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Taylor Tomlinson: Stand-up is 'the ultimate goal for everything'

Comedian Taylor Tomlinson, whose hour-long special, Quarter Life Crisis, is streaming on Netflix Tuesday, said she tries to make sure her dirtier jokes are at least clever and not cheap. Photo courtesy of Netflix
Comedian Taylor Tomlinson, whose hour-long special, "Quarter Life Crisis," is streaming on Netflix Tuesday, said she tries to make sure her dirtier jokes are "at least clever and not cheap." Photo courtesy of Netflix

March 3 (UPI) -- Comedian Taylor Tomlinson started out doing clean comedy in church venues, but she said her first hour-long special, Quarter Life Crisis, is "not an hour you would do at a church."

Tomlinson, 26, known to TV audiences as a contestant on Season 9 of Last Comic Standing and Netflix viewers for her 15-minute set on The Comedy Lineup, will release her first hour-long special Tuesday on Netflix, about a decade after her career in stand-up comedy began.

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She said the material in her sets has come a long way from the clean comedy she performed when she was a teenager, but those origins have had lasting effects on how she approaches jokes about sex and other not-so-church-friendly subjects.

"I hope if I'm going to do a dirty joke, it's at least clever and not cheap. I was certainly clean for a very long time," Tomlinson told UPI in a recent interview.

Quarter Life Crisis deals with some topics that would be considered clean comedy, such as anxieties about aging and misconceptions about youth ("What you miss is a time in your life when you didn't have a lot of responsibilities, because no one expected anything from you"), but also includes jokes about the comedian's fraught dating life and high sex drive ("if I love you, diarrhea doesn't deter me").

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"It's not an hour you would do at a church, for sure," Tomlinson said.

Leaving the church basement

Tomlinson's first exposure to the world of stand-up comedy came when she and her father took a comedy class in the basement of a church. The class led to the younger Tomlinson booking a series of church comedy engagements that launched her career. She said her father also did well in the class, but stand-up comedy wasn't for him.

"My dad's really funny. But he went back to making money at an actual upstanding career. He was never going to ... become a stand-up comedian. He just thought it would be a cool thing for us to do," she recalled.

Tomlinson said her parents, who remain devoutly religious, support her career, but they no longer attend her live shows.

"Obviously, they'd prefer that I was squeaky clean and doing jokes in churches, but that's not my path. So we've come to a place where I'm like, 'You don't need to watch it,' so we'll see if my parents actually do, but they have been sufficiently warned," she said.

Tomlinson said she still warns family members when she's going to make jokes about their lives or her upbringing, especially if the performance will be televised. She said that system has not always succeeded in avoiding conflicts.

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"There was one time that my dad was offended by a joke, after the fact, after it was already on TV. I had run it by him beforehand, so I was like, 'I'm sorry, I'm not sure what to do about it,'" she said.

"There are some jokes about him in the new special that I told him about before we filmed it. I was like, 'Just so you know, these are the jokes,' and he's like, 'Thank you for running it by me. I appreciate it.'"

Branching out

Tomlinson has become one of stand-up comedy's youngest headliners, touring the country at the top of the bill. Despite her success in stand-up, she has done very little outside the genre, save for playing a version of herself as co-host of the fictional talk show, What Just Happened??! with Fred Savage.

She said the reason for her short list of acting roles is being "laser-focused on stand-up."

"That's the ultimate goal for everything. If I did act in something, my first thought would be, 'OK, great, people will watch this and come see me on tour.' Everything's there to serve stand-up, and make that bigger and better," she said.

Tomlinson said she isn't against appearing in film and TV projects, but the success of her stand-up career has given her some room to be "a little bit pickier" about the projects she takes on.

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"Something has to be really cool or funny ... for me to think about wanting to do it. I think my agents would probably prefer that I audition for more things," she said.

"I don't feel that need to audition for everything whether I like it or not. Because I have stand-up, and I'm really happy doing that, and it took so much of my time and energy to be great at this thing that I want to be great at."

Tomlinson said she has non-stand-up projects she would like to develop, and she learned a lot about the process when she developed a sitcom for ABC in 2017 that never made it to the pilot phase.

"I think I learned a lot on that, and I liked what we did for what it was -- it was a multicam sitcom. It wasn't what I wanted to make. It was just what networks wanted from me at the time. When we had other opportunities to do something similar, or do the same show somewhere else, I just didn't feel like it was something I wanted to spend my time doing," she said.

Tomlinson said she would want a project to be something worth taking "time away from touring and stand-up."

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"I have a more personal project that we're working on developing that is very different from that," she said, but she isn't in a hurry to segue from stand-up to other projects.

"I'm in town, in LA, very little, because I'm on the road so much. If it's a choice between trying to act and going out getting better at stand-up, that's always going to win," she said.

Keeping it fresh

Tomlinson said she always is writing new material for her act, and did so while she prepared Quarter Life Crisis.

"I was definitely still writing and tweaking and adding and subtracting bits after we got the hour, and those few months in between the green light and filming it in Portland. Before we were filming, I was still writing new stuff that I knew wasn't going to go in the hour, so I knew there was going to be new stuff once the special came out," she said.

Tomlinson said she wanted to ensure "people who watched the special and then came to see me weren't just seeing the same material that they had just watched on Netflix. So I started writing beforehand to get ahead of that."

Taylor Tomlinson: Quarter Life Crisis starts streaming Tuesday on Netflix.

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