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Seattle comedian Andy Iwancio tops iTunes chart with debut album

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Andy Iwancio — Courtesy photo
Andy Iwancio — Courtesy photo

In 2023, Seattle comedian Andy Iwancio released her first full-length comedy album on iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music. For the next month, Better Living Through Femmistry charted in the top three on iTunes. "The screenshots of it are saved on my phone, and they will be printed on my tombstone," Iwancio said. "I'm just really stoked."

Iwancio's debut EP, Hard Trans — a 20-minute collection of jokes about her experience as a Trans woman — was released earlier in 2023 and it also held a solid spot in the charts. "To have two [charting] in the same year is wild. It's a buzzing thing, and I felt like I accomplished something," she said.

Courtesy of the artist  

Hard Trans was the material Iwancio's been working on since her return to the comedy scene in 2012. "I started doing comedy in 2007," she said, "and then I took a break, because I was dealing with gender shit, and then I came back in about 2012, and I've just been back at it since then."

Better Living Through Femmistry takes a broader look into life through Iwancio's eyes. The album begins with tracks about her experiences with epilepsy, her teenage hijinks, and her relationship with high school sweetheart Linus. While her identity as a Trans woman isn't the explicit focus of the album, it's an aspect of Iwancio's life. Trans jokes are peppered into nearly every track, much to the delight of LGBTQ+ listeners.

The tape gives off a timeless feel and stays true to the original live show, with minimal editing — something Iwancio notices specials don't always have. The album requires a listener to embrace imagination, especially when she acts out a bit or references something going on in the crowd, like a patron falling asleep. The setup, structure, and premise give it a feeling of familiarity and closeness that modern specials lack. Iwancio takes listeners on a journey into her memories with clever humor and some surprisingly heartfelt moments.

Encouraging trends
In her many years as a comedian, Iwancio has noticed a big change in the industry regarding reactions to Trans material. "At first, it was harder to land jokes. It seemed more like I was teaching people something, teaching them about Trans people and our vulnerabilities and our experiences," she said. "Then, over time, it's become a shared experience. Even people who don't know a Trans person know some of our lingo or know about us in a way they didn't before."

When she tours the country, Iwancio always tries to book a Trans or Nonbinary comedian to open for her. Reaching Trans audiences in smaller towns has become one of the most rewarding parts of comedy.

Over the last 13 years, Iwancio has also noticed an increase in the number of other LGBTQ+ comedians in the Pacific Northwest, which she finds encouraging. "It's funny that there's enough Trans women doing comedy now that there's Trans women hack comedy — Trans women doing jokes you make in your first year doing comedy as a Trans woman. For that to exist means something about our growth."

"That's what made me start touring more to small places and towns," she added. "The legislation passed in these places are the loudest people saying the most hurtful things, but it doesn't represent the majority of the people in the state."

Releasing more of her work on streaming platforms also gives Iwancio hope that her comedy will attract Trans and Nonbinary people who may not make it to a live show.

Evoking nostalgia
The album invites the listener into Iwancio's life as if they've been friends for decades. Part of the reason it features such a warm and friendly tone is that many members of the audience were long-time fans and friends. Iwancio's familiarity with the crowd and the stage helped calm her nerves and stoked her excitement for the recording.

"Most of [my] jitters were just production worries," she admitted. "There were butterflies in my tummy, is that what you want? They were moths, because it was a basement. No, that sounds too masculine. Too butch. There were lightning bugs? No, that's not cute. There was something in my stomach. Tapeworm? I was confident. I was loose. I knew my friends would be there, and that made me happy enough."

Iwancio chose to record a comedy album due to her love for the tapes she grew up listening to. As a Gen X kid, records by Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers topped the charts and brought laughter into people's homes. While live TV and streaming specials may be the most mainstream way to consume stand-up from home now, Iwancio wanted to connect with the nostalgia of her first comedy loves.

"I grew up listening to comedy albums. I like how concise they are, and I like the albums more than the specials, because I get to imagine the room," she admitted. "I'm an aural kind of person — A-U-R-A-L, not O-R-A-L. Anybody I've been with will tell you I'm an O-R-A-L, but I'm talking about aural," she joked.

"That kind of experience of feeling like I'm hearing the room is really interesting to me, and getting a chance to put something together like the albums I grew up listening to [has] always been a goal of mine."

Better Living Through Femmistry and Hard Trans are available to stream now on Apple Music, iTunes, and Spotify.