With 'Less Lonely,' Jes Tom Is The Taylor Swift Of Off-Broadway


Jes Tom Is The Taylor Swift Of Off-Broadway

Jes Tom on Less Lonely, their Taylor Swiftian approach to writing about love, working with Elliot Page, and more.

Jes Tom has long been preoccupied with the end of the world, particularly what that means for their crushes. In Less Lonely, the nonbinary comedian’s Off-Broadway one-person show at the Greenwich House Theater, Tom delivers a confessional, hilarious show about oblivion, sex, gender confirmation, and relationships in the face of imminent destruction, mining their own formative, flawed relationships to make us all feel less lonely.

“I feel like I identify a lot with Taylor Swift in this way, in that a lot of my stuff comes out of the high highs of being in love, and then being totally heartbroken and getting this creative rush out of it,” says Tom.

Tom, a self-described “horny cherub” has performed Less Lonely in some capacity for the last two years, mostly at comedy clubs like Union Hall and Bell House, before a short run at the Cherry Lane Theater in the summer of 2022. It was there that Tom’s producers asked if they knew anyone who would want to back the show financially; Tom had the idea to shoot their shot with their friend Elliot Page. Tom sent Page a video of the show, and Page signed on and has been supporting it ever since. Meanwhile, their friendship has only continued to bloom: Tom and Page are planning a trip to Fire Island and attended a gala at LACMA together in November, both dapper in Gucci.

Samantha Brooks

Tom’s show is bringing some much-needed frank queerness to Off-Broadway, and the current iteration of Less Lonely gives Tom the opportunity to see how much their comedy means to a wide swath of people — an experience that’s been surprisingly rewarding. After every show, there’s a meet-and-greet in the lobby, and seeing young trans people come with their parents has become a highlight.

“I had a 14-year-old girl come on her birthday with her friends and her mom. It was the coolest thing that could ever happen,” Tom says. “I was also a 14-year-old whose mom brought them to do stuff that was not totally age appropriate.”

NYLON spoke to Tom ahead of Less Lonely’s closing week about their obsession with Dig Inn’s steak and farro bowls, how Taylor Swift inspires their comedy, and what they’ve learned over the course of baring their soul on stage for the last five weeks.

Less Lonely closes January 6.

Samantha Brooks

Can you talk about your obsession with this apocalypse romance?

I've always thought I would live through the end times, which feels a little “main character” of me. I've always been obsessed with the idea of the world ending, even when I was a kid. I've always wondered, “If the world was ending, who would be the people I finally confess I have a crush on?” I want to know who would be the people who come to me in these final high stakes moments where we have nothing to lose. Now that I'm saying it out loud, maybe it’s me trying to evade the consequences of my actions. I'm like, “How could I tell somebody how I feel about them and then not have to deal with it at all afterwards?”

Whenever I'm in an airplane, I think about if it was going to crash and I had to tell a crush or a doomed situationship that I was in love with them, but then the plane doesn't crash. It’s not that big of a deal to be honest with someone, but it feels like a big deal.

That's kind of what the show is about: I'm obsessed with this idea of finding love as the world is ending in front of me. And then what if it actually doesn't end right this second? Then what?

I know you speak candidly about some of your relationships in the show. Has your love life always been an inspiration for your material?

I feel very Taylor Swiftian in that way. I did a show in 2016 called Cold Brew about this big breakup I had gone through. The breakup happened in June and the show happened in August, and it was just what I had to do at that moment. It was how I was processing.

You and Taylor Swift are both tapping into something.

We're both Sagittarians.

Samantha Brooks

Has the show changed at all during the course of this run?

It has. It's been a really cool learning process for me. This is the first time I've ever done an extended run of a show, so I've been taking this time to really learn what the show is and what it needs in order to be the best show possible. I'm always editing on stage, I'm always adding little things or taking things out, and I'm already thinking about what the next iteration of this is going to have to look like, too.

Do you have plans for the next iteration of Less Lonely?

It's going to be even juicier. I'm ready to share more. I'm ready to be really telling the truth on stage, instead of just being in my feelings. I try to always tell the truth on stage, but I think there are some even more difficult truths I can get to that I really want to dig into with this show.

Has anything ridiculous happened during the run in terms of the performance or audience?

Coming from a standup comedy background, I think I expected theater audiences would act in a more formal way, and they don't. People are doing all kinds of stuff. They're putting stuff on the stage. I had an older man who was sitting in the front row who took out a Ziploc bag full of medications and put it onto the stage while I was on the stage, and it's a pretty straightforward stage setup, so it's obvious this is happening. So I had to talk about it.

I was like, "No, sir, that's fine. You can leave that there. You probably need that. I need you to be able to reach that if you need that in the middle of the show." And then his wife, who was more with it, snatched it away.

I read your tweet about eating a bunch of Dig Inn during the course of the show. Is there anything else you have learned about yourself through this run?

Can we get them to sponsor me? “Less Lonely, sponsored by Dig Inn, presented by Elliot Page.” I eat a steak and farro bowl from Dig every single day, and I have done this every day for six weeks, and I don't get sick of it. I'm like, now's the time to eat my cardboard bowl dinner. I've learned I really need that. It's very regulating for me. I've learned I really like to do the same show every day for six weeks. It's really fun for me, and I was afraid it wouldn't be.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.