Taylor Tomlinson was “canceled” by the church. Then his career in comedy exploded.
Taylor Tomlinson started stand-up in religious shows when she was just 16 years old. Now, at 27, she’s one of the most dynamic stars in the comedy scene, with a one-hour Netflix special called Quarter-life crisis and a new one national theater tour this autumn.
As Tomlinson shares in this week’s episode of The last laugh podcast, she had to break with her religious upbringing to be accepted into the mainstream comedy world, trading her “clean” material for jokes with a “darker” side.
When I connect with Tomlinson on Zoom, she just returned to New York after the first weekend of her biggest headlining tour.
âI did my first show in Minneapolis on Thursday and I was floating above my body the entire time, because I was like, ‘It’s been in my head for so long,’â she tells me. âIt’s just something I’ve dreamed of for a long time. So it’s weird to be inside your dream. It’s like having a crush on someone for years and then they ask you to go to the ball and you’re just slowly dancing, like, ‘Am I going to wake up? Is it a joke? It just doesn’t seem real.
Tomlinson was already 10 years into her stand-up career when she made a significant breakthrough with Quarter-life crisis. As it turns out, however, the special premiered on Netflix in the first week of March 2020, which made it harder than she could have imagined to capitalize on the exposure it brought.
âOn the one hand, my agent was like, ‘This is the perfect time to have a stage right now. People are looking at literally anything, âTomlinson jokes. She’s sure it “helped be a new thing on Netflix a week before quarantine began,” but as the pandemic dragged on, she adds, “I started to feel like, well , I probably missed my window because people will forget it even came out. I thought I was going to be comedy King tiger. “
A year and a half later, however, Tomlinson is sold out for the first time in his career, with a second Netflix hour on the horizon. She’s come a long way from the stand-up comedy class where her father dragged her into a church basement when she was still in high school.
âI don’t think he thought I was going to be an actress,â Tomlinson says of his father. “He just thought, ‘It will be fun! “” When I joke that he could never have imagined that she would take comedy this far, Tomlinson adds, “He probably wishes I hadn’t!”
At that time, his material was very âself-deprecatingâ. She explains, âI had very low self-esteem and was obviously very clean. I joked about how I looked and the fact that I was so young and people probably didn’t expect me to be good. I watch old music videos sometimes and I think to myself, I think I make people sad.
“I had very low self-esteem and was obviously very clean. I joked about how I looked and the fact that I was so young and people probably didn’t expect me to be good. I watch old music videos sometimes and I think to myself, I think I make people sad.“
By the time she had finished high school for a few years, Tomlinson was “trying to determine” whether or not she was a nun. âAnd the truth is, I haven’t felt like I have been in a very long time, but my whole family is very Christian,â she says. âSo I didn’t feel like I could leave Christianity without losing my family. I held onto it for a long time, but felt a lot of guilt because I wasn’t who I said I was. And I didn’t believe what everyone was doing. I just didn’t have the same conviction. But once I kind of accepted it, it just got a lot easier.
âOnce I was 21, I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore,â she adds. âI don’t want to be chained to this. And then when I was 22, I got kicked out of a church gig for something I tweeted. And I was like, it’s ridiculous. What did this church person think they were like SNL? “
The joke that made him âcancelâ by the church ended up in his first set on Conan in 2017, then later in his 15-minute special as part of Netflix Comedy programming one year later. It goes like this: “I’ll let you know, in bed I’m a wild animal, much more afraid of you than you are of me.”
âI think that joke I got fired for was a big moment,â says Tomlinson. “And the fact that it ended Conan and Netflix, I was like, okay, I’m going in the right direction.
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