Our social media platforms may collectively be devolving into garbage fires—between the Musk era of Twitter (er, X) and Meta’s casual blocking of news in Canada, social media feels like a bad place to be.
But I have to admit, even in the darkest days I keep going back for Jes Tom’s posts.
From their work writing for shows like Tuca & Bertie and Our Flag Means Death, to their advice show Dear Jes on Netflix, to touring their stand-up across North America, Tom has become known for a lot more than their horny tweets. But for a bite-size encapsulation of just how funny they can be, look no further than their social feeds.
After being named as a New Face at the 2021 Just For Laughs Festival, they will bring their solo stand-up show Less Lonely to Just For Laughs Toronto from Sept. 28 to 30, a return to Canada after a successful run in Toronto earlier this year.
Presented by Elliot Page, the show is a constantly evolving hour of stand-up from Tom, a self-described “horny cherub.” But Tom says the show is not only about laughter and sex; it’s got an emotional core that will make you cry—so bring the hankies.
I sat down with Tom ahead of the show to talk about the growing community of trans comedians, saying “gay rights” with kombucha, and the art of being publicly horny on the internet.
For somebody who’s never seen you on social media, but might come across your show on a lineup: what can they expect?
It is a show about grief and change and looking for love at the end of the world.
And for people who are familiar with your other work or your presence on social media, what can they expect from the show?
This is going to be a longer answer. This show has been a huge journey for me. And it’s changing a lot. The thing that I love about stand-up is that it’s alive and it’s constantly changing depending on what’s happening with you in your life. And because I’ve been going through so much change, the show has been changing a ton. So, even from the last time I did this show in Toronto, which was in April. It’s actually a completely different show. I’m really excited to bring it back and to bring it even to some people who’ve seen it before because it’s not the same show.
Can you talk a bit about working with Elliot Page, who’s billed as “presenting” Less Lonely.
Elliot has been so awesome. I mean, his role in this is presenting, which basically means he throws his weight behind what he endorses; on the creative and it’s mostly just me. What’s been so incredible about working with Elliott is that he’s also been a huge influence to me my entire life. Juno came out when I was, like, 13 years old. So I’ve been sort of keeping tabs on him and identifying with him through different identities and different points in our lives. And now to get to do something [that he’s involved with]; I get to make art of my own that he has seen that resonates with him, it’s just so cool to me.
You were just at the Soho House Awards with Mae Martin, where you presented them with the Changemaker Award. Could you speak a bit to that community of trans comedians and creatives you’re a part of?
I think that there’s some truth to the idea that, like, all trans and queer people kind of know each other or are a couple degrees away from each other. And all comics also definitely know each other. So, this sort of magical thing has happened with people like me and Mae and Elliot, where because we’re at this similar juncture of our lives, like the universe kind of conspired for all of us to come together, and it feels like trans magic.
I’ve been doing comedy for 10 years, Mae has been doing comedy a really, really long time; since they were really young. And I know definitely for me that when I started, it was a totally different world in a ton of different ways. I was already going by they/them pronouns and doing comedy about being non-binary at that time, but like nobody had ever heard it before.
My first few years in comedy, I had a hard time finding people that I related to and I felt like my queer worlds and my comedy worlds were distinctly separate from each other. I would go to my queer spaces, and I would be doing comedy at drag shows or cabarets or poetry readings. But I would be the only one doing comedy. And then I would go back to my comedy world and I would be, like, the only queer or gender nonconforming person doing comedy over here.
I feel so lucky to now be in a place where not only are people more familiar with these concepts, someone talking about it on stage isn’t the first time they’ve ever heard about it before, but there are also so many of us. Of course, me and Mae, but, like, on more of the ground level, like in Brooklyn, where I live, there’s a really thriving queer and trans comedy community. That feels really exciting.
I worked in a comedy club as a server for a long time and it was not always a great place to be as a queer or trans person.
It was not cool. That’s how I cut my teeth in comedy too. I also started out in clubs and it was not a cool or safe place to be. I do a joke right now that’s like, “I used to do shows where the lineup was, like, 10 straight white guys and one woman and the woman was me. And I was like, ‘I don’t know if I am the best person for this job.’”
It’s just amazing that now queer comics can come up with the support and understanding of other queer comics and queer audiences.
We’re in this moment where, shit … it’s bad for us collectively—we’re having a bad time, even up here in Canada. What does it kind of feel like to be making very queer, very trans comedy in this current moment, both, like you said, in those havens of community, but also outside of that too?
It does sound corny, but the idea of gathering, especially as queer and trans people, and laughing together, I think is really powerful. I feel like sometimes in queer and trans performance spaces, you know, we can get really heavy—we’re used to crying. We’re used to getting in a room and crying together, or like re-processing our trauma together or, like, hearing about someone’s trauma and being like, “That happened to me too.”
I feel like we’re not as used to finding levity in our experiences, and joy and just like laughing at ourselves. Right? That’s kind of the stereotype of, like, queer people, right? We have “pronouns”; we can’t take a joke. But the thing is, we can laugh at ourselves, and there is great humour in our experiences, even as they’re hard or, like, because they’re harder. It’s funny. And I think, you know, the cliché about stand-up comics is we’re all using humour to cope, but I’m like, everybody needs a laugh. And I actually think that, especially right now, trans people deserve the laugh the most.
What comes next for Less Lonely? Are you planning to continue to tour the show, or start something new?
Less Lonely is kind of my little baby, my little baby sprout that I’m nurturing and watering and seeing what it’s going to grow into.
I don’t know how much I can speak on this. I will say that if you’re in New York, keep an eye out. Or, if you’re coming to New York, keep an eye out for more news because there’s going to be some really exciting stuff with the show, I hope.
You do a stand-up show called Corporate Pride in June with Tessa Skara. What’s your favourite piece of corporate Pride that you’ve ever encountered?
My first year living in New York, I was walking around Soho. And there’s a grocery store there called Dean & DeLuca, a gourmet grocery store. It was Pride season, and they had—across three windows—a huge word plastered for Pride. There was a letter “O” in the word that was a heart with a rainbow stripe.
And that word was: “kombucha.” Which I just love because I was like … that’s nonsense. Like, that’s pure nonsense. That doesn’t do anything for anyone!
When you brought Less Lonely to Toronto earlier this year, that was your first time in Canada. What was your impression, and what are you looking forward to in your return?
Oh, I loved it. I was like, I could expatriate here. I love Toronto. I literally was like “who wants to get married?” So yeah, I’m excited to come back and find a partner in marriage.
I’ve followed you online for a long time and have truly come to admire how good you are at horny-posting. What’s your secret to the art of the horny tweet?
You know, it takes a light touch. I don’t think people think of it like that. I mean, it’s crazy because that’s also a world that has changed a lot. The pandemic changed everything. Because in the pandemic everybody got really openly horny all the time to the point where it almost became like cringe, it almost was like too much to be too horny, because everybody was doing it.
It’s about striking the chord between being honest and truthful about this disgusting thing that’s inside of you, but also being relatable enough that people are like, “Oh, yeah.”
You’re making them be like, “Thank God you said this thing that I would never say. I would never dare to say it myself.”
Will you keep on horny-posting into the future no matter how big you get?
I feel that as long as I am being horny, someone’s gonna have to hear about it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.