Patti Harrison on Turning 30, Typecasting, and Twitter Bans
There’s a very good chance that in the past few years, Patti Harrison has shown up in one of your favorite comedies. At least. The Ohio-born comedian has been deployed like a heat-seeking missile in shows like Shrill, Broad City, Search Party, and I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, guaranteed to hit her target. But after years spent performing her brand of transgressive stand-up and playing small-but-memorable roles on her friends’ TV shows, Harrison is in the midst of a professional glow-up, thanks to her first lead role, in the Sundance hit Together Together. In the Nikole Beckwith-directed film, Harrison, who is trans, stars as a woman who becomes a gestational surrogate for a single man (Ed Helms) with whom she develops an unorthodox friendship. To mark the occasion, she took some time to respond to 10 topics chosen sort of, but not really, at random.
“Beautiful and misunderstood. Some of it is really stupid, some of it is really cool. I also think it’s where rich Hollywood people love to masturbate. There’s a lot of poverty porn in the film and television industry. They should give a big American salute to rural America for continuing to capitalize on the wealth disparity in their projects and their work.”
MOVING TO NEW YORK
“The best decision I made as a hungry creative person from Ohio. My friend Jesse was working as a PA on Louie, so I went with her to their production office because she had to grab stuff, and I remember there were all these people sitting on computers and making stuff, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what New York is, all the time.’ And her apartment was really cute. Then, when I moved into my first apartment that was filled with remote control-sized cockroaches, that was a little different.”
MOVING TO L.A.
“Shoot me to death for being like, ‘New York is this, L.A. is that,’ but in L.A. you can pay less for a house than what you pay for a New York apartment, and you get a backyard. It’s been a really nice change of pace. I don’t think I want to live here forever, but I’m trying to enjoy it at the moment.”
“Tim Robinson is a little bitch and he smells like shit. He’s also the funniest person I’ve ever met and is excruciatingly kind. And he’s timid. Tim is short for timid. Blast it.”
“Leading roles suck ass. It’s too much work. They want you to remember all the lines, they want you to be there every day, they want you to be respectful. It was so different from what I’d been doing before, which is a lot of little character drop-in parts. Jokes aside, it really was so much more work than I had anticipated, and I anticipated it being a lot of work. I think if we focused on giving people who are famous for being character actors a lead role, we would probably get some of the best performances in cinematic history. I think everyone should play a lead role, is what I’m basically saying. Go out and try it. And you know what? If you don’t play a lead role, that’s your fault and you’re a horrible person and you’re not talented. And you should give up.”
“On the inside, I was like, I am above the patriarchy. My value and my womanhood is in my brain and I will only get smarter and more capable as I get older. This is a good thing. But then it’s like, I’m also not stupid to the fact that I am not omitted from the influence of how stupid this industry is and how much it values youth and projects that onto women. So it was a scary age to turn. But my body feels exactly the same as it did before in that it’s achy and I can’t drink a lot, but I’ve been that way since I was 27.”
“I straight up love my agent. At one point we were probably too close of friends where she was literally like my therapist with me asking her, ‘Why am I in this business? I look like shit and I have nothing to offer.’ That being said, I picked my agent because she has really good taste, amazing style, is super cool, very funny, and very fun to talk to. And unfortunately that makes the boundary of me wanting her to be my close friend harder to honor.”
“I’m bad at it. I’ve made an effort in my late-twenties, as a comedian, to be okay with being sincere because it means being vulnerable. And being vulnerable is how you have real connections with people. A lot of friendships in college or in comedy were like, every time we see each other, we joke about how ugly we are. But it was like, I don’t actually know if this person has siblings, I don’t know where they’re from. I think it’s a pretty normal thing in improv and stand up comedy communities. There are those people who, when they get nervous and insecure, they do a lot of bits and jokes because it’s an easy shield. So I think I’m making an effort to be more sincere and more affirming and telling people scary things like, ‘I really liked having dinner with you,’ or ‘I think you’re very smart and kind and I hope everything going on with your mom works out. I’m rooting for you and I love you.'”
“It doesn’t feel good and I always try to communicate that in the kindest way I can. Typecasting happens because in this creative industry that is so hinged on money, there are people who have creative say on things and their imaginations are small. They can only imagine things based on the way they’ve seen them before. It’s like, ‘We saw this girl play a sleepy bitch. Remember? She was the sleepy bitch roommate. She was always tired, had crust in her eyes. Yeah, she’s good at playing a sleepy bitch. We need a sleepy bitch roommate in this show too, so just cast her.'”
“Twitter is fucked up. Jack Dorsey is an evil person. I knew I was going to get kicked off Twitter and I did it deliberately, but I didn’t think it would be permanent. I was like, ‘I’ll get kicked off and then if Twitter becomes cool again at some point, I’ll reactivate it.’ But I did try and make an appeal on my own, and they denied it and they said that my account will not be reactivated. Twitter has changed the brain chemistry of billions of people across the globe. It feels like I’m better off not being on there to see what Joy Behar thinks about krumping.”