We chat to the comedian about threesomes, Don’t Worry Darling and being afraid of hamsters. What else are you going to do if you’re stuck in a lift?
Jordan Gray is still slightly stunned at the success of her Edinburgh Fringe show.
“You don’t expect to be the person at the centre of a lightning strike,” she says. “I took a show up to the Fringe that’s – in my head – a silly show about babies and Batman and dogs and boobs and silly things.”
That ‘silly’ show, Is It A Bird?, sold out every single night at the Fringe, bringing in celebrity guests including Sir Ian McKellen (“I kept taking all my metal stuff, like my mic stand, and moving it towards him like he was doing it with his mind,” recalls Gray with a giggle). Since then, it’s spawned, among other projects, a Radio 4 series satirising the entertainment industry and an ITV drama called Transaction with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. The latter is based on a project she made for Comedy Central a few years ago, which caught Frost’s attention. “He said, ‘If it ever gets made for TV, I’d love to be in it’, so then his company acquired it, and now they’re making it.”
And now, on October 28, Is It A Bird? comes to The London Palladium, where Gray will deliver her celebrated blend of music and comedy for her largest audience yet. Her explanation for the success of her act?
“I think because I enjoy it so much,” she says simply. “I’m so giddy. I think you can’t help but at least get a little bit of that giddiness.”
Ahead of her night at the London Palladium, we got stuck in a lift with Gray to ask her some pressing questions…
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Hannah Einbinder, the actress. She was in Hacks on HBO. I met her recently and I didn’t get enough time to talk to her. So I’d like to remedy that by getting stuck in a lift with her!
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Myself! Just on my own, that would be horrible. I give off a lot of energy and I suspect just getting that reflected at you stuck in a lift would be quite off-putting. I feel bad now for Hannah Einbinder…
If you were stuck by yourself for a few hours, what do you think people would see when they opened the doors?
You know Transcendence with Johnny Depp? I like to think my mind would have melded with the universe. So you’d open it and it’d be a black hole into infinity where I’ve just evolved.
What’s on your exercise playlist?
‘Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins. And anything by Linkin Park.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls. She’s the only person that I ever get compared to. Right now I imagine there’s no resemblance…
No, now you say it there absolutely is!
Oh, good! Well, her. Also she’s brilliant.
Who was the first stand up that you saw?
Lauren Pattison, a British comedian. She’s the first one I ever bought a ticket to go see, and she was great. First person I ever saw on TV was probably Russell Brand.
Who was the comic that you saw that made you feel like you wanted to pursue comedy?
Tim Minchin. That’s a high standard to follow. It’s nice to have a high standard to follow, because then you probably never get there, but it’s a journey for the rest of your life.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
We sold out the Edinburgh Fringe. Then we added extra shows, and we sold those out. And on the very last one I was very tearful, and then my producer showed up on stage. And apparently two days before, I’d won the Comedians’ Comedian award in the British Comedy Guide, where all the comedians of the fringe vote for their favourite comedian. I hadn’t won the Dave Comedy Award. I was nominated, I didn’t win. And then that day, they gave me this award that says that all the comedians like you the most… Even if it doesn’t mean much to the public, it was really special. Because then you feel like you’ve arrived and people take you seriously in the industry.
You fall into a trap as a comic, as you’re coming up, that you just want to impress other comedians, because they’re the ones that are mostly in the room. And they’re the ones that get you the most. Even if you’re playing two huge audiences, you kind of just want comedians to be the ones to say, “That was really good.”
What animal scares you the most?
This is gonna sound stupid, but hamsters. Because they bite without showing a sign that they’re gonna bite you. They don’t like scowl like a dog – they just decide to bite. So yeah, it’s hamsters – mice and hamsters. Those sort of things are really cute, but they’re unpredictable. I love a spider. I would love a giant spider or a snake or anything like that. But hamsters? They’re just mysterious.
Have you ever stolen anything from a hotel?
I don’t think so… I mean, in the early days, when I was being put in hotels, I would take all the tea bags and the coffee, which is, like, on the line of stealing. But I would never drink them. They would just be in my rucksack. It was just for an apocalyptic situation. I was like, “Well, I’ve got them if I need them.” As if they’re ever going to be useful.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever bought to cheer yourself up?
Oh, the other day. I got ripped off for like £12 for a Wonka bar. You know, the ones you can buy from those American sweet shops on Tottenham Court Road. I went in and I was like, “Oh, that reminds me of that of the film, I quite like that. Just as a bit of nostalgia”. And I got up to the counter and he was like, “That’ll be 12 quid, please”.
I can’t handle confrontation, so put it on the card. It didn’t work. My card didn’t work. So I was like, this is the opportunity to say, “Oh, well, I won’t take it then”. But I still was like, “Oh, try it again”. I don’t know why I still did it. And then it worked the second time so I had this £12 bar of chocolate. It was awful as well. I opened it, thinking I was gonna get a golden ticket and if not, it’s at least going to be decent chocolate. But it was rubbish. It made me feel like such a tourist in my own city. I thought it was gonna fill me with childish wonder and it just made me an even more cynical grown up.
What’s the last thing that made you cry?
I cried so much during August because of all the good things that were happening. Don’t Worry Darling with Olivia Wilde also made me cry. That was really beautiful. It’s a really complicated film. The music is done really well. Music always makes me cry if it’s done well.
What’s the last gig you went to?
You think I’d be able to answer quicker, but I don’t get the chance to see very much. I don’t know if it counts, but at the Soho Theatre, I watched from backstage because Hannah Einbinder was on before me (I’m so obsessive). So I just sat and watched from the side of the stage. That’s literally the last gig I saw in person – before that it was months and months and months ago.
What’s the weirdest audience interaction that you’ve ever had?
Often in my set, right at the beginning, I’ll pick a couple. Like a heteronormative couple – I always try and find a man and a woman together – elicit a threesome like as a joke. But in Barcelona, the couple took it really seriously, which was no problem with me because they were a really lovely, attractive couple. But the whole way through I just kept looking at them and I could see in their eyes that they were basically waiting for the set to finish so that they could come and talk to me. It was very flattering, but it did throw me off because I was like, the minute this ends I’m going to be at the bar talking to this couple and I’ll have to be like, “I’m really sorry. I was only joking. Even though you’re really beautiful.”
And did they end up finding you after the show?
Yeah, they came over and said “Let’s go!” I was with my wife. We almost did it, but my wife had eaten too much gelato, so she couldn’t do it because she had a bad tummy. What a missed opportunity…
Jordan Gray will bring her show Is It A Bird? to the London Palladium on October 28. Find tickets here.