Remembering Leslie Jordan: a queer icon that defined Instagram comedy

By Liv Barry

Lifestyle Editor

After a decades-long career in comedy, beloved actor Leslie Jordan passed away on Monday, Oct. 24 at age 67.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jordan was driving to the set of his television show, “Call Me Kat,” when he lost control of his vehicle at the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street in Los Angeles and ran into the side of a building. He was declared dead at the scene.

While Jordan established himself as a star on television shows like “Will and Grace” and “American Horror Story,” his comedic prowess shined on Instagram, where the actor posted daily videos from his home in Chattanooga, Tenn. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jordan’s daily posts brightened up a period fraught with fear and negativity. Although the actor occasionally commiserated with his audience’s frustrations with quarantine, he always brought a humorous light to the situation.

According to an interview Jordan did with TODAY, he was encouraged to begin posting by a close friend.

“I had this friend right when the pandemic hit. He said, ‘You know what, Leslie? Your thoughts are exactly what people need to hear right now. It’s not like wagging your finger or saying ‘Wear your mask’ or do this or do that. You’re just funny,’” Jordan said.

In one of his most viral videos, Jordan relays the story of performing baton twirling tricks for his father and his friends.

“Daddy, daddy watch me twirl,” Jordan said while waving a back scratcher as a makeshift baton. At the time of publication, the original Instagram video amassed over a million views, and the video’s audio has over seven million views on TikTok.

His career was not restricted to acting and influencing, however.

As a gay man, Jordan was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. In his comedy, he unapologetically embraced his femininity, using it for laughs but never disrespecting himself or other effeminate gay men.

According to NBC, Jordan represented the “lost generation” of gay and bisexual men who passed away due to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

“One of the saddest things about losing Leslie Jordan is realizing how few gay men of his generation survived the AIDS crisis. All that talent, fabulousness, and culture we never got to see. Imagine 70,000+ more Leslie Jordans,” California State University’s Dr. Eric Gonzaba said on Twitter.

In addition to his advocacy work, Jordan explored a number of different projects later in life.

The actor released two different books — “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” in 2008 and “How Y’all Doin?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived” in 2021. According to NY Daily News, the latter debuted at number four on The New York Times’ hardcover nonfiction bestsellers list.

In 2021, Jordan released a Southern gospel album titled “Company’s Comin’.” Inspired by the hymns that defined his childhood in Chattanooga, the album features country music legends like Dolly Parton, Jimmie Allen, and Brandi Carlisle.

According to Amazon, “Company’s Comin’” is currently the best-selling Southern gospel album.

Only a day before his fatal crash, Jordan posted a snippet of a new song, “Sunday Mornin’ Hymn Singin,’” co-written with country producer Danny Myrick, on his Instagram. No official statement has been made about whether the song will be released posthumously.

Following his death, fans and celebrities alike turned to social media to voice their grief.

“Well, I am as hurt and shocked as if I have lost a family member. Leslie and I had a special bond; I think the world felt they had a special bond with him,” Parton said on Instagram.

“There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with an enormous, caring heart. You will be missed, my dear friend,” Sean Hayes, Jordan’s “Will and Grace” co-star, said on Twitter.

While Jordan’s passing is a momentous loss, his memory will forever be engraved in the hearts and minds of those he brought joy to with his work.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo caption: This past Sept., Jordan was a guest at the 2022 National Book Festival, where his best-selling book, “How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived,” was featured.

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