We got a chance to speak to one of our favourite comedians
BY SOPHIE ROBBINS, IMAGE BY DYLAN WOODLEY
Barreling across London on a motorbike to perform at a venue is a new experience for Jordan Gray, but, like so many others in her trailblazing career, it’s one she takes in her stride.
The 34-year-old spoke to DIVA for a few minutes snatched from preparations for the first night of her Is It A Bird? solo show at London’s Soho Theatre.
“It’s my third run at the Soho and I was at the Palladium last October,” she explains.
“2022 was crazy and exhilarating. We brought a wolf on stage – actually a wolf-Akita cross – for a story I tell in my show. Then there was Channel 4. They invited me onto Friday Night Live, and they’ve been so kind in creating a category for breakthrough comedians at the National Comedy Awards.”
Indeed they did, and she has already benefitted by scooping the 2023 Breakthrough Star Award.
Jordan’s now-legendary appearance on Channel 4’s revamped Friday Night Live last October saw her perform a song about her life as a trans woman before scandalously stripping and playing the keyboard with her penis. But this time propriety can forego the smelling salts: she doesn’t plan a repeat.
“I couldn’t keep getting naked,” she smiles. “People would get bored. I’d get bored. These days, my audience is a broad mixture of open-minded people and the LGBT+ community, trans people, enjoying what they know won’t be a political event. I ‘usualise’ trans issues. Activists target people’s brains; I tickle their tummies.”
Nevertheless, in the week of the tragic death of trans teen Brianna Ghey, Jordan is conscious that her job and success distance her at least partially from the discrimination and hostility faced by many in the trans and non-binary community.
“I get a lot of supportive messages from trans youth and their parents,” she adds. “I’m very conscious how lucky I am to be working in the arts, surrounded by creative people. My only agenda is to be kind and happy and do my job as well as I can. If I was a baker, I’d want to bake the best cakes I could.”
At the same time, she acknowledges no trans person in early 21st century Britain has the luxury of remaining completely aloof from the ugly moral panic consuming so much of the media and politicians’ rhetoric.
“Trans people don’t get to be not political,” she acknowledges. “These days, my social media mentions tend to fill up much more quickly after shows, but the bad stuff is mostly confined to Twitter. Even there, though, I just post things that say how much I love life. My superpower is not responding to provocation.”
So why does she think some folk hate trans people?
She considers carefully: “For some who fear their liberties are vanishing, for whatever reason, trans people represent the ability to find your own freedom. That’s what we do. That can make them angry. But for happy people we’re not a problem.”
Jordan Gray’s Is It A Bird? is at the Soho Theatre, 16 – 18 February. Don’t miss the chance to get your tickets here: https://sohotheatre.com/shows/jordan-gray-is-it-a-bird/
You can also get tickets to her Just for Laughs Cabaret Show on 4 March here.
And you can listen to her podcast, Transplaining With Jordan Gray, on Apple Podcasts or your preferred streaming platform.
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