‘This is going to be brilliant,” Jordan Gray tells the audience, as she settles behind her keyboard. She’s not wrong. Is It a Bird? is a gorgeous, accomplished and deeply funny hour of comedy combining Gray’s musical talents with nuanced, creative standup.
Next to her keyboard is a red phone box – the type you might expect an undercover superhero to slip into, emerging seconds later in a mask and cape. The show’s title neatly captures Gray’s Essex roots, her experience as a transgender woman and her love of superheroes. Why is it, she asks, that so many people take issue with trans women, but “the whole world has no problem with Bruce Wayne identifying as a bat”?
This unfolds into some fun material about Batman’s shortcomings and original jokes about being transgender. Gray’s feminist credentials are excellent, she tells us, as she has already tackled the patriarchy by erasing one man.
Elsewhere, she offers a segment on dogs. “Say what you like about bigots,” she observes, “but they love dogs.” Through tight jokes and a hilarious act-out (Gray is so committed to this that she busts her lip), she tackles the hypocrisy of those quick to afford personhood to a domestic animal but unwilling to extend the same to people who are different from them.
Formerly a professional musician, Gray makes great use of her skills in songs about selling your soul to the devil, pandemic-era misinformation, and whether Jesus might have been hiding a supernatural secret. Every song is crammed with jokes, clever rhymes and surprising twists.
The phone box comes into play as we approach the finale, when Gray is called to assist an audience member in distress. The final song is the perfect poignant showstopper. Although I’ve seen it performed before, it stills draws laughter and emotion. Settled below a single spotlight, Gray softly sings: “If I’m going to be a joke, I might as well be in on it.” The crowd is drawn to their feet.