When the apocalypse hits, where will you find Elliot Page? In a bunker with his friends, family, and dog — the essentials, he says.
Among that group of friends would be Jes Tom, of course. They’ve been meaning to go “commune mode” with their friends for a while anyway, though they’re the first to admit they’re not sure what they’d provide to said end-of-the-world collective.
“I think I’m moral support,” Tom decides, planning to keep spirits up with their comedic stylings even as doomsday looms. They couldn’t stop if they tried: “I have a disease, and the disease is called stand-up comedy, and it’s terminal,” they say.
Page and Tom have been thinking a lot about the end of the world lately. It comes up over and over again in Tom’s stand-up show Less Lonely, which Page presents at Off-Broadway’s Greenwich House Theater. INTO caught up with Page and Tom just before the show’s opening to learn what inspires their apocalyptic musings.
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“As you can see if you look around, the world is ending,” Tom quips during the show. “Do we agree? Queer people agree that the world is ending. Straight people are like, ‘No it’s not. My baby is right here.’ And I get worried about that baby.”
To Tom, the apocalypse has always looked like a great excuse for romance. What’s there to do in your final moments if not embrace your one true love? And so, Less Lonely’s other principal theme surfaces: navigating love and romance in the face of certain doom (or just in our everyday lives — not that there’s much of a difference, as Tom would tell it).
But Less Lonely is hard to boil down to one or two topics. It encompasses much of Tom’s life, complicated and nuanced as it’s been, including their shifting relationship with their own gender and sexuality. Their first preview of this run of Less Lonely coincided with their four-year anniversary on T, and in that time, they’ve discovered an attraction to men after a self-described “17-year tenure in lesbianism” — a revelation that’s broken down in hilarious fashion throughout the show.
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“I’m a fifth-generation Asian American, I’m multiethnic, I’m transmasculine, I go by ‘they’ pronouns, I was a lesbian, now I’m gay,” they tell INTO. “Any single one of those things could be enough — or too much — for a mainstream white theatergoing audience. But what I’m actually trying to say with the show is, even if you don’t share these experiences, you can still relate to the emotionality and the idea of change.”
Such enormous topics are tricky to tackle through comedy, but it’s Tom’s ability to balance comedy and drama that drew Page to be involved in Less Lonely as its presenter.
“First and foremost, of course, Jes is hilarious. Pardon me for stating the obvious,” Page tells INTO. Page connects with Less Lonely from all angles, from Tom’s insights on love and trans masculinity to their impactful (yet humorous) reflections on grief.
“I relate to a lot of those unexpected changes we find in our life through getting closer to who we are,” Page says. “[Tom is] able to do it in a way that makes you unable to stop laughing and also affects you emotionally. That’s my favorite kind of comedy.”
Much of the show’s humor derives from Tom’s misadventures in relationships, including experimenting with polyamory and hooking up with gay men for the first time after being with queer women for most of their life. They’re uniquely qualified to poke fun at every letter of the always-expanding LGBTQ+ acronym, and they don’t hold back.
“When you give a woman an orgasm, you’re seeing her at her most raw, vulnerable self. You are seeing something she has never shown to anyone before,” they explain. “When you give a man an orgasm, you are watching him die.”
Nowadays, though, Tom is looking less at romantic partners and more at themself, a journey they attribute to a fuller sense of being as they discover new facets of their gender.
“Now that we’re coming into ourselves more and prioritizing our own needs, we’re moving into this new era of not needing to project onto a relationship,” Tom explains. “Because we’re being more honest with ourselves.”
Page agrees, embracing a newfound sense of independence in both his gender and his love life. He came out as transgender at the end of 2020. Just a few months later, he announced he’d filed for divorce from Emma Portner, his wife of three years.
“I definitely leaned on relationships and the sensation of love to get away from the reality of what I felt at different periods of my life, for sure,” he says.
Page’s changing relationship with love goes hand in hand with transitioning. It’s a dynamic he says Tom perfectly translates to comedy in Less Lonely through their exploration of the emotional and physical effects of being on T.
“You have a new relationship with love in so many ways,” Page explains. “It’s even in how you express yourself emotionally and speaking to the nuances of these various changes. In so many ways, you’re discovering so much of yourself for the first time. It’s what you always knew was there, and you’re almost getting to rediscover life in this really beautiful way.”
Page has been a part of Less Lonely since its 2022 production at the Cherry Lane Theatre. When the theater asked Tom who they’d like to present the show, Page immediately came to mind. Tom “shot their shot” and sent him a video of an early version, hoping he’d like it.
Like it he did, and since then, the two have grown into wonderful friends and artistic partners.
“Jes couldn’t be a more lovely, kind, sincere person and such a wonderful friend … I just feel lucky to be in any way a part of Jes’ work. I think they’re brilliant,” Page says.
The feeling is mutual: “Doing this with Elliot — obviously, he’s someone who’s been really influential to me for a lot of my life and influential through his art,” Tom says. “It’s just really meaningful to me that now I have created art that affects him also, that he could be moved by something I made because I’ve been so moved by things that he’s made.”
The pair has quite the bromance beyond their professional relationship, too. Their hangouts involve taking long walks, watching weird media, and holding push-up contests (which Page tends to win, according to Tom: “Elliot is a real athlete,” they say, “and I am a person who is on a steroid that makes me stronger than I used to be. … It’s like I got bitten by a radioactive spider”).
As far as future endeavors, the duo plans to storm Fire Island. They’re inspired by one of Page’s favorite moments from Less Lonely in which Tom recounts visiting the infamous gay mecca for the first time since starting T. “Suddenly I was wearing a pink speedo, sucking a lollipop, and my foot was like this,” they joke, popping their foot like a swooning damsel in a rom-com.
“That’s definitely one of my favorite bits,” Page says, though he’s only ever been to Fire Island himself in the off-season. “Jes will have to take me for my first proper Fire Island experience.”
“That’ll be fun,” Tom replies. “We’ll find some real trouble.”
Presenting Less Lonely is only one instance of Page’s recent turn to the production side of entertainment. In 2021, he launched PageBoy Productions, which, per its mission statement, “actively seeks creators and content from underrepresented communities and uplifts collaborators denied equitable access to mainstream Hollywood.” It’s released two films this year: Close to You, the story of a dreaded family reunion that Page also wrote and starred in, and Backspot, a sports drama about professional cheerleading. Now, Less Lonely is furthering Page’s mission on stage rather than on screen.
“This, to me, is a perfect example of what I love to do and what PageBoy Productions wants to do, which is connect with brilliant, awesome people who are creating interesting new work that we need, and stories we need, and working to use the privilege and the platform that I have to give access to telling those stories,” Page says. “I want to support other members of the community and get the work out there.”
That includes, of course, Tom, who hopes that the darkness of some of their material doesn’t overshadow Less Lonely’s ultimate message.
“I don’t want queer and trans people to see the show and then leave and be like, ‘The world is gonna end and I feel bad about that.’ I don’t want that to be the feeling,” they say. “The end of the show is about hope. And I hope that that’s what people can take away from it — that they can leave feeling happy and feeling ready to continue on, no matter what’s going on with them.”♦
Less Lonely runs at the Greenwich House Theater through January 6. Get tickets here.
Featured photo by Samantha Brooks.
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