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Comedian Jes Tom Is Here to Help You Be ‘Less Lonely’

Tom has been busy with their (terrific) solo show, but there are some things on the horizon they're excited about.

1:15 PM EST on January 4, 2024

Jes Tom in oversized chic clothing with their arms outstretched, while performing "Less Lonely"

Jes Tom in their solo show “Less Lonely.” (Samantha Brooks)

"I thought testosterone would turn me into a man, but it turned me into a twink," the comedian Jes Tom quips in their Off-Broadway solo show "Less Lonely," which is ending its six-week run at the Greenwich House Theater this Saturday. 

Transition, in the deft hands of Tom, turns out to be a rich vein to mine for comedic gold—the indignities of surprisingly finding oneself now attracted to cisgender men being just one of those nuggets. But by the end of their show, presented by Tom's friend Elliot Page and billed as all about "sex in the face of death, gender transition on the brink of oblivion, and the search for love at the end of the world," you might find a tear or two in your eye, like when they talk about visiting their dying grandmother and being with her in her final moments. (Don't worry—this is still a comedy show, so naturally, Tom inserts a joke or two about impatiently waiting for the death of their family matriarch.)

When Tom, who is in their early 30s, started performing in San Francisco and then later in New York City, the comedy scene was a lonely place for queer comics of color, they said. (Tom is half Chinese and half Japanese, an identity that is the subject of a very funny joke in their show.) But that's changed. "Especially since the pandemic, everybody had to be alone with themselves," they told me recently over Zoom one morning. "People had to think, 'what do I want to do with my life,' and everybody was like, 'I'm queer! And I've always wanted to try stand-up comedy.'" Partly as a result, Tom said, "all of a sudden, there's a really booming scene, especially in Brooklyn, and in New York, of queer and trans stand-up comedy."

"Less Lonely" is itself a product of the pandemic—during its height, Tom, who often jokes that they're the Taylor Swift of comedy due to their respective love of love, began dating a poly woman who ended up marrying their other partner in a ceremony that Tom watched over a Twitch stream.

As Tom's life changed, the show has changed. "The show is alive, and that's what I love about stand-up—it's always responding to stuff that's happening around you," Tom told me. Case in point: When they started performing an earlier version of "Less Lonely," they were still in that poly relationship and still in love. "Now, it's more about learning about change and learning to accept change, letting go of these ideas, like that you can just find love," they said. 

Tom has been busy with their solo show, but there are some things on the horizon they're excited about. (What they don't recommend? Watching Dave Chappelle's new Netflix show. We should put him out to pasture, Tom told me: "Let him rest. Let him just enjoy his millions. It's not working.")

Until Saturday, January 6: Jes Tom's "Less Lonely" at the Greenwich House Theater, 27 Barrow Street, Manhattan (Tickets start at $39)

"People don't have to feel intimidated by it. I know it comes off sounding very specific, and it is. But the show has had such a diverse crowd, from very young to very old, straight to gay to parents of trans kids who dragged the kids along, like, the kid doesn't know who I am, but the parents know who I am. I met some older people who saw my show who told me somebody warned them that it was very raunchy, and they were like, 'We thought it wasn't sexed up enough.'"

Friday, January 26 through March 24: Cole Escola's play "Oh, Mary!" at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, Manhattan (Tickets start at $81)

"I'm so excited for it. It's also produced by the same producers who are doing my show. It's Cole as Mary Todd Lincoln, which is just bonkers. Cole is a genius performer, they're a genius character actor, and I feel like they strike the perfect chord between literally genius-level intellect and just pure stupidity."

Sunday, January 28: Earth Tones, hosted by Asha Ward and Sureni Weerasekera, at Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn ($18.98)

"The comedy scene has changed completely since I started 10 years ago. When I started, my comedy world and my queer worlds were completely separate from each other," Tom said. "So I would be doing comedy in straight bars and clubs, and then I would go to a drag show, or a poetry reading, or performance art series, and I would be doing stand-up there, with queer people. But the two worlds didn't touch each other at all." 

Earth Tones is a standout in the city's burgeoning queer comedy scene. "This monthly show is run by Asha Ward and Sureni Weerasekera. It's really cool. It's a show that showcases queer comics of color, sick comics, really funny," Tom said. In addition to Ward and Weerasekera, January's show line-up has Jaboukie, Larry Owens, Richard Perez, Milly Tamarez, Fareeha Khan, Maddie Wiener, and Jay Jurden.

All the time: Staying cozy at home with André 3000 (Mostly free!)

As a self-proclaimed "elder," Tom is entering their home decor/candle/jazz phase of life. "Honestly, these days, I'm a great advocate for an evening in, lighting a candle and listening to jazz and getting stoned. That's my vibe these days," they said. "I've actually been listening to André 3000's flute record. I love that record. It's amazing. I've also been enjoying old Feist. I'm coming into my 30s era."

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