The Godmother Of Charlotte Comedy: Tara Brown Doesn't Shy Away From Her Faith or Comedic Style
Creatives often find themselves in an internal battle of finding their true selves, with the sole purpose of expressing their authenticity through their art. One can argue that the casualty to many short lived careers stems from people spending most of their prime years not being honest with themselves, and continually digging through the world's ruins hoping to find the artistic freedom that affords them longevity, acclaim, and self-satisfaction. However, there are a few anomalies in creative spaces, like comedian Tara Brown, who step into their respective fields with a cosmic understanding of who they are, and how their self-awareness translates into their work.
Clueless to her clean, family-friendly comedy tag, I saw Brown’s hilarious set for the first time at a Revolt Comedy show back in November of 2019. Midway through her set, my initial discernment concluded that the woman on stage had a devoted fierceness about her that jokes alone couldn’t express. Her state of calm and comfort echoed from the delivery of her punchlines. Her joy in executing the technicalities of the sweet science of comedy was that of a seasoned veteran. And her stage presence alone carried the spirit of an individual who was at peace in their faith. That night at Revolt Comedy, Brown more than held her own and effectively closed out a show where she followed up a group of comedians who used every expletive in the German and Latin etymology.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Brown was raised by her mother Margaret Frink-Britt, who at the time was a single, working black woman, who was also a preacher—so a solid foundation of faith and spirituality has always been present in her life even before she knew she wanted to do comedy.
A day before heading off to Dallas, Texas to perform at the iconic Winspear Opera House, Brown told me that she had no inclination of doing comedy as she was coming up in Brooklyn. “Sometimes I think to myself, I wish I had known that I wanted to do stand-up earlier, because New York is one of those places where people dream to do comedy,” she reflected.
As her mother worked the night shift for the Veterans Administration (VA), a nine-year-old Brown often found herself taking on more responsibilities than her age called for—at least in modern society. “At a young age I really had to be trusted to be responsible, but nowadays you’d probably get in trouble for leaving your kid at home,” she said, jokingly. While most kids in her neighborhood were met with early pregnancies, and the many influences that plagued urban Brooklyn neighborhoods in the early 80s, Brown had an early determination to stay focused on school and make sure her mom had one less thing to worry about. “I wanted her to know she can trust me, and I didn’t want her worrying about me,” she told me.
After high school, Brown attended Baruch College, a business school in New York City. “In hindsight, I didn’t give it that much thought. Then I realized this is probably not the best fit for me,” she said, chuckling. “I should've went somewhere that was more into arts and social justice or something,” she explained. Fortunately for Brown, her pro-activeness while at Baruch College landed her an opportunity that would manifest into a successful book publishing career doing public relations with companies such as Penguin Books and Harper Collins. During her time at Harper Collins, Brown was able to oversee and essentially secure the PR for their popular African-American imprint, Amistad, named after the historical ship, La Amistad, where African slaves revolted and successfully took control of the ship in 1839.
After being hands on with substantially impactful work like Amistad and other diversity campaigns she was a part of, Brown felt it was time for a change of scenery and direction. “I said to myself, I don’t want to do PR in books anymore, I want to do sports. I always wanted to do PR in sports,” she said. In February of 2003, along with two of her friends, she took a trip down south with the intent of finding public relations work in sports. “It was a choice between Charlotte and Raleigh, and Charlotte had more professional teams. That was my reason for coming here,” she said.
In Charlotte, Brown found it a bit difficult to settle in and meet people as she worked remotely for a book publishing company based out of Indiana—so she was intentional about going to places like the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce (now Charlotte Regional Business Alliance), to learn more about the city. She often went to the movies on Friday nights just to be out of the house and potentially meet new people. She jokingly told me a story about going to watch, Elf, and crying in the theater because the film was New York based, which made her home sick. “I just lost it because I didn’t realize how much I missed home,” she said, laughing. It wasn’t until Brown got connected to her church in Charlotte,The Park Church,—where she was able to not only make relationships, but also finally connect with others spiritually, outside of New York.
During the height of the 2008 recession, Brown was laid off from her Job, but she quickly landed back on her feet doing public relations work for a family entertainment cable network, INSP. “A lot of people where on unemployment at the time, so I was really grateful that I was only out of work for a few months,” she told me. At the time, the network lacked original content, so Brown found herself with a lot of downtime time as PR personnel without any content to publicize. Once again, Brown’s pro-activeness during a moment where most would be content, lead her somewhere that she hadn't originally imagined. “I started googling things and I saw a comedy class. So, I said to myself, people think I’m funny...I should try this,” she explained.
The comedy class turned out to be a six-week class with the Charlotte Comedy Zone, which in hindsight, has allowed Brown to travel all over the country doing comedy. “I’ve had so many amazing opportunities that have happened as a result of taking that class.”
In her six years of doing clean stand-up comedy, Brown has ascended as one of the most potent comedians coming out of Charlotte. She produces a quarterly Clean Comedy Brunch series at the Charlotte Comedy Zone, and she’s been widely recognized among critics and peers for her masterful comedic style. Among her many accolades and awards, Charlotte comedian Chris Monds coined her, The Godmother of Charlotte Comedy. Queen City Nerve named her one of the comedians of the year in 2019, and she recently won the “Jeanne Robertson Comedy With Class” humor competition, which afforded her the aforementioned trip to Dallas, where she performed in a 2,200-seat venue.
“I'm going to try to get through this set in Dallas without crying,” she said, cynically. “Like, I'm going to Dallas to perform in this Opera House. This latchkey kid from Brooklyn, who grew up in the projects....and now I get to do this.”
I asked Brown how she felt about the accolades, praise from peers, and the many opportunities that have ramped up for her over the past year, and she told me that everything for her always goes back to her faith.
“I always tell people that I'm on this Proverbs 18:16 journey,” she said. “I've done nothing on my own. God has opened up these amazing doors for me and I'm just grateful to be able to walk through them.”
While playing in various venues that most comics would have to switch up an entire set for, Brown’s clean comedy affords her a limitless range to do stand-up in churches, birthday parties, brunches, as well as shows with diverse crowds such as the Revolt Comedy show, where she’ll be headlining an all women lineup on March 2nd, 2020.
“One of the things that I'm proud of is that my comedy plays in all time zones. I like that people don’t have to just look at me as a clean comedian, a black comedian, or a female comedian.”
Fully confident in her unique type in the modern comedic era, Brown doesn’t run away from any “clean comedy” stigma, her faith, or even her age. “I come at this as a clean comedian and a 50-year-old woman, and my jokes have to do with me being 50,” she told me. As it pertains to the competitive nature of comedy and the generational difference between her and younger comedians, Brown candidly told me, “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners.”
Tara Brown is six years into the comedy game and even with all her wisdom, she's still a student of the game. Her talent knows no boundaries, and she deserves every ounce of glory that derives from her creativity. Her faith is the fuel to her artistic integrity, yet it doesn’t compromise the quality of her work. She doesn’t have a leg up because she came into the game older or wiser than her peers, she’s flourishing in her work because she knew who she was and what she wanted to represent through her art.
Jon Olangi is a senior editor and writer at TTT Media, where he covers culture.