Pretty much every review about Taylor Tomlinson’s first-ever Netflix special Quarter-Life Crisis is going to mention her age, so let’s just rip off that band-aid: Tomlinson has been doing comedy for a full decade—and she’s only 26. In 2015 she competed on Last Comic Standing and since then she has made the usual up-and-coming comedian appearances on the late night circuit, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Conan. Her talent and success are the well-earned products of years of practice. The time Tomlinson has spent honing her craft is clear from her smooth delivery, which is like a particularly good ballet: it appears effortless, but you know it took ages for them to nail that triple pirouette.
Well, now that that’s over with, let’s get down to business. Quarter-Life Crisis is a hilarious and easy watch thanks to Tomlinson’s self-assured cadence. Her physical comedy is slight, but effective: the occasional flourish here and there to punctuate a bit, but nothing ever too over-the-top. Storytelling-wise, she is a natural and feels more akin to comedians from decades past rather than her peers. Tomlinson manages to marry her self-deprecation and self-confidence well, never coming off as too pathetic or too cocky. She sticks to relatable, tried-and-true topics—online dating, fucked-up childhoods—but keeps the material fresh nonetheless. You could call her the Goldilocks of comedy, the way that she ensures that everything, from the set up to the punchline, is just right. Many a millennial comedian tries to deconstruct the traditional comedy formula; Tomlinson decides to work within that frame, but make it entirely her own with gut-busting goofs.
In such a seamlessly funny set, sometimes the consistency makes you wish for a bit more tension. The former Last Comic Standing contestant only barely touches on crowd work at the beginning of Quarter-Life Crisis, singling out an audience member and then quickly pivoting to a joke about being an introvert. The special certainly doesn’t beg added audience interaction—her entire set operates like a well-oiled machine, prompting laughs at precisely the right moment—but mixing in the added variable of crowd participation could bring an extra edge that keeps Tomlinson from getting too comfortable.
For a woman who likes to talk about how she’s no fun, she makes excellent company for your next hour spent on Netflix. Tomlinson is a classic in the making, the sort of comedy prodigy that makes the books not just for her age, but for her incredible potential.
Clare Martin writes about comedy, music and more for Paste.