Comedy and music are distant relatives in the nature of entertaining an audience. It’s difficult to command attention with both, but not in the case of Jordan Gray. With her upcoming music and comedy tour Is It A Bird? touching down in Cardiff this month, she discussed the ins and outs of her creative process with Rowan Davies.
A day of press assumes authority over Jordan Gray’s Monday, though this does not tarnish her bubbly and charismatic persona. “Describe your life at the moment in three words,” I prompt. “Living. The. Dream!” she responds. “Something happens every day that changes life.”
In 2016, Gray began her journey as a public figure as the first transgender contestant on The Voice, excelling her way to the semi-finals following a long, intimate history with music. “I was in the Cubs as a kid, and the only badge I had was the singing badge. I wrote a song when I was seven called All In Your Imagination, and I remember feeling so proud of it that I recorded it into a microphone onto a cassette. My parents made such a deal out of it that they sent it to radio stations!”
There’s no denying that her admiration for music comes from a raw place in her childhood. So how does a musician end up with a comedy career? Gray can identify when she noticed her comedic potential: “The actual physical moment it happened was on The Voice. I thought, ‘I’m getting more out of this [comedy] than I am out of the singing – maybe I’ll try and get people to laugh for the rest of my life.’”
As a rising figure in the comedy industry, Jordan’s intellect and work ethic has translated into how she approaches her craft: being a comedian has presented opportunities that being a singer cannot. If you have a good song as a musician, you’re obliged to play it for the rest of your life. As a comedian, you have to stay on your toes. It’s a job that forces you to never slow down, and I quite like that. I’ve got too much energy!”
Her upcoming tour, Is It A Bird?, gives a wider airing to a set previously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne Comedy Festival, and Soho Theatre, marking Gray’s first national tour and second time performing in Cardiff since Pride Cymru 2017.
“It’s an hour of comedy and it really is about everything. You don’t need to know about transgender people, you don’t need to know about Batman, it’s a silly, silly hour of comedy,” she says. “Also, it’s not a lecture. You might learn some things about me and life, but I’m not going to teach you anything. I’m there to make you feel better about stuff you’re maybe uncomfortable about.”
If Gray’s show stops short of lecture territory, this doesn’t stop her from exercising her intellectual point of view. The creative process behind Is It A Bird? is a reflection of her appreciation for the craft of writing and storytelling. “I’m a nerd!” she admits. “I’m a nerd for story structure as well. There is a hero’s journey built into a narrative, and the great thing about superheroes is that they are on-the-nose metaphors. It’s like the refined sugar of storytelling.”
Her experience with producing comedy material has been twofold in her opportunity to experiment with drama writing. Transaction – her short film series for Comedy Central, created with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg and screened in 2020 – is in the works for a revival with revamped production and an alternative comedic approach.
“The buzz phrase for the show was ‘some people are dickheads, some people are transgender, ergo, some transgender people are dickheads!’ Rather than make me a super, suffering saint or over-sexualised villain, which we tend to get portrayed as let’s just make someone who’s a little bit of a knobhead. And that’s me!”
Jordan Gray, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Sat 16 Sept.
Tickets: £27.50. Info: here
words ROWAN DAVIES