When I profiled Seattle stand-up comedian Andy Iwancio for The Stranger's Seattle Art & Performance quarterly in those innocent days of 2018, the trans-woman joke-teller was a rarity on the scene. That scenario had its advantages and disadvantages: It was easier to stand out from the crowd with fewer competitors and the topic of transgender life was relatively abundant with fresh angles for smart comics to exploit. But it also added pressure for trans comedians to be exceptionally funny, as they were among the few people representing this extremely small demographic. One or two dud performances could sour people on the whole idea of trans stand-up.
Over four years after that feature, Iwancio is thriving, and her debut release, an 18-minute EP titled Hard Trans, which came out in January, has peaked at #2 on the iTunes comedy chart. That's not a bad feat in a mediascape in which influential celebrities such as Dave Chappelle, J. K. Rowling, Joe Rogan, and Jordan Peterson feel duty-bound to spout transphobic views to their millions of fans and followers.
Hard Trans is essentially a Greatest Bits compendium of material from Iwancio's sets over the last nine years. The overall effect—besides making you laugh many times—is humanizing, which is one of the most important functions of a trans artist at this fraught juncture, when politicians and certain members of the far-right media aggressively strive to dehumanize and oppress trans folks.
Thankfully, Iwancio is never heavy-handed or self-righteous with her jokes or delivery, and that helps her cause. Her stabs at relatability hit solidly: “We're just like any one of you—we can't stand Caitlyn Jenner, either.” Iwancio also wittily explores other aspects of trans-woman experience—bathrooms, boobs, vaginas, the effects of hormones, reactions of family members to her gender status, the use of “partner” to describe her significant other, etc.
She's handy with wordplay, too. Bemused when a co-worker asked if taking estrogen meant that she could get pregnant, Iwancio riffed on the ignorance of the question—and then falsely told him, “Yes.” To the crowd, though, she confided, “This right here is the 'can't afford a vagina' monologue.”
In that 2018 interview referenced above, Iwancio did not, despite the progress she was making, feel optimistic about the potential for trans women comics to enter the mainstream. “I'll be dead before there's a famous trans woman comedian. That's probably just me being very exaggerated and grim.”
Whatever the case, Iwancio is taking significant strides to prove her prognostication wrong.
Distributed by Radland Records, Hard Trans is streaming at Apple, Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon. Iwancio performs Saturday February 25 at The Capitol Theater in Olympia.