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Can I Laugh On Your Shoulder?

Mar 9, 2022

My guest this week is Tyler Merritt, creator of the viral video, “Before You Call the Cops.” As a 6'2" dreadlocked black man, Tyler knows what it feels like to be stereotyped as threatening, which can have dangerous consequences. But he also knows that proximity to people who are different from ourselves can be a cure for racism.

Tyler has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and Sports Illustrated and has been profiled in the New York Times. The viral video's main point—the more you know someone, the more empathy, understanding, and compassion you have for that person—is the springboard for his new book.

In his book, I Take My Coffee Black, Tyler tells hilarious stories from his own life as a black man in America. Throughout his stories, he also seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping and why you don't cross black mamas. He teaches readers about the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today.

5:07 – Tyler 101

  • He describes himself as an actor, author, activist and encourager – not necessarily in that order.
  • He has had all kinds of friends over the years – gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim, etc.
  • He wanted to create content to connect people with love, laughter and creativity.

11:32 – Before You Call the Cops

  • Tyler created the video because it was on his heart. It’s 3 minutes of him talking about himself. He didn’t think anyone would want to watch it.
  • He sent the video to his friend, Lisa. She texted back, “This feels holy.”
  • Tyler wants people to know, “Your story matters. Your words matter. You are significantly created to be you.

20:34 – Super Bowl halftime show

  • Tyler jokes he would have died if hologram Tupac performed at the Super Bowl halftime show.

26:52 – Proximity to different people

  • Proximity to people who aren’t like you can help stop racism.
  • Tyler uses humor throughout his book, while also sneaking in historic moments in black life.

34:30 – Not being caged

  • Tyler didn’t write the book for Christians. He didn’t want to feel like he was caged while writing the book.
  • When writing a book, write what is you. Write what is true.
  • He wasn’t concerned about sales. He wanted to be true to himself.

38:37 – More diversity in churches

  • Don’t just ask black people to come to your church. Make sure you hire black people to be on the leadership team and staff.
  • Black churches are the social justice committee every Sunday morning. When George Floyd was murdered, black churches talked about it.

41:20 – The beauty of others

  • Go to an environment where there are people that are different than you and just exist for a little while. Your kids will begin to pick up on the beauty of other individuals.

44:34 – Get to know you

  • Guilty pleasure? Yellowstone TV show
  • Dream career? Being a teacher


By the end of the book, you have proximity to me that the next time you see a 6’2” man with dreadlocks walking down the street, you begin to wonder, what is this man’s story?

I am an actor, author, activist, and also known as an encourager.

I began dreaming about doing something significant in the world as a young, young kid.

If I had known that over 100 million people were going to see this video, I would have put a shirt on.

Your story matters. Your words matter. You are significantly created to be you.

Go to an environment where there are people that are different than you and just exist for a little while. Your kids will begin to pick up on the beauty of other individuals.



Tyler Merritt is a Nashville-based actor, activist, cancer survivor, founder of The Tyler Merritt Project, and author of "I TAKE MY COFFEE BLACK: REFLECTIONS ON TUPAC, MUSICAL THEATER, FAITH AND BEING BLACK IN AMERICA." Over the course of his career, Tyler has gained recognition through notable acting projects including "Kevin Probably Saves The World," "Outer Banks," and "The Outsider," as well as serving as the face of the worldwide teaching curriculum for The Gospel Project for Kids. Most recently, Tyler Merritt made headlines with his 2018 viral video "Before You Call The Cops," which has been viewed by over 60 million people worldwide and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel, MSNBC, and the New York Times. As a 6’2'' dreadlocked Black man living in America, where racial injustices continue to plague our society, Tyler has emerged as a steadfast activist in the face of racism.

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