Mae Martin calls out anti-trans attacks in comedy: ‘Like we’ve slipped back to the 90s’ 

Mae Martin in a tuxedo

Mae Martin has addressed legislative attacks on trans people and the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from other comedians, calling it “bad faith, culture wars nonsense”.

The queer Canadian stand-up comic and Feel Good star spoke out in an interview with Paste magazine on Thursday (23 March), where they discussed their new Netflix special SAP, therapy and thriving in their 30s.

When asked about whether Martin feels they have to address the topic of fellow comedians “who punch down on gender issues and the LGBTQI communities”, the non-binary comedian and actor responded by saying “I wish I didn’t”.

“It’s always bittersweet. I wish I didn’t have to talk about gender and identity and stuff. Because it’s not the biggest or most interesting thing about me,” they told Paper. 

“But I did feel a responsibility because it’s super important given everything that’s going on and all the legislation

“It’s mind boggling to me that people can look at what’s going on and go, ‘Oh, this is a really dangerous time’. I truly just can’t believe that because it feels so archaic, like we’ve slipped back to the 90s with people attacking trans people in their shows. 

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Notable examples of comedians using trans folk as a punchline include Ricky Gervais, whose 2022 special SuperNature included “cheap jokes” that viewers called out for being “toxic” and “transphobic”, and “self-proclaimed TERF” Dave Chappelle.

Last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company would order comedy specials from Chappelle “again and again” despite viewer backlash, protests from employees and trans staff quitting. 

On the subject of anti-trans rhetoric, Martin continued: “It’s very confusing to me. It feels like really wilful ignorance because all the information is out there from the World Health Organisation, doctors, parents, trans kids. 

“We have all the information so I don’t know why we haven’t caught up in terms of policy and public opinion. 

“It feels like bad faith, culture wars nonsense. But with real life consequences.”

Martin confirmed that they do see comedy as a vehicle for changing people’s minds, but would like others outside of the community with different audiences to get involved and raise their voices. 

They said: “If you can get people’s defences down and they’re laughing, and then hit them with the truth bomb then that’s great. I tried to put it later in the show so that hopefully I’ve earned some goodwill with all my silliness. 

“The thing that would be really helpful, I think, is if people that you wouldn’t expect, or people who have a different audience would come out and support these issues and talk about it because then you’re going to really reach the people that need to be reached. 

If I talk about it, it’s lose/lose because it’s just like, ‘Oh, they never shut up about it. These people are obsessed with gender and it’s all they want to talk about!’ But if someone massive, or with a different audience to me would wave that banner that would be super helpful.”

Mae Martin has been confirmed as a contestant on the 15th series of comedy challenge show Taskmaster, along with Frankie Boyle, Jenny Éclair, Ivo Graham and Kiell Smith-Bynoe. 

SAP is available to watch on Netflix from Tuesday 28 March.