Near the beginning of her Netflix special, “Quarter-Life Crisis,” Taylor Tomlinson, a cute, petite blonde with a mischievous smile, bemoans the trappings of being in your mid-20s: “You have no intuition, no instincts, ya can’t make decisions, only mistakes. That’s why you’re thin in your 20s: you don’t have a gut to listen to yet.”
Through self-deprecation and an uncanny ability to see her flaws clearly, 26-year-old Tomlinson, wise beyond her years, surveys the modern dating landscape, complains about still being in her 20s, and pokes fun at herself and her devoutly Christian childhood, making for a solid hour of pure laughter.
Tomlinson Is Wise Enough to Know She’s Stupid
Tomlinson knows her schtick and gets to it right away. “I am halfway through my 20s, and I am done with this sh-t,” she says. “I’m so sick of people telling me to try and enjoy them. Your 20s are 10 years of you asking yourself, ‘Will I outgrow this, or is this a problem?’ ‘Is this a phase or a demon?’ ‘Am I fun, or should I go to a meeting?’” Who among us can relate? Better yet, who among us would have had the emotional maturity even to ask that?
The young comedian spends more than half her special combining this self-deprecating routine with her observations about dating, men, and sex. “I quit dating losers. … Losers are hard to quit. Losers are a lot like cigarettes. You have one in your mouth and you feel pretty cool, but everyone around you is like, ‘Ooh we’re sad for you. Don’t do that around my kids.’”
When she describes introducing her on-again, off-again boyfriend of four years to family at the holidays, she says, “Mom, Dad: This is my lesson that I can’t seem to learn.” The audience roars.
Tomlinson excels at self-deprecating humor, setting her apart from peers and older comedians who make controversial topics like the Me Too movement, racism, or politics funny while obviously striving for hot social commentary. She reminds me of a young, female Jim Gaffigan in that way.
Gaffigan, who has succeeded in comedy almost entirely by making fun of himself and his family, and is mostly clean, rarely opines about society at large. While Tomlinson talks about sex more explicitly and uses cruder language than Gaffigan, her style — part quirky, sorority girl, part cool aunt — gives her an edge above her peers.
Tomlinson’s Success Is Due to Family and Hard Work
If Tomlinson appears to be a one-hit wonder who has waltzed to fame despite her young age, appearances can be deceiving. She started doing stand-up comedy at the age of 16 after her dad signed them up for a church class. In 2015, she competed on “Last Comic Standing” and was a top-10 finalist. She’s even done “The Tonight Show” and “Comedy Central.” Ten years later, it’s clear she has worked hard to master the art of stand-up, something few find success at, regardless of age.
Tomlinson pays homage to her dad especially by cracking jokes about her devoutly Christian family in the last 20 minutes or so of the special. If you grew up in a Christian family, you’ll relate to the humorous tales of spanking, sexual abstinence, and no-nonsense parenting.
She describes a time when, at 15, Tomlinson complained to her father she felt sad, depressed, and perhaps suicidal. “He picked up a knife out of the drawer, waved it around his head, and said, ‘Be my guest.’” Somehow, it’s not morbid, but hilarious, and the fact that she’s laughing about the exchange demonstrates a fondness many may recognize in their own families. Tomlinson walks a fine line between telling jokes that seem like she’s complaining about her childhood while showing an affinity for her strict parents.
Much of Tomlinson’s sketch shows an incredible amount of introspection and maturity, well beyond what most 26-year-olds are capable of having — particularly when she moves past dating and jokes about her childhood and desire to be a parent, which she claims she wants but realizes she’s not ready for the task. “I have a friend who has a 7-year-old, and she shouldn’t. She just bought him an iPhone. I’m like, ‘For what?’ She’s like, ‘For protection.’ And I’m like, ‘Get him a sword! You’re a terrible mother!’”
While all comedians seem to go through a phase of talking about dating, sex, and childhoods that later require adult therapy, Tomlinson still manages to make it seem new. It helps that she has nailed the art of the set-up and punchline. She pauses at all the right times, grins slyly right at the end of the audience’s laughter, and skips around here and there on stage so we’re not just watching a boring, black-and-white dot for an entire hour. (For more laughs beyond the special, try this podcast she just did with Bert Kreischer.)
My only criticism of her Netflix special would be that she lingers almost too long on one topic — dating — which she jokes about for over half the episode. After awhile, how much can you laugh about bad sex, the cheating boyfriend, or the fact that you still haven’t met the right person at the ripe old age of 26?
Despite her young age and the fact that much of the sketch is about her dating foibles, Tomlinson is the mirror opposite of entitled and self-aggrandizing, which is surprising and refreshing. She provides a subtle social commentary of her current generation by mocking herself the most and making the rest of us laugh while doing it.