Classic Curve: Ian Harvie Is One Busy Comic
Photo: Don Spiro
He’s the comedian that Margaret Cho has raved about. The transgender funny man Ian Harvie has been working his way into the hearts of lesbians everywhere. So much so, he even has groupies (Curve staffers included). He’s worked on some of Cho’s projects, like music videos for Garrison Starr and is a regular cast member of Sensuous Woman. He also joined the likes of Alanis Morissette and Morgan Freeman; he played God in the short film James Lipton is Dead.
You have a ton of lesbian fans. Why do you think you’re so popular?
Um, thanks for saying that I’m popular, I don’t know how true that is, but you’re the editor of the wildly popular Curve magazine, you maybe know better than me. So, I’ll take that, if it is true.
I think there are a few things at play here. I hope that if I’m popular that it’s primarily because I’m making people laugh their asses off! But I do think there are lesbians, female-bodied queers, butches, femmes and trans people out there relating to my material and what they see on stage. Some people see a butch lesbian, some see a trans guy, and well, some even see a gay guy. [Laughs] I think my material has a kind of honest vulnerability to it that is not often seen on stage. Hopefully people laugh and feel like they got a little piece of my authentic self from the experience.
[Squinting sheepishly] Maybe that can make a comic like me popular? I mean, that is, if it’s true?
Do you have little groupies now?
Some of my good friends joke with me that they are my groupies, but I think they tell me that to keep me in my place and my feet firmly on the ground. I don’t know if I seriously have groupies. I do have a few people who come to shows pretty regularly that I don’t know personally, but I recognize their faces and say hello to them from time to time. Is that a groupie?
Is this the career trajectory you were expecting for yourself?
Sometimes I have these moments where I feel delighted or surprised, of course! Other times I would say yes, this is exactly what I pictured for myself and more. I have a list of life and career goals that I keep in the background on my computer desktop. I keep them on there so I am visually reminded to manifest each of them daily. Among all these things on my desktop is a Buddhist quote that reads, “All that we are is a result of something that we have thought.” I believe that. Also, equally important to naming the things I want in my life, when I do receive these amazing gifts or when I make them happen for myself, I make mental and spiritual note and am grateful. Gratitude is so important to keep the flow of these good things happening. So I guess the answer is yes, I thought things would happen like this and that things would go this well. I’m so honored to be here, representing queer culture and making people laugh.
What surprises you most about your life?
I guess what surprises me most is just how easy things can be, if I let them. Does that sound weird? I mean, I could really complicate the shit out of things if I wanted to with chaos or drama and negative energy. But if I just loosen my grip and let go of things a little bit more, then life gets much simpler. And even if I’ve done it before and it worked, it’s still, almost always is surprising to me how easy can be.
How fun was Jane Lynch?
As I’m sure you know, Jane is really great. I am a huge fan of everything she does as an artist; from her roles in Christopher Guest projects to sitcoms, indie films, her old-school butch lawyer character on The L Word, she’s always brilliant. She was also hilarious in Margaret [Cho]’s new film, Bam Bam and Celeste! She’s very intelligent and extremely active in the LGBTQ community.
You’ve been doing a lot of stuff with Margaret Cho, too; can you tell me about that?
You know, I met Margaret almost a year ago, and she invited me to work with her at the prestigious music and comedy club, Largo, one night here in [Los Angeles]. Shortly after that, she asked me to be her opening act when traveling for one-nighters and on tour, which I still do. She was immediately generous and has since included me in a lot of her projects. I became a regular cast member of her Sensuous Woman show, now heading to New York off-Broadway for six weeks this fall. We’ve produced a lot of videos for musicians we love. One of my favorite music videos that we did was for Garrison Starr, a song titled “Understood.” The video starred Garrison, Chewbacca and Wonder Woman. Margaret is a little obsessed with Chewy, and it’s a great video. For me, Margaret has been a constant and loud voice of support in my life, telling me that I can do anything and that I’m funny. She has also directed me in comedy and once told me to stop pacing on stage and stay engaged with the audience. She’s a fantastic mentor. We have a camaraderie and love of comedy. We often process our sets together after a show and share ideas for material. But paramount to all that, Margaret is an amazing human and in turn a great friend. She is super grounded and aside from work, we hang out, have dinner, you know, regular stuff. I’m really grateful to have her in my life.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be in New York this fall with Margaret and the entire amazing cast of The Sensuous Woman. That’s really exciting. I’ll keep producing my live talk show that I do here at Largo in [Los Angeles] once a month. We’re filming it regularly and edited it into a reel for pitching networks. I’ve been talking to a couple producers about bringing it to television. My wish for it would be to have a five nights a week, queer talk show on a cable network with all queer or queer-by-proxy guests. I’ll continue touring with Margaret performing standup, and I just heard a rumor that we might be doing a lesbian cruise in January ’08. In between everything else, I’ll be headlining clubs and colleges myself around the country. I just played the role of God in a short film titled James Lipton is Dead, with director Bob Poirier and actor-screenwriter James Hoban that won a film festival contest here in [Los Angeles] So, I’m looking for more film and/or commercial acting opportunities. Basically, I just keep saying yes to everything until I decide it’s something that doesn’t fit well anymore. Then I’ll say yes to something else.