was a very soft coming out – supportive family, lovely people around. It was weird then being thrust onto national TV straight afterwards because then the nation decides what they think. I haven’t formed my own opinion of myself yet, and suddenly, there’s lots of very angry people but then equally, very happy people just arguing. It’s got nothing to do with me anymore – people just like to argue. Life is shorter than any of us realise, so why not squeeze as much happiness out of it as possible? I’m so lucky that my transition happened basically in front of the nation – even today, some people will say ‘you’re that trans person from that show’ and that’s the first time we saw somebody trans. What a lovely thing to be part of.
Comedy is an extension of that image. I like pointing out the silliness that people have got wrapped up in, things that are completely untrue. Like the gender-neutral Potato Heads…never happened. Completely made up. I’m here to try and add value to everybody’s life; I’m not aiming to take it away. Also, the idea that if I get given some rights that I didn’t have a week ago but somebody else’s are taken away…that’s quite a sweet naivety. There are lots of rights to go round. It’s like the Royal Mint – just keep making money, just keep making rights.
DIVA: I love your approach. There are some really dark, serious things happening and there’s so much hate. To deconstruct it using comedy is amazing.
That’s the mission. We have a tendency to dehumanise each other if we don’t agree. You’ve got to be able to see people as fully rounded, otherwise you’re not arguing with a person, you’re arguing with an idea.
DIVA: You’ve been sober for 10 years now, which is incredible. Congratulations! What has this been like for you?
I’ve never had a drop of alcohol as a woman or as a comedian, which is really nice. My data set is completely clean. I wrote a book, and I thought I was a genius, but I wrote it when I was drunk. It was rubbish, so I sobered up that day when I read it. I’m very privileged to have never relapsed. I don’t think I’ll ever think about alcohol ever again so long as I keep working – I’ll happily admit that I’m addicted to what I do for a living.
DIVA: Finally: If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be and why?
I know everyone else is drinking, but it’s not as good as it sounds. You’re going to waste a lot of time. Some people can handle it, but you just can’t. It’s not for you.
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