It took a two-minute video for stand-up comedian Tyree Elaine to capture the hearts of women everywhere. Her three-part video series, Women Over 40 Be Like, took off because of her spot-on impersonation of women in the I’m-doing-me stage of life. Within three days, Elaine’s videos had racked up over 2 million views and thousands of shares.
It’s easy to see why. The setup is so simple, it’s brilliant. Elaine, makeup-free and wearing box braids, is in a kitchen on the phone, explaining to all the people in her life how she’s changing up her priorities now that she’s … over 40.
Example: “You know what? I am over 40 and I have a fence on my vision board because it is time for me to create boundaries. And I need to drink my kale smoothies so I can stay heart-healthy. You have a blessed and prosperous day.”
And the refrain is the same: “I am over 40 … and I do not have time!”
When the video crossed my social media feed, within minutes I was wiping away tears from laughing so hard—and I was immediately tagging all of my over-40 friends.
I felt like Elaine had been spying on me in my living room as I tell my oldest daughter I will not send her more money at school and tell my 9-year-old that I am not about to let her stress me out. Because, yes, I am over 40 and I do not have time.
Elaine manages to tackle at least 20 identifiable tropes for the over-40 set in each short video. From hot flashes and dating to raising children (and grandchildren) and code-switching when necessary, it’s all here and relatable to millions of grown women and all the people who know and love them.
Reached by phone in her hometown of Los Angeles, Tyree Elaine tells us where she’s from, where she’s going and why she thinks her videos have connected with so many.
The Root: When I saw your first video, I thought you were a teenager impersonating your mom!
Tyree Elaine: Wow, thanks! [Laughs.] I’m 29. I’ve been doing stand-up for eight years now.
TR: Right. You were actually a finalist on Last Comic Standing in 2014.
TE: Yes, such a blessing! I was working as a teacher’s assistant and got laid off just days before I got the news that I would be on Last Comic Standing. I took that as a sign that I needed to do this full time.
TR: How did you get the bug to do stand-up?
TE: I was 20 years old. And I was going through an awful breakup with my first love. My roommate saw me moping and crying all the time. She finally said, “That’s enough. We are going out every single night this week.” One night, we hung out with a friend of hers who was a comedian. He thought I was funny and suggested I try stand-up. I didn’t do it right away. But the seed was planted, and the first time I did it, I knew I wanted to do it again … and again … and again. It’s a rush. And it feels so good when you connect with your audience.
TR: Speaking of connecting with your audience, your video series about women over 40 really connected! Did you expect the videos to go viral?
TE: What surprised me the most is that the second video got to a million views within hours.
TR: How on earth did you get me and my generation so well!?
TE: It’s all about my mom. When she turned 40 10 years ago, she had a party and she’s been saying things like, “I am in my 40s and I do not have time” for the past 10 years. So this woman from the video, a composite of so many awesome over-40 women I know, is just very special to me. I know these women very well.
TR: This happened so fast. You said you got the idea after seeing your mom’s Facebook status update when she turned 50 a few weeks ago.
TE: Right. I checked Facebook that morning, and she had this ridiculously long update that just went on and on and on about turning 50 and what she was going to do in her 50s. And I’m thinking, “So I’m gonna have to hear this for another 10 years?” The idea just hit me. I want to recap everything she said about her 40s.
TR: Even the names of the characters in your video are spot-on! Reggie, the ex. Larry, the straight-and-narrow new guy. A daughter named Mackenzie, a grandson named Jaylen. I know all these people—with these names!
TE: I know! [Laughs.] The names are all real people I know! My aunt, whose husband’s name is Larry, called me up and asked me, “When you talk about Larry in your video, is that supposed to my Larry?” I’m like, “Of course it is! What other Larry would I be talking about?”
TR: You’re not yet 30. Do you think you’ll be saying these things in 10 years?
TE: I’m saying them now! That’s what happens when strong women like my mom and my aunts raise you. I’m already putting people in their place and letting them know I don’t have time for any foolishness. I’ve already dated enough wack people. I’m not going out with just anybody. And if I don’t want to go somewhere, I don’t. And I don’t have to explain myself, either.
TR: What’s next for you? How will you capitalize on the attention from your videos?
TE: I’ve had so many requests for T-shirts with some of the expressions from my videos, and so I’ll be making those available. The most important thing is to transition my videos from Facebook, which is not monetized, to my YouTube channel, which is monetized.
TR: I really wanted to interview your mom and your aunt, the inspiration for the videos!
TE: Not a good idea.
TE: Because they’re liable to say anything.
TR: That’s because they are over 40 and they do not have time!
Aliya S. King, a native of East Orange, N.J., is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times best-seller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. She lives with her husband and two daughters in New Jersey. Find her on Twitter and at aliyasking.com.