By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2013 7:00 AM ET
Last year, when Ian Harvie — known best as the world’s first out FTM transgender comedian — asked his fans to help him film his first comedy special, supporters came out in droves. Long a favorite among other LGBT performers, like Margaret Cho (who once described herself as his number 1 fan), Harvie saw his fans came out in force to support his Kickstarter campaign. Rewards included Cho offering a private Skype or Facetime Mini Concert with her and Harvie, and the comic offering offering mix tapes, awkwardly long hugs, seminude photos, and the rather attractive Harvie acting as your handyman for a day.
“I will be the first trans guy with his own standup comedy special on television,” Harvie says of the show, which filmed last year at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine. “You bet your sweet ass I will!” And it's here: Super Hero: Ian Harvie’s Standup Comedy Special will debut May 13 at Out Twin Cities Film Festival in Minneapolis.
Harvie, who is relentlessly touring, has appeared on television and radio programs, spoken at numerous universities, and has done comedy all over the country. With his rugged good looks and unassuming comedy, he's dispelled a lot of myths about trans men (while being funny too).
Julia Scotti first made a splash in the stand-up comedy scene in New York City in the 1980s, performing at the Improv in Hell's Kitchen alongside such contemporaries as Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, and Eddie Murphy. Back then, Scotti's act focused on a caricature of Scotti's loud, animated, overbearing father.
These days, Scotti's act features a hilarious caricature of Scotti's loud, animated, overbearing mother — which is a more accurate fit, since Scotti is a transgender woman. Her first stand-up gig as a woman was in 2011 at Comedy Works at Georgine's Restaurant in Bristol, Pa., according to a comprehensive profile from Philadelphia City Paper.
"I had this mission to be a trans comic who could stand up for other trans comics," Scotti told CityPaper last year. "So I said to the audience, 'I've been away for 10 years and a lot's happened. I went to college. I became a teacher. My parents died. And, oh yeah, I had a sex-change operation.'" The audience was dead silent.
Undeterred, Scotti has since found a comfortable mix between trans-related jokes and riffs on family, being a woman, and trying to make a love life work. In addition to gigs all around the tri-state area, City Paper reports that in 2012, Scotti became the first transgender person to perform in the Ladies of Laughter competition at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, and secured a place for herself as one of the five finalists. That victory encouraged her to set a new goal to become the nation's first successful trans comic, so she can help dispel stigmas that keep trans folk in the closet, unable to be their authentic, (and in Scotti's case, hilarious) selves. Scotti told City Paper she wants to be so successful that she's invited to perform on Ellen, truly representing a cross section of the oft-divided LGBT community.
Catch Scotti in action at Comedy Works at Georgine's in the video below.
Before she was a comic, she was a waitress. And before that, Grillo likes to joke, she was a waiter. The New York City comedian, who appeared on NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2010, has been slowly making a name for herself at comedy clubs in the city as well as at colleges and universities where she combines comedy with teaching. Grillo hosts the weekly summer stand-up show Up on the Roof, which takes place literally on the roof patio of one of Manhattan's most fashionable boutique hotels every Saturday and features other LGBT comedy regulars, such as Paul Hallasy. A fan of one-line deadpans, Grillo recently told Time Out New York, "Transgender people have become part of the national conversation. We're the awkward pause."
Even better: Grillo and Mike Motz have recently revived her long-running Jokes ‘n’ Gender: A Variety Show at the Peoples Improv Theater. Performing next on Wednesday, March 28 at 9:30 p.m., Grillo goes all out for the show, playing a “character” that she says is "basically herself, an eccentric Upper East Side socialite with man hands."
Jeffrey Jay is a transgender comic currently living, speaking, and laughing in Dallas. The 26-year-old Texas native writes for the Feast of Fun podcast, and when he's not doing stand-up or writing comedy, he travels the state educating college and high school students about trans issues and conducting ally trainings.
An out and proud trans man, Jay weaves his gender identity into his comedy shtick, and told The Advocate in 2011 that "I hope when people watch me do my set they leave thinking, Wow, I just saw a trans person for the first time and he was normal and funny." It's not all fun and games, though. "The thing that sucks about being trans is I am the only gay guy no other gay guys are attracted to," Jay jokes with his audience. "When I tell a gay guy I'm trans he says, 'Awwww, sweetie, I like real boys.' What am I, Pinocchio?"
Watch Jay take the stage at the Improv in Addison, Texas, in 2011 below.
A true triple threat, 34-year-old Bethany Black is generally billed as "Britain's only goth lesbian transsexual comedian," but she's so much more than that. Her darkly sardonic take on the world and her public struggles with everyday mental health maladies (depression, insomnia, etc.) make Black relatable. With her Twitter presence @BethanyBlack, the part-time roller derby girl sends out both realist and absurd bons mots but isn't afraid to take down a fan who uses the slur "tranny." While you have to go to Europe to see her live, you can follow her Tweets from anywhere in the globe. Here are just a few recent messages from Black:
"When I die I want to be buried, so in a few million years I'll be oil that's used for plastic to make bags so people can pick up dog poo."
"Someone at the vet has a kitten called Barry. Fucking brilliant."
"I think it's prudent to occasionally wake the cat up by sticking my bum in her face. See how she likes it."
"In that picture of the Pope he's smiling a lot for an old bloke who's just had his nuts felt up by a priest."
"I just burned some Crumpets. Looks like our toaster's elected a new Pope."