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For comedian Taylor Tomlinson, stand-up success means having it all

Taylor Tomlinson, who is scheduled to play four shows at the Wang, is riding a wave of popularity on the strength of her two Netflix specials.Max Levy

Earlier in her life and career, Taylor Tomlinson had a picture of where she would be at 29. She thought for sure she’d be married. Maybe she’d have put out an hourlong stand-up special by then. She didn’t think she’d be touring venues as large as the Wang Theatre, riding a wave of popularity on the strength of two Netflix specials, and preparing to shoot a third, all before turning 30.

“Life, for better and worse, does not go the way you might have envisioned when you were 16,” she says. “And I would not change anything about my life.”

Tomlinson is currently on her Have It All Tour, which comes to the Boch Center Wang Theatre for four shows Feb. 1-3. The shows are all but sold out; as of this writing, roughly 100 tickets total remained. A Wang spokesman says Tomlinson has smashed the record for ticket sales by a female comedian at the theater.

The title of Tomlinson’s tour refers to her current search for balance between personal and professional success. “Now that I have my dream job, my friends are less sympathetic to my dating troubles,” she says. “I think it’s easy to feel like one area of your life isn’t going the way you want it to. And if another area of your life is going the way you want it to, you feel guilty for wanting the other area to go well, too.”


The Californian was 16 when she started doing stand-up, taking a comedy class with her father, and eventually playing the church circuit. She wasn’t allowed into comedy clubs those first couple of years. At 18, she saw Marc Maron, Maria Bamford, and Eddie Pepitone perform at the Ice House in Pasadena in what she considers her first real show.

Tomlinson credits Maron’s “WTF” podcast for early lessons on how to be a comedian. “I had no idea how to do it,” she says. “I think a lot of that I learned from listening to ‘WTF,’ listening to him talk to other comedians about how they started and came up, and just the process of hosting and becoming a feature and headlining.”


To many, Tomlinson seemed to spring up fully formed in 2018 with a 15-minute set on Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup.” Still in her mid-20s, she’d been studying her craft for nearly 10 years and had been a finalist on “Last Comic Standing” in 2015. But that Netflix set was her big break. She riffed about abstinence in high school and her lack of dating experience. “Even as an adult, I’m very sexually conservative,” she joked. “Not that I’m bad at sex, OK? I’ll have you know, in bed, I am a wild animal . . . way more afraid of you than you are of me.”

Tomlinson often worked at a frenetic pace in that short set, firing off joke after joke in the hope of proving she deserved a half-hour. “I was just trying to throw everything I had at it,” she says, “the best jokes I had at that time, and get them all in.”

Instead, she got more than she had hoped for: her first hourlong Netflix special, “Quarter-Life Crisis,” in 2020. With her second special, last year’s “Look at You,” filmed in Boston at the Wilbur Theatre, she got even more personal. The jokes were just as compact and sharp, and still delivered with a light touch. But some of the subjects were weightier. She talked about being driven to success by her mother’s death when she was 8 years old. “She’s in heaven, I’m on Netflix, it all worked out,” she said.


She also talked about learning she was bipolar. Tomlinson wanted to take the stigma out of a mental health diagnosis, couching it as information to help people take care of themselves. “Being bipolar is like not knowing how to swim,” she said. “It might be embarrassing to tell people, and it might be hard to take you certain places. But they have arm floaties. And if you just take your arm floaties, you can go wherever the hell you want.”

For the Have It All tour, Tomlinson wants to ease off some of the heavier material she performed last time out. “It was really emotionally tiring to do that hour every night, sometimes multiple times a night,” she says. “There’s been some darker jokes that I had in this hour that I’m still deciding whether or not to include, just because I want it to be a little lighter. So we’ll see how it all shakes out.”

Fame has tossed some strange things Tomlinson’s way. For her Chicago date in January, fans could compete in a contest where part of the prize was plane tickets and a meet-and-greet with her. “It’s weird that people pay extra for the meet-and-greet after shows,” she says. “It’s weird that people go like, ‘Oh, I’ve never met a celebrity,’ and you’re like, ‘Well, you still haven’t, I’m sorry to tell you. You’re using that term very loosely.’”


She has added shows in bigger theaters, and she’s working on a film project. But she says she isn’t at the level of fame of a Chris Rock or Amy Schumer, so her higher profile hasn’t been terribly disruptive. “Everyone on the Internet is a celebrity to someone at this point,” she says. “There are people on TikTok who have never put out anything besides like daily vlogs, and if I saw them in a coffee shop, I’d be like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s you!’”

In terms of the work, Tomlinson has what she considers the ideal career right now. “Honestly, this is exactly what I always wanted,” she says, “which was to tour theaters and work on stuff with people I like and respect. It really is exactly where I wanted to be.”


At the Boch Center Wang Theatre. Feb. 1-2 at 7 p.m., Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. www.bochcenter.org

Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.