Patti Harrison is not afraid to tell you what she really thinks—a trait that even got her banned from Twitter. The American comedian, writer and actor has built her entire career on speaking her mind and bringing a wildly creative, fresh and raunchy perspective to her comedy—often delivered in a deadpan style—which she describes as “torture porn.” She’s had small parts in some of the most critically acclaimed shows on television, including High Maintenance, Broad City and Search Party, but her big breakout moment was in 2017, when Jimmy Fallon invited her to appear on The Tonight Show after Trump announced a ban on trans people in the military. Being a trans woman of colour, this was game on for Harrison. “I was shocked because I assumed he had already done that,” she said in her bit. The performance went viral, and from there the Orient, Ohio, native began to land more acting gigs, including a scene-stealing role in Hulu’s Shrill—starring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant—which Harrison says was a dream job. More recently, she made her big-screen debut in a lead role alongside Ed Helms in the highly praised dramedy Together Together, released earlier this year, about becoming the gestational surrogate for a single man in his 40s. We chatted with Harrison about her hometown, her big break and being trans in the biz.


A scene from Shrill;

Theatrical poster for Together Together

Growing Up

“Orient, Ohio, is great! We’re known for our prison. The moment I realized I should leave is that we are known for our prison.”

Career Break

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had a lot of moments when I shit myself with graceful gratitude and amazement. I think on paper, the biggest was my first Tonight Show appearance. But the first time I actually felt like a grown-up working in the entertainment industry was when I got hired at the horrible sketch website Our office was right across the street from 30 Rockefeller Plaza, so the view was blowing my brains out my ass every day. Also, my mom cried on the phone when she found out I was eligible for health insurance through work. But they laid me off the week before I could apply [for it]. Laugh out loud.”

Starring Role

“[Together Together] was different from anything I’d been approached to do before. The script was great; it was funny but very grounded. The idea of working with Ed [Helms] made me fill my fan diaper with excited crap! And when I met [writer and director] Nikole [Beckwith] for the first time, she was so cool and we clicked.”

Industry Advice

“Every trans baby’s experience is so different. All I can really attest to is what has worked for me: I just keep my eye on what I want to do versus what other people want me to do. I’ve done some jobs here and there solely to pay my rent—there’s no shame in working to support yourself! Also, don’t feel bad about saying no to bad projects. I know it sucks for trans actors because there are so few roles available, but I’d say the thing that helped me get out of my own box was saying no to what really sucked and keeping in mind the projects I liked. It was scary at times because the opportunities seemed scarce, but better things eventually came along. I think some of it is luck and a lot of it is persistence.”

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