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Jordan Gray at the London Palladium

As the audience was periodically reminded, Jordan Gray is having the time of her life, having brought her Edinburgh Fringe show, Is It A Bird?, to the London Palladium. It was on my radar but, the Fringe being what it is, I couldn’t fit it in my crammed schedule, so I was pleased to finally get the opportunity to check out her show. A trigger warning at the entrance to the stalls bar said there would be nudity, and indeed there was. Gray is a transgender woman (that is, she identifies as a woman having been born a male) and has tits and a cock. What’s interesting is that one of the talking points at Edinburgh Fringe 2022 was Jerry Sadowitz’s show at the Pleasance Courtyard, which was only supposed to be on for two nights, but in the end was on for just one, because the Pleasance cancelled the second performance because of apparent inappropriate remarks – and nudity. Gray, on the other hand, also got naked over at Assembly George Square without consequence.

Then there’s Educate & Celebrate, which provides gender identity and sexual orientation training and resources for schools, colleges and universities. On Wednesday 26 October the charity released the following statement: “Following Jordan Gray’s performance on Friday Night Live, Trustees of the charity Educate & Celebrate removed Jordan Gray as a patron. As far as the charity are aware, Jordan Gray has never gone into schools and the charity have never requested Jordan carry out work for on behalf of Educate & Celebrate, either in a voluntary or paid capacity. Trustees of Educate & Celebrate had no knowledge of Jordan Gray appearing on Channel 4’s Friday Night Live until it was brought to our attention via social media.”

As far as I’m aware, she’d gone on national television, well after the watershed, bleated out a few expletives and took all her clothes off. I didn’t see it: I hardly ever watch television. It’s a small part (as it were) of her full show, which is themed around superheroes, particularly Batman – there’s an enjoyable (even for prudes) systematic takedown of the very premise of a bat-man being a superhero, especially one without any superhuman powers. Bats, Gray asserts, are not frightening in the sense that they don’t terrify, except very momentarily when they escape out of a closet when it's opened in a Scooby-Doo cartoon. She compares herself to Batman, and there are pluses and minuses, but the song that seemed to cause so much offence on Channel 4, in which she claimed to be better than everyone else, was pure satire.

When she first ‘came out’ (as transgender), so many people said she was marvellous and brave, and miscellaneous other superlatives. Had she not been sufficiently self-aware, she might have taken all those compliments at face value, and sooner or later would have thought of herself as being a superior human being. As it was, she called for quiet on more than one occasion, at one point actively shushing her London Palladium audience, confident in her own skin in every sense but also not wanting to let praise and adulation go to her head.

I’ve often made the observation that people who sit in the front row at a comedy night do so at their own risk, and we got to know Jamie and Christina (Or did we? All I recall is that they’re together!), and was introduced to a lady who came dressed as the DC Comics character Wonder Woman and has a phobia of small hedgehogs (don’t ask). Separately, after concluding, through song, that religionists are clinically insane, she mentions various faith groups, declaring them all to be mad.Encouraging the audience to sing along, Gray wryly observed that “Christians are insane” was sung with far more enthusiasm than “Muslims are insane”. But to put that routine into perspective, after a previous gig, a Sikh expressed thanks to Gray, for mentioning Sikhs in the first place, because Sikhs are often not considered worthy of mention in most comedy gigs.

Provocative, yes, but the message of inclusion and, in the end, wanting to do the right thing by people, comes through strongly. She told a long story about going round to a friend’s house only to discover her friend had a pet that was more a wolf than a dog, and the wolf had strange habits. To prove the point, Gray had the wolf join her on stage. Cue oohs and aahs from the audience. There’s an enthusiasm and vivacity about Gray’s performance, with every line delivered with such clarity – you’d be surprised how many other comedians and entertainers out there fail to get that basic principle right these days. There are reassuring messages about clickbait and pandemic conspiracy theories, amongst other things. As for Friday Night Live, Gray is aware of at least one viewer who had thought about being taken by their own hand, but having seen her performance, no longer wishes to pursue that course of action. That, Gray told the London Palladium, makes it all worth it. Fair enough.

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