A VCU grad is incorporating her transgender experience into her comedy

Photo by Shayla Bailey.
Mary Jane French uses her experience to make others laugh. Photo by Shayla Bailey.

Pulling up to Wonderland Comedy, it’s uncertain what one may be walking into. The sign outside holds the establishment title, Wonderland, each letter tilted at a different angle and washed in a different bright color.

The building contains a room where many local comedians’ careers begin. Skulls and cloaked figures riding horses adorn the walls and ceiling. A poster of the famed The Velvet Underground & Nico album art hangs directly next to the stage.

Saturday night, five comedians took to this stage for Wonderland Comedy Presents: Mary Jane French. The headliner was Mary Jane French and the rest of the line-up included Kim Durfee, Patience Iv, Katherine Malone and Patrick Buhse — all hailing from Virginia. Each talent was varied in their approach to comedy but similar themes cast over the show as a whole.

Topics including relationships, kid talk and mental health managed to creep into each performer’s setlist. However, the discussion of gender topics was unique to three performers including French. When she approached the stage as the headlining act, she took one step onto the stage, her 6’ 2” stature a demanding presence in the room. She looks out and announces to the crowd, “and I’m transgender!”

Laughter poured from many audience members as she continued to talk about her transition and recent bottom surgery.

During an interview the day of the show, one out of every seven people must have stopped to say hi to her. Her energy was high and later it was obvious when she described herself as a “manic” performer, she wasn’t kidding.

She grew up in Sterling, Virginia and moved to Richmond for the comedy scene and diversity. French has been in comedy for five and a half years.

“When I was little, I liked kid shows and sitcoms, stuff like The Simpsons or Scrubbs. Then around middle school, I think, is when friends started showing me standup,” French said. After that she took a liking to it on her own, she said.

“My senior year of high school I took improv classes at the community college and I found a standup open mic one county over,” said French.

Once a week, she would attend an open mic until beginning school at VCU. She said her official start in comedy was in 2012.

French recently graduated from VCU as a cinema student. At 23, French says she plans on moving to Los Angeles later this year.

“When considering where I want to move, comedy is one of the big factors because I do plan to pursue it and definitely never stop doing it,” French said.  

French’s work, including her podcasts, EP’s and upcoming show dates can be found on her website at MaryJaneFrench.com.

Emma Sue Sims Contributing Writer 

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