Ten years ago, Tacarra Williams took up stand-up comedy at the behest of a producer and never looked back. In September, she finished second on the NBC competition show Bring the Funny before embarking on her “Life After Divorce” tour, which will arrive at the Off the Hook Comedy Club in Naples December 19-22. Here, Williams chats with NI about her stand-up and influences.
NI: What about stand-up comedy made it feel like home to you the first time you performed?
Williams: First of all, people listened to me. I could talk as much as I wanted, and they would listen. And two, it was healing. Not just for me, but for the subjects that I talk about. I was talking about going through a breakup, and there were so many women in the audience who came up to me and said, “I’m going through a breakup too,” or, “I just went through a breakup and listening to you onstage, it doesn’t feel that bad anymore.” So, there’s a healing component in stand-up that I fell in love with, just knowing that somebody is listening and walking away in a better space.
Who have been your biggest comedic influences?
I grew up in the South Bronx, in the projects, and I used to sneak into the living room and watch TV. We used to sneak and watch ComicView, because we weren’t allowed to. I watched everybody from Adele to Laura Hayes to Sommore to Mo’Nique—all of the female comedians back then, 20, 25 years ago. They definitely have had an influence on me today. Just the majority of the female comedians from back when I wasn’t supposed to be watching it.
Your comedy nickname is “The Beautiful Beast.” What does that mean to you?
In stand-up comedy, the saying is you can’t be pretty and funny. There are times when I would go to comedy shows, and they would say, “Who’s up next? Oh, Tacarra’s up next.” And I’ve had male comedians tell me, “You’re going to bomb.” And I would say, “Excuse me?” And they’d say, “Because you’re pretty.” And I’d say, “What does that have to do with it?” And they’d say, “You can’t be pretty and funny.” And then I started being pretty and funny. That was just the nickname that some comedians in New York had given me. They’d say, “You’re so beautiful but you’re also a beast on stage.” And it just kind of stuck. It’s a name that goes to show all the women out there who do stand-up, you can be beautiful on stage. You can be as sexy as you want to be on stage. You can wear your heels and do your makeup and hair and you can still go out there and be a beast in comedy.
A lot of your comedy is inspired by your life as a single parent. What would be your advice for new parents?
There’s going to be more. People come to me and are like, “My daughter did this, or my son did this.” And I’m always going, “Enjoy that!” What you’re complaining about right now today, you’re going to wish you still had in five years. In five years, you’re going to wish your child was swiping poop on the walls. In five year, you’re going to wish your child was asking you for $5, because it goes from $5 to $500 to $1,000 to $5,000. For new parents, I always just say enjoy those moments, as crazy as they may be. And sometimes you want to fight your kids. Don’t fight ’em—there’s more!
I have an 18-year-old son and I thought it was going to get easier, but he’s 18 and I’m paying for dates. Like, I don’t even know this girl! I’m paying for him to go to the movies. I’m paying for him to take her to dinner, and I’m like, this is getting expensive. What happened to when you just wanted to go to Dave & Buster’s with your friends? Now I’m paying for you and her to go to Dave & Buster’s? For any parents out there, there’s more coming. This is nothing compared to what’s coming.
One of your previous jobs was teaching a life skills class to prisoners. What is your most important life skills tip?
There are consequences to your actions. It may not be today or tomorrow but be mindful of what you do because there are consequences. Also, no YOLO. That “you only live once”—don’t do that, because you could die tomorrow, but what if you don’t die tomorrow? The decisions you make today could affect your tomorrow and here on out. So that’s advice I give to my students or my own kids or even just friends of mine who have this mentality of, “But I could die tomorrow!” Well, there’s a big chance you won’t, so don’t do that today. I need to listen to that myself, because I’ve been doing some stuff that I’ve been forgetting have consequences. That’s my biggest mantra is be mindful of what you do because it will come back to you eventually.
Tell me about your time on Bring the Funny. What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?
It taught me that there are more aspects to comedy than I thought. I just have a newfound respect for the word “comedian” in itself. And it doesn’t necessarily mean stand-up. There are just so many other different aspects that deserve respect and so many different people that I never even thought I’d get the opportunity to meet. I mean, it’s NBC, it’s national television. I got so much exposure, and even with the tour I’m on now, I come out on stage and the audience is so diverse and everybody is there to see me. So, it’s one of those I didn’t win but I won situations. I’m grateful for every experience and everyone I had the opportunity to meet. And just moving forward, I’ve learned to not cater to one type of crowd.
What message do you hope to convey to audiences on your “Life After Divorce” tour?
Some people feel like when they get divorced, life is over. It’s different, but it’s not over. We’ve got to get back into dating. We’ve got to get back into the world and reintroduce ourselves. We’ve got to work out. I want women to know—and not just women, men! Anyone going through something, because we divorce ourselves from different things in life. It’s not just necessarily a person; it could be a bad habit. It’s saying it’s okay to let go of things and still be able to move on after.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.