Non-binary comedian Jes Tom is known for their biting wit and assured onstage persona, delivering unflinchingly honest jokes about the trans experience and their gender identity with a wink. (And a loaded cannon of more where that came from.)

Still, they weren’t above a moment of reflection back in March. On a massive billboard in the middle of Times Square, there was Tom’s face (and cute “little mustache”) in an advertisement for Netflix‘s first-ever genderqueer comedy special Gender Agenda. “I used to walk down [MacDougal Street] dreaming of seeing my pic on comedy posters,” Tom wrote. “Now I’m posting empire state of mind in earnest!!!!”

And if a cosign from Hannah Gadsby wasn’t enough, the New York-based comic had another huge accomplishment under their belt: a recently-wrapped Off-Broadway run of their candid solo show Less Lonely, presented by Elliot Page.

The rare feeling of finding resonance hasn’t been lost on the 33-year-old. As they told Interview Magazine, “Having all these different experiences that are my normal … It feels a little magic to be telling this story to people who maybe haven’t thought of things this way.”

To engage with Tom’s work is to engross yourself in their unique queer perspective –– or at least how they’re feeling right now. Like any great artist, the Smith College grad admits their opinions are subject to change, as their comedy has.

“I’m a fifth-generation Asian American, I’m multiethnic, I’m transmasculine, I go by ‘they’ pronouns, I was a lesbian, now I’m gay,” they told our sister site INTO. “What I’m actually trying to say with [Less Lonely] is, even if you don’t share these experiences, you can still relate to the the emotionality and the idea of change.”

After studying theater, Tom began attending San Francisco open mics in 2011, drawn to the medium as a means of being able to assert their identity. “I started doing stand-up because I basically was like, ‘If I want to have some kind of performance career, I have to take control,’ and in stand-up, you’re in total control of everything,” they explained to Them.

In 2013, they moved to New York City in pursuit of carving out their own niche in comedy, launching an advice show for Netflix’s Instagram, nabbing roles in Adult Swim’s Tuca & Bertie and Hulu’s queer coming-of-age flick Crush, and serving as a story editor for Max’s hilariously gay pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death. They were named a New Face of Comedy by the esteemed Just for Laughs comedy festival in 2021.

Still, Less Lonely marks their most formative work yet. “I think [the show] is largely about change and largely about me thinking I knew myself really well, and then suddenly finding out I have to learn all this new stuff in a lot of different ways, and over and over and over again,” they told Paste. “[It’s] a feel-good story that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be a feel-good story a lot of the way through, but it is.”

The show finds Tom grappling with a world on fire, grieving their late grandmother, navigating gender and relationships in the LGBTQ+ community, and OK, yes, as they admit, “a lot of weird sex stuff” too. Underlining it all is their search for love, someone to make them feel “less lonely,” if you will.

“I feel like I identify a lot with Taylor Swift in this way, in that a lot of my stuff comes out of the high highs of being in love, and then being totally heartbroken and getting this creative rush out of it,” Tom told Nylon.

Their next endeavor?

After getting top surgery “during the eclipse” in April, Tom plans to develop another “juicier” iteration of Less Lonely with some “even more difficult truths” they’re ready to dive into. Then, hopefully, complete world domination. (“I want to do everything,” they told Them.)

But in the meantime? Perhaps a raucous Fire Island excursion with Page, their pal and artistic partner who’s yet to experience a “proper” trip. As Tom told INTO, “That’ll be fun. We’ll find some real trouble.”

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