Exclusive: Will Franken On Changing Back From Sarah To Will: Page 2 of 2

Career Backfire

My position on the transgender spectrum is incidental and not integral to who I am. As skin colour is incidental to ethnic minorities and sexual preference is incidental to homosexuals, such external characteristics, I hold, are irrelevant to a person's achievements, passions, and talents. With the massive amount of press I had unintentionally garnered simply by “coming out”, I began to wonder if my shows would see a significant bump in numbers and even cogitated upon the possibility that perhaps this whole “honesty in comedy” phenomenon that I have so often scorned might finally prove to be the tipping point elevating me from cult status to the coveted mainstream. I regrettably found that something to the converse took place instead.

In Edinburgh, I would encounter people who would sycophantically enthuse: “Sarah! I've read so many great things about you!” without ever bothering to come see exactly what it is I do. If I had to choose, I would rather people not see my shows altogether than labour under the misapprehension that because they've read a Guardian article, they've seen my shows by default. I do not and will not write brave, one-hour coming out stories peppered with light-hearted anecdotes to make an audience feel good about their shared acceptance of me. I am a satirist. The real story behind my comedy is the amalgam of a unique structure, rapid-fire multi-voiced content, and a willingness to slaughter the politically correct sacred cows of our age. This has remained the constant in my work whether as Will or as Sarah. As I mentioned in Fleming's blog, the first interview I gave about transgenderism felt interesting and even necessary. By the time I was asked to give the twentieth, I was utterly sick of the topic and refused to answer any questions relating to it. It was the libertarian journal Spiked that finally broke the sanctimonious mould when they conducted an interview dealing with my free speech absolutism in relation to political correctness. How grateful I was for that interview. It signified to me that I was not yet creatively dead.

 

Intentional (or Unintentional) Misrepresentation Of Intent

In every interview I've given on the topic of transgenderism, I was always clear that I had no intention to either have the operation or undergo hormone therapy. I harboured no plans to physically alter my body in any way whatsoever. This goes to the same reason I will never get a tattoo – a disdain for permanency. My life is all about change as my art is all about change – despite knowing all-too-well that the comedy industry loathes change. They want you to be ONE THING. Because they can only sell you if you're ONE THING. In some interviews, I even proffered that my transgenderism was the result of nurture over nature. I stated that my feminine inclinations were learned behaviours from my formative years and not an innate sense of being born in the wrong body. These important caveats were often omitted in publication, presumably to keep in alignment with the current trans-narrative of “Man Becomes Woman And Finds Pot Of Gold At End Of Rainbow”. 

 

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Some of the press mentioned that I was “risking” so much in becoming the first comedian to transition mid-career. At the time, I found the concept that I was risking anything darkly funny as I had only slightly more money in my account than I do at present, which is near fuck-all. Those close to me, who knew of my perennially dire financial straits, encouraged me to capitalise on all this unintended publicity. Instead, I wrote a show mercilessly mocking my old bugaboos of the psychiatric industry, grievance culture, and jihadism – as indeed I would have done as Will. The more astute critics recognised the piece as a testament to freedom, to which my physical presentation served merely to bolster the theme without being the theme itself. Whilst the more obtuse were baffled as to what the show had to do with transgenderism. The calculation post-Fringe revealed to me that not much was gained or altered either way by coming out as Sarah or reverting back to Will. I may be the first comedian to transition mid-career. I can also be the first one to revert back mid-career. 

 

The Clipping Of My Creative Wings 

sarah FrankenMy particular process of creation entails me being comfortable enough to talk to myself in strange voices, oftentimes out of necessity in public settings. Because I was constantly being stared at whilst Sarah, I was understandably wary of bringing even more attention to myself by attempting to work out multi-voiced dialogues on, for example, train platforms and McDonald's queues. Now that I am, again, for lack of a better word, anonymous, I have rediscovered an erstwhile freedom in that anonymity to converse with myself as loudly as I please in any one of a thousand voices – let the starers be damned. There are times these days when I'll even belt out absurdist tunes at the top of my lungs in a fashion reminiscent of a post-Pink Floyd Syd Barrett, that serves not only as a creative outlet, but also as a trusted defence mechanism. 

 

I'm A Lazy Sod

There's not a woman I know who doesn't relish a day or two where there's no need to get up and fix her hair or put on makeup. How well I know the value of those days now. I remember once being struck with a funny idea for an impromptu video. I wanted to shoot it right then and there, whilst the concept was still piping hot. And then suddenly, I was struck with the apprehensive thought: “Do I have to put on the makeup and wig every time I have an idea now?” Whether I needed a packet of fags in the middle of the night, had to meet a mate early in the morning, or wanted to put a comic video out on social media, I felt terribly constrained in terms of presentation. And yet I felt obligated to play out the string, as if I was in an updated version of the movie Tootsie, with the only difference being that everyone already knew beforehand I was a man. I may have been freed in the nebulous sense of “coming out”, but ironically, I found myself in a much more restrictive closet. 

 

So perhaps all this has simply been a long way of announcing that I've come out of the closet – again. 

Thank you in advance for your support; 

Respectfully,  

Wm. (formerly S.) Franken

Will Franken is touring the UK in 2016. Dates and info here.

 

 

 

 

 

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