Please, ‘After Midnight,’ Don’t Let Taylor Tomlinson Stop Doing Stand-Up
Last night, Colbert invited stand-up comedy prodigy Taylor Tomlinson onto The Late Show as he announced her appointment as the face of After Midnight, the reboot of the internet culture game show @midnight that will fill the time slot left open by The Late Late Show with James Corden early next year. Tomlinson, 29, began her stand-up career at the early age of 16 and has accomplished more before 30 than most comics can manage in many more decades – she already has two critically acclaimed Netflix specials, Quarter-Life Crisis (2020) and Look At You (2022), and fans who have been following her meteoric rise noticed that she’s continuing to get even better with every coast-to-coast tour and sold-out show.
Now, as Tomlinson prepares for her first desk gig, the wheels on the tour bus will presumably stop spinning. Has anyone ever heckled a comic with the line, “Don’t take that day job?”
When Tomlinson first started performing stand-up comedy as a teenager in Orange County, California, she gained recognition among the California Christian community as an up-and-coming clean comedian who told family-friendly jokes fit for church basements across the Golden State. Though she earned a respectable wage entertaining, the restrictively devout, Tomlinson lost her favor among the faithful after she tweeted a joke that she would eventually perform during her late-night debut on Conan – “In bed, I am a wild animal: way more afraid of you than you are of me.”
Following the demise of her Christian comedy career, Tomlinson had an obligatory stint performing stand-up comedy on cruise ships before expanding to on-land opportunities. As she told Conan O’Brien, “I’ve done literally every gig that you could possibly do – I’ve done churches, I’ve done corporates, I’ve done clubs, I’ve done colleges, I’ve done cruise ships.” She added, “I’ve done everything, and I’m glad that I have because now I know that there are so many different ways to make a living as a stand-up.” To stand-ups, the holy grail of paychecks has always been one of the exceedingly scarce gigs that Tomlinson just landed – late-night host.
Tomlinson is a laughably easy choice for anyone looking to fill a position in the late-night medium – she is punchy, poised and lightning fast to find the next laugh. Colbert and the rest of the After Midnight producers made an excellent decision choosing Tomlinson to helm their new project – but does this mean that Tomlinson is choosing late-night over stand-up?
It’s no secret that stand-up careers tend to stagnate when the scheduling demands of a late-night host take over. Former Daily Show host Trevor Noah left his longtime lucrative gig because he couldn’t balance his other career interests with the round-the-clock responsibilities of his late-in-the-day-job. For many comedians, this is exactly the point – slumming it on stand-up tours is the pathway to the stability and structure of a cushy TV gig. It’s not like David Letterman was hitting the clubs to work on a new hour for HBO after each episode of The Late Show.
But despite Tomlinson’s significant amount of experience for her age, it still feels premature for her to trade sold-out theaters for a CBS soundstage. Many comedy fans considered her most recent special, Look at You, to be one of the most brave and ambitious stand-up hours of the last few years. In the special, Tomlinson waded through her mental health struggles and reflected on the death of her mother with remarkable grace and deftness, navigating massive tonal shifts and touchy subject matter with a steady stream of top-tier punchlines. Tomlinson has the comedy tool kit of a veteran, because she is one – and yet, her youth shows us how much more she could still grow in the medium.
Hopefully, the beginning of After Midnight will not be the end of the road for Tomlinson’s stand-up. But, if she does end up finding the host’s chair more comfortable than a stand-up’s stool, then the lack of new Tomlinson stand-up specials will be just one more thing we can blame on James Corden.