November 21, 2019 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Tay Barrett is Queering the Workplace

In “Work in Progress,” the web series created and starring L.A.-based auteur Tay Barrett, finding what you love to do only happens after a series of bizarre, painful interludes. Watering plants, dating lawyers, and stripping are all stepping stones on the glorious path to queer careerdom. But when it comes to making money, why do so many of us hate what we do? Barrett’s comedy doesn’t want to find easy answers. That’s what makes “Work in Progress” such a hilarious, unexpected pleasure to watch. After working in documentary, Barrett was approached by Here TV to create a series about anything she wanted. So naturally, she started thinking about how we work. We caught up with Barrett to talk about working lives, bizarre first jobs, and queer histories.

THE PRIDE: Tell me about how “Work in Progress” came to be.

TAY BARRETT: HereTV approached me and basically said I could make a show about anything I wanted. I was thoughtful about work at the time, because I was a double major in sociology and creative nonfiction writing in college. And I was depressed too, because all the jobs out of college suck. They don’t feel emotionally nourishing. So I was asking these kinds of questions like, how do people get through their days when they work in an office? Literally! I was asking people with a microphone, just doing audio interviews at first. So the show, “Work in Progress,” is kind of inspired by real-life events. I literally did start asking people straight up, “what do you like about your job? What do you dislike about your job?” I was just curious! I was like, ‘I think I should find a job where I can find some sense of happiness.’ So I started asking around.

Did people say helpful things?

I found it really interesting, because at the same time I was doing that, I was reading a lot of social psychology books. “Why We Work,” by Barry Schwartz, is a really great book about this concept. But it’s amazing, people are very resilient. Most people frame their jobs in a way that feels purposeful. So even if you sweep floors or do some type of service work, we all tell ourselves stories to navigate the world. As we should! We make meaning for ourselves. So I found that interesting. And of course I talked to some people who were like, “yeah, don’t be a lawyer.” But then there were other people who were just blissful. Episode 4 of my show is about me interviewing my Aunt and Uncle about being berry farmers in Oregon.  And that was born out of reality. I did ask them, “so what do you like about being a farmer?” Because it is so outside of my lifestyle here in Los Angeles. I think like, 3 percent of people in America are farmers. And my Uncle was so blissful about it, and that really moved me, because I would find it so miserable. I’m an artist, that’s my vocation.   And I always knew, but I needed confirmation that I was on the right path. So that process allowed me to be like “I make art, that’s my job.” And it’s a hard job. It’s hard to get compensated for art. Especially when you’re not super famous and nobody’s banging down your door like ‘I need this thing from you!’ And a lot of that confidence and enthusiasm has to be self-generated. Which can be emotionally fatiguing. But I’d much rather live as I do now, being a freelance independent filmmaker, than do anything else.

So Here TV approached you about “Work in Progress.” And they gave you total control.

Shockingly, yes. I don’t know how I duped them! It’s to their credit. I joke that nobody’s banging down my door saying “make this thing” but HereTV did.  And that’s a singular instance. I licensed my series “Tiny Nuts” to them in 2014, and they had success placing it on Hulu. So the Managing Director called me and said, “let’s have you make a show, whatever you want!” I didn’t have a lot of direction, they enquired about an ensemble comedy and said that that would be welcome. And that was the extent of it.

You’re also doing “Inside the Rainbow,” about queer working lives.

Yes. That’s going to be a short series. And I’m really having fun with it. I’ve met some really interesting people in the queer community. I’m basically just showing queer people who are doing some type of positive social good. They’re making their art, they’re lending some type of service that’s uplifting. When I started the project, I was so sad and downtrodden about the news, the state of politics, everything I read. It was so upsetting. I was just like, “okay, we need something really uplifting!” I want to feature happy queer stories and narratives that aren’t so depressing. Because those stories matter, and I ingested them when I was coming to terms with my queer identity. I really wanted to celebrate and shine a light on those stories. So one piece is about a queer astrologer, another is about Big Dipper, this awesome bear rapper. Another is about Mark Taylor, who runs a part of the library at NYU where they have a huge vintage gay erotica section. Honestly, if I just meet somebody who’s really cool and I want an excuse to spend time with them, I can make a segment.  And then I have another short doc series called “Queer Family Tree,” where I just sit down with somebody and ask them a bunch of questions about their queer identity and their relationship to it. Like, “how did you come to know you were this identity. What did you like about it, what did you not like? What would you tell your younger self?” So honestly, I’m just trying to create work that I would have loved when I was younger, that would have helped me. And hopefully this can serve as a resource for people, to let them know that it’s not so dire.

Related Posts

Documentary Honors Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets for Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

GAY LA: Judy Never Really Left Los Angeles

November 2, 2019

November 2, 2019

How the queer Icon has shaped L.A. There’s no doubt about it: 2019 is the year of Judy Garland. In...

More Than Just Another Gay Character

October 17, 2019

October 17, 2019

In Hollywood, LGBTQ+ characters that are more than just — well, LGBTQ+ — can be hard to come by. Most...

LGBTQ Youth Encouraged to Create Video Shorts for The Trevor Project

September 12, 2019

September 12, 2019

OUR PRIDE Video Fest announced a Call for Entries for videos about metal health, suicide prevention Calling all LGBTQ+ youth...

LA Mom Writes Picture Book Breaking Down Gender Identity for Trans Kids

June 20, 2019

June 20, 2019

Navigating gender can be confusing for anyone. Now imagine being a cis straight parent with a transgender daughter ready to...

“Killer Unicorn” Film Slays in LA

June 12, 2019

June 12, 2019

Danny is your average Brooklyn party boy. This year, he and his friends couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming...

Going Bak in Time with a Photographer

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

Spying a thirteen-year-old Sunny Bak, amongst a crowd of New York paparazzi, Elizabeth Taylor showed concern that the young photographer...

The Revolution Will Be Televised

May 27, 2019

May 27, 2019

For the first time ever, the L.A. Pride parade will air on live television.  When the first Los Angeles Pride...

Getting in Synch with “Synchronicity”

May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

To celebrate the completion of an all-female cast LGBTQ+ short film, The Abbey is hosting a wrap party for “Synchronicity.” ...

Clexacon Gives a voice to Queer Womxn

April 7, 2019

April 7, 2019

What started as a simple meet-up to unite fans of LGBTQ+ pop culture three years ago, has now evolved into...

Hollywood’s First Out Gay Star Was So Much More

March 31, 2019

March 31, 2019

 In the 1920s and 30s, William Haines refused to play by society’s rules.  In the studio system of the silent...

In 30 Years, GLAAD Has Come a Long Way

March 21, 2019

March 21, 2019

The 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards are coming to L.A. on March 28. Rich Ferraro has been working with GLAAD for...

Q&A: 9 Months with Courteney Cox

March 11, 2019

March 11, 2019

By Staff Writer 9 Months with Courteney Cox takes an intimate approach, giving viewers raw access to people from all...

CALENDAR 3/8 – 3/30: The best goings-on around and about L.A., period.

March 7, 2019

March 7, 2019

Letter Writing for Lesbian, Bi, & Queer Women’s Health When: Sunday, March 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Where:...

The Most Anticipated Films Out of the HUMP! Festival

March 7, 2019

March 7, 2019

Dan Savage’s short-form porn fest celebrates its 14th year. Everyone has their own special relationship to porn. Some adore it....