Taylor Garron (@casualafro) is a standup comedian, comedy writer, and actress based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an in-house writer at Reductress, but she peaked at age 12 as a cast member on the PBS Kids shows Zoom and Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. Garron wrote and produced a web series about her experience as a nanny for the super wealthy called Somebody’s Kid, which is now in post-production. For more info, follow her on Instagram!
I found Garron’s Twitter account after stumbling upon her brilliant Reductress articles, like this one, this other one, and most recently, this homerun. Similar to her longform pieces, her tweets are witty, sharp, and somehow both relatable and absurd. Garron very kindly talked with me this week about responding to microaggressions using humor, what kids find funny, and the way her comedic voice has changed over time.
ppl: my parents, who raised me and shaped my values, are so racist haha!!!! me: omg haha!!!!! tell me more, i feel very safe around you now!— taylor garron (@casualafro) January 17, 2017
Well-meaning white people say stuff like this to me all the time, and I think it’s supposed to mean that they beat the odds? Like it’s okay that their parents are racist because they personally aren’t? Idk it’s not reassuring at all lmao.
When you’re faced with microaggressions or straight-up aggressions, do you ever deal with them using humor?
Most of the time, when I’m dealing with a microaggression or some casual racism, it’s coming from a friend/acquaintance/peer. That’s where it gets a little tricky. It can be less stressful for both parties to deal with a racial slight with humor: it’s a way to keep the conversation positive and I think people are more receptive to criticism when it’s dealt in a lighthearted way. But at the same time, racism isn’t funny. It’s not only about hurt feelings. In fact, it can be dangerous and deadly – I think a lot of people don’t understand that. This tweet is kind of a humorous take on something that’s actually really serious. For some reason, white people who are in my life love bring up how racist their parents/grandparents/aunt and uncles/cousins etc. are in a jokey way. I think maybe they think acknowledging it while being my friend separates them from it? But what they don’t get is, they were raised by those people! While they may reject their family’s blatant racism (calling Obama a monkey at the dinner table, for instance), their opinions, values, and habits were shaped by those people – it can mean that, while you have me as a friend and love me despite my blackness, you still hold some opinions about those “other” black people (news flash: those are MY relatives!!!). Additionally, those family members are insurance brokers, policemen, loan officers, real estate agents – your racist relatives have the real power to mess with POC lives, and you’re just casually laughing about it to me? So yeah, I’d say that I sometimes use humor to deal with microaggressions/casual racism, but in ways like this where people are forced to address the underlying and abjectly unfunny aspects of it.
the girl i nanny for called me mom yesterday and i let her get away with it without even acknowledging her snafu because i’m an empath — taylor garron (@casualafro) January 17, 2017
When I was still a nanny, I tweeted a lot about the girl I nannied for. I was with her from ages 7-11, so we had some pretty formative experiences. It was weird because I related to her as someone who used to be a little girl but also had to fake perspective because she was rich and privileged beyond my adolescent self’s wildest dreams. I wrote and produced a web series about us, she played herself in it. Miss that girl.
Do you think little kids have a different sense of humor?
Kids are great, and so so funny. I think that sometimes adults see kids as either smaller adults or extensions of themselves, when they’re actually something different entirely. They’re just people who are younger than us! They have their own personalities, their own ways of seeing the world, and definitely their own senses of humor. I wouldn’t say that their senses of humor are different, they’re just working from their own wheelhouse. For example, when the girl I nannied for was 7-8, she loved jokes about farts and silly things we saw. We also had this long-running inside joke about us being spies and our various accessories (watches, rings, hair clips) TOTALLY DEFINITELY NOT being any kind of secret listening devices or spy equipment. Then, when she was 9-10, her humor got a lil older and she got a lil more sarcastic. She also started finding jokes about boys and bras funny. You just gotta reach kids where they’re at.
Kind of along those lines, do you ever adjust your humor based on who your audience is?
I’d say for me, I of course edit my humor for content and language when I’m around children. But, what I find myself doing more is editing my standup jokes for content and language when I’m performing for a mostly or entirely white audience – not that I have to censor swears or dirty jokes, I sometimes truly have to change the words I use or even remove a joke entirely. There are some slang terms or ubiquitous parts of growing up/existing while black that I don’t expect people who aren’t black to know. It’s weird to write that out, because it implies that black people are like a different species or something, but that’s not what I mean. It’s just that, as minorities in this country, we are immersed in the culture of the majority. I know a lot about “whiteness” (for lack of a better term) because I am forced to – it’s all around me, it permeates the representations in media, etc. White people don’t necessarily operate vice versa, because the culture of the minority (whichever one that is) is not so prominently represented. So yeah, I do have to adjust for different audiences. Just not in the ways you’d expect!
me: siri, i wanna slip into a depressive episode that lasts exactly 4 mins and 44 secondssiri: playing “the district sleeps alone tonight” — taylor garron (@casualafro) August 31, 2017
I realize I tweet a lot about the various interests I have (hobbies, music, etc) that my a lot of my peers have always considered “white.” Like, I love indie music and birdwatching and gardening and idk why people consider me less black for doing so? Actually, I mean, I guess I do know why. It’s just bullshit to me.
Turning a real-life experience into a web series sounds so cool. Do you ever take your tweets and turn them into longform material? Or vice versa?
It’s funny, I mostly do the vice versa part. Like, I’ll pitch a headline at Reductress that I think is so funny, but it won’t necessarily match the tone of the site. So I’ll tweak it and make it into a tweet (that usually performs pretty well!). I also sometimes mine my old tweets from my pre-writing days and reformat them into a headline that will get picked up and write the article from there. It’s a narcissistic content cypher, but I’m cool with that.
Do you like tweeting about social issues?
I do and I don’t. I do because social issues are really important to me and I love talking about them and hearing people’s opinions and thoughts about them. I don’t because fitting all of the nuanced thoughts about a particular issue into even 280 characters can be challenging and part of me always feels like I’m virtue signaling, which is grating especially when you actually deeply care about an issue. I try to keep my tweets on the humorous side of things regardless, even if I am talking about a social issue. Even that feels wrong sometimes! You can’t win, but you do have to keep talking about them. God, being this hilarious and this socially aware is SO EXHAUSTING!!!!11!
the iditarod is way less of a prominent part of my adult life than my elementary school career would have had me believe — taylor garron (@casualafro) November 7, 2017
When is the Iditarod even? Does it still happen? Who won this year? I feel like people born between 1990-1994 received such a full on education about this professional dog sled racing competition, so I expected it to be a bigger deal IRL than it actually is? I’m gonna go google it now.
How long have you been working in comedy? Do you feel like your voice has changed over time, and did Twitter play any part in that?
All black people are born funny naturally, so I guess I’ve been a comedian for almost 26 years. But to answer seriously, I’ve been doing standup since college, so about 5 years. The comedy writing thing is very recent for me. My voice has definitely changed over time, because I’ve gotten more depressed and anxious in my old age (not a joke, just a fact) and trying to keep it together through emotional trauma makes for good comedy, unfortunately. Also, just experiencing more things in life gives you more opportunity for shit to joke about. Twitter has certainly played a role in my developing comedy voice, if only making me more concise with its arbitrary character limits. So thanks, Twitter? I guess?
Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.