Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Transgender comic in running for biggest comedy award for first time

A transgender performer is in the running to win the most coveted comedy prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Jordan Gray is the first solo transgender act to be shortlisted for the main Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize.

Gray, who has only performed once previously at the festival, wrote in The Scotsman at the start of August about how “sparsely attended” that show was.

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However this year’s, Is It A Bird?, has won rave reviews from critics throughout its run at Assembly George Square.

The Essex comic, who worked in the music industry for ten years before launching a comedy career in 2017, was previously the first ever transgender contestant to appear on The Voice, reaching the semi-finals in 2016.

Gray is one of ten nominees for the coveted best comedy show honour, the winner of which will be announced on Saturday.

Just one Scot has made the shortlist, Larry Dean. However, the year-round club Monkey Barrel has claimed six of the ten nominated shows, including Dean, Alfie Brown, Lauren Pattison, Sam Campbell, The Delightful Sausage and Josh Pugh, a partially-sighted performer.

Also in contention are Pleasance performer Colin Hoult, Liz Kingsman, who is at the Traverse Theatre, and Seann Walsh, who is appearing at The Stand Comedy Club.

Jordan Gray is the first solo transgender comic to be nominated for the main Edinburgh Comedy Award prize. Picture: Dylan Woodley

Lara Ricote, a partially-deaf performer, is one of seven contenders for the best newcomer prize, along with Amy Gledhill, Emily Wilson, Emmanuel Sonubi, Josh Jones, Leo Reich and Vittorio Angelone.

Gray's short-listed show sees the performer “take on babies, boobies, bigots and Batman”, mixing stand-up with musical comedy.

Edinburgh Comedy Awards director Nica Burns said: “Jordan is an absolutely massive personality and an absolute star. She used to be a professional musician and is a brilliant piano player. She has real skill, she’s totally herself, she’s in total control of the audience, and the songs are really clever, poppy and modern.”

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After the nominees were announced, Gray said: "This is the greatest honour of my life. And it's happened in the greatest city in the world.

Nica Burns is director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

“As a transwoman, I have never felt safer than I do walking the streets of Edinburgh. A nomination like this can change a comedian's life.

"But for a transgender person, it's also a massive hug from the industry that says ‘you belong here’. My heart is so full.”

The Scotsman’s five-star review, which compared Gray to Tim Minchin and Russell Brand, described her show as “richly satirical, intimately personal and radically revealing, yet packaged in a heady medley of pop culture whimsy, tremendous songs and expertly executed stand-up”.

Critic Jay Richardson wrote: “She all but refuses to accept vulnerability, assuming her superiority to the mere mortals watching her, with only her delirious, self-conscious laughter at her own cheek and audacity evidence of any check on her ego.

“Channelling Superman for her statement finale, Is It A Bird? deserves all the acclaim coming to it.”

Writing in The Scotsman as the Fringe got underway, Gray said: “My first year at the Fringe was 2018. I played a blinder. My own show [Jordan Gray: People Change] was sparsely attended, but all the satellite appearances boosted my career massively. It was the first time I ever got nude on stage [Late’n’Live], and that’s been a fun thing to revisit and refine over the years.”



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