Ian Harvie was just a regular 30-something guy, working as a web developer in Portland, Maine, when an unexpected piece of mail dramatically changed the course of his life. The postcard for a standup comedy-writing workshop set Harvie on a path that would take him to the stage and the screen with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
"It struck me like a bolt of lightening when I hit the stage my first time after taking that writing class, that comedy was my art medium," Harvie tells the Source. "I was hooked from day one even in the writing class, but performing it was what cemented it for me."
He kicked off his professional comedy career in 2002 and four years later he was opening for iconic comedian Margaret Cho on tour. The first openly transgender comedian went on to produce and host "The Ian Harvie Show," a late-night style show based in L.A. in which he interviews a variety of celebrity guests, especially those in the LGBTQ community. Past guests have included Jane Lynch, Alan Cumming, Suzanne Westenhoefer and Buck Angel. Harvie has been touring solo since 2009.
But recently, his career took a turn in a new direction. Harvie heard through a friend that producer Jill Soloway was creating a new television show and looking to cast transgender actors to play transgender characters (a relative rarity—most trans characters are played by actors who are not themselves transgender; notably, Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club). After sharing his story with Soloway, he was invited to play the role of "Dale" in "Transparent," an Amazon Prime original series that tells the story of a Jewish family whose patriarch is transitioning to live as a woman. The character is a teaching assistant in a college women's studies class who has a brief fling with one of the daughters.
"When she called to tell me, I thanked her and said, 'I won't let you down.' She quickly said back, 'No, I won't let you down,'" Harvie recalls. "I knew I was about to embark on something really beautiful and revolutionary in art making, I just didn't know at the time just how far the reach would be, and how moving to so many others, outside the trans community, it would be."
"Transparent," which debuted in February 2014, went on to win two Golden Globes this year—Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actor, for Jeffrey Tambor's portrayal of the family's patriarch-turned-matriarch, Maura Pfefferman. The show, which was met with rave critical reviews, was greenlit for a second season last October, and is expected to return sometime this year. Like the groundbreaking series, Harvie says he hopes his comedy breaks down barriers and brings people together.
"People often think that because you are laughing that its somehow not intimate, but I think it's one of the most vulnerable things we can do with each other," Harvie explains. "The moment after we share a laugh our shoulders lower, our guard goes down. So when you combine that kind of disarmament with funny and education or human storytelling, you can be truly seen, heard and connect with people over shared experience. And even if they can't relate, there is connection over a simple human laugh."
Read the full interview with Ian Harvie online here.
Ian Harvie with Gail Lovelace Menasco
7 pm. Monday, March 9
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.
$15 advance, $20 door, $30 VIP.