“When I walked in Margaret came up to me and said, ‘You’re doing five minutes tonight’,” says Harvie. “I was like ‘Oh, f**k!’ I’ve only actually sh** my pants once in my adult life, and I came really close this time.”
By Harvie’s own admission, he wasn’t that good that night. But Cho kept him on, and he got better both with her guidance and support, and by having the opportunity to write material and then perform it in front of an audience that is open to a trans man comic. Then Cho invited Harvie to a gig in Minnesota, which led to three years of traveling around the country opening for her on national tours, giving Harvie the kind of exposure that all up-and-coming comedians wish for.
“It’s unheard of that someone walks up to you and says, ‘You’re funny, now come with me’,” says Harvie. “I don’t know of any comic that is as generous as Margaret is.”
Cho, who is known for giving a boost to other nontraditional comedians and performers like Selene Luna and Vaginal Davis, agreed that it was time for Harvie to begin headlining. And with the boost that Cho gave him Harvie has been touring the past several years on his own, playing colleges, comedy clubs, pride events, and cruises, as well receiving invitations to participate in festivals like the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, the Los Angeles Comedy Arts Festival, and the prestigious Melbourne International Comedy Arts Festival in Australia.
Harvie began his comedy career ten years ago, coming out as trans in his shows two years later. Performing at Fantasia Fair, and in Provincetown in general, is something Harvie looks forward to as audiences here “get him” he says. Performing at Fantasia Fair is something that Harvie has wanted to do for a long time. In his own transition process Harvie has reached a point of self-acceptance and celebration. And in that journey, he has reflected on the idea of gender in our society a lot, and learned much from his experiences on stage hearing from so many transgender people, letting him know he was by no means alone.
“I know it sounds cliché, but I thought I was the only one for a while that felt the way that I did,” says Harvie. “And now I swear, I think everyone is a bit trans. Everybody has the same feeling to some extent, though they might call it something different.”
Harvie had his breasts removed as part of his transition. In our society, and in Southern California in particular, plastic surgery has become much more popular. Plastic surgery in all its forms can often be a way for men and women to pursue what they feel would not only satisfy their self-esteem, but also their identities to move them closer to whichever end of the gender spectrum fits them best.
“That woman in Beverly Hills who got her breast augmented is a very trans experience,” says Harvie. “I had my breasts removed, but we did it for the same reasons. Everybody asks me about Chaz Bono. And I think he is great, but I don’t get what the big deal is, as with all the plastic surgery Cher has had, Chaz is the second transgender person in that family.”
Born in Portland, Maine, and raised on the shores of Beaver Pond (which is not a joke, adds Harvie), Harvie performed as a child with the classic American neighborhood talent show. Obsessed with The Carol Burnett Show and impressionist Rich Little, Harvie channeled Little’s impression of Richard Nixon, and, as they say in the biz, he “killed” at eight years old. Always wanting a career in entertainment, he tried singing and the guitar, which he says he was “terrible” at, and was “mediocre” in theater. But when he enrolled in a comedy class in Portland, he knew he found what it was that he wanted to do for the rest of his life. After moving to the West Coast in early 2006, to further his career and escape the winters of New England, he launched The Ian Harvie Show in 2007, receiving rave reviews. The show featured not just stand-up, but also in-depth interviews with performers like Alan Cumming and Leslie Jordan, actresses Jorja Fox and Jane Lynch, and award-winning adult-film star and trans man Buck Angel. Then came his opportunities with Margaret Cho.
Harvie says he’s excited to return to Provincetown, which he adores for its “queerness” and acceptance, and the level of comfort that accompanies that community value. It seems that no discussion of transgender rights can avoid including an examination of the bizarre politics around bathrooms. Harvie still feels anxiety about using public restrooms as when he presented as a butch woman he was often thrown out of the ladies’ room, and he wonders what would happen to him if it were discovered he was a trans man in the men’s room. An argument used often against trans protections in the law is the issue of safety, with opponents saying women would be in danger. Harvie is quick to add that the person most endangered in any public bathroom is transgender people, who are often the victims of violence. Years back he and Cho were in line to use the restroom. At the time Harvie used the ladies’ room prior to having his breasts removed. Standing in the powder room waiting for a stall, a woman screamed that there was a man in the bathroom. Another woman, trying to calm the situation, said to Harvie that it really was just an issue of safety, saying the woman probably thought he was in their to attack her.
“I’m going to wait in line behind 30 people to attack you,” says Harvie. “That makes no sense. In my life I’ve become familiar with the culture of both the ladies’ and the men’s room. I think all bathrooms should be co-ed, but I will tell you this. The ladies’ rooms are much, much cleaner than the men’s rooms.”
Stand-up comic Ian Harvie is playing at the Boatslip, 161 Commercial St. on Monday, October 15 at 8 p.m. and again as part of We Are No Saints with Poppy Champlin and Felon O’Reilly at the Provincetown Inn, 1 Commercial St. at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 18. For more information on Ian Harvie visit www.ianharvie.com.