Seattle comedian Andy Iwancio got married in the smoking section of a Denny's restaurant. "Out in the world, I'm a 5 or a 6," Iwancio said recently onstage at Comedy Nest in the Rendezvous Grotto. "In a Denny's, I'm a 10—11, if I don't order hash browns."
A wedding in a Denny's would be an odd enough decision for anyone, but to add an extra soupçon of unusual, Iwancio is a trans woman, and her partner, Linus Needer, is a trans man. "I guess our wedding theme was confusing our parents further," Iwancio jokes, sitting in her University District apartment wearing a Conan O'Brien T-shirt.
"We actually came out to each other over the course of our relationship," she says, with a sense of wonder still in her voice. "We're technically straight—with air quotes, highlighted in pink, covered in glitter and jizz, rolled up into a dildo, and sent to San Francisco. It's more like we had a foursome and took home leftovers."
Most unexpected of all? Their longevity: Iwancio and Needer have been together for 17 years, a rarity for most human beings, let alone comedians. The happy couple decided to have Mad Lib wedding vows. "Most people are together till death do us part. We're together till Count Chocula do us part."
Iwancio's life sounds like it could become a sitcom—destined to air in 2023... maybe. She has wielded this material off and on over the last 11 years in the Seattle comedy scene, and in other American cities where she thinks jokes about the travails of trans folks will have a chance of hitting.
She also teaches DJing at the Vera Project and is a vegan. "But I'm a bad vegan," she says, pointing to her leather shoes.
Iwancio got her start on the circuit at Comedy Underground in 2007. She was more involved in DJing electronic music at the time and didn't take comedy seriously—perhaps a sound strategy, in retrospect. Iwancio was coming out as trans then, so honing her jokes was a slow process.
"I just call it 'the hormones thing,' because 'transition' makes it seem like you're in a line of traffic at all times," she says. "When the reality is, you're just saying you were something all along. Also, I'm super-privileged to even have hormones, the old boob pills."
Around 2012, Iwancio began showing up at more open mics and eventually became a fixture at Comedy Womb (now Comedy Nest), a haven for woman- and queer-centric stand-up comedians to perform in a non-misogynistic environment. (There are many other spots in town to get your fill of comedic toxic masculinity.)
Iwancio acknowledges that comedy—and DJing, for that matter—traditionally has been considered "a dude thing. So any trans person speaking out loud is its own act of revolution, in some regards."
And she points out that the mere fact of putting your body onstage as trans presents challenges. Iwancio cites the dreaded "crotch check" as one pitfall. "I sat down for a while, because what you wear onstage, and what you don't wear onstage as a trans woman, at least, is how you'll be read. So if I wear bigger clothes, I'm read as a dude. Then it seems like, unless I specify that I'm speaking from the trans viewpoint, I seem like I'm a dude making fun of trans women, because I'm being clocked as a dude. But if I show up in something that has my tits out more, then I have a better chance of the trans stuff landing."
One advantage trans comics have is the shock of the new. With so few trans comics working in the field, anyone in it potentially has material that was unavailable to stand-up comics before them. "People are just happy to not hear the same thing over and over again. I haven't really fought any sort of open aggression from folks. People seem to want to know about the trans experience."
In October, Iwancio opened for the popular actor/podcaster Cameron Esposito at the Neptune Theatre, to an audience of 700 people, and her 15 minutes went well, especially because she got to meet Esposito. "I only had one or two goals in comedy, and one was to do her podcast, Put Your Hands Together, which is really rad. So to get to open for her is a good consolation prize."
In November, Iwancio traveled to Los Angeles for five dates, including an appearance at Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal's Hot Tub variety show. Contemplating the awesomeness of that, she says, "If I stop doing comedy this year, I would retire having done mostly everything I've ever wanted to do."
Despite the advances in comedy she's making, Iwancio waxes pessimistic about the breakout potential for trans women comics. "I'll be dead before there's a famous trans woman comedian. That's probably just me being very exaggerated and grim." She admits that there are just some places in the United States that trans women comics can't thrive, but she is driven to perform in cities where trans people live and may have never seen her brand of comedy.
"Sometimes, closeted people come up to me after a show and in a hushed voice tell me that they are trans. And that's not often, and it sounds like some sort of special, teary-eyed moment in an interview, but it does keep me going in some respects."