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Meet Taylor Tomlinson, late-night comedy's newest host

Meet Taylor Tomlinson, late-night comedy's newest host
Meet Taylor Tomlinson, late-night comedy's newest host 07:35

It's Taylor Tomlinson's first day on the Paramount lot, and the set for her new late-night show, "After Midnight," is, well, non-existent. "Nothing's done yet," she laughed. "Everyone's, like, asking me. I'm like, 'I don't know yet. We're working on it.'"

And Tomlinson, as the host of that new late-night show premiering next week – the one that has yet to start taping, a show that will follow none other than Stephen Colbert on CBS – she's still figuring things out.

She spent December editing her third Netflix special, "Have It All," which is due out next month.

Correspondent Luke Burbank with comedian Taylor Tomlinson in a golf cart on the Paramount lot. She's driving.  CBS News

But if watching the 30-year-old on stage or screen makes it seem like her career success was a forgone conclusion, to hear Tomlinson tell it, it wasn't. "I grew up super-sheltered and very Christian," she said. "I didn't even really know what standup was until, like, middle school."

Tomlinson is a self-professed introvert who first got started with standup comedy at, of all places, her church. "All my jokes have always been really rooted in my real life," she said. "When I first started, obviously I was very clean. I was 16 years old. Very sheltered. I mean, I hadn't dated. I hadn't had sex. I hadn't done much of anything. And so, I think the jokes I was doing were probably a) pretty observational, and b) very self-deprecating. Probably to, like, a point where it might've been a little sad, actually!

"This special's different because it's me acknowledging the fact that I am a successful comedian. Which felt sort of hard to say for a while! Not that anyone made me feel that way. I felt that way in my own heart."

Tomlinson lost her mother to cancer at the age of eight, and says as a teen she used stand-up as an outlet for writing, performing and, eventually, working through her grief: "I started writing jokes about losing my mom when I was much younger. But they were very, like, hit-or-miss as far as how often they would work, because I was doing them, you know, on Sunset Friday night. And everybody was like, 'We're kinda here trying to get laid.' ... Can I say that? Oops!"

Those jokes eventually found their way into her second Netflix special, "Look at You":

"I know dead mom jokes make people uncomfortable. I know that. And if you are uncomfortable, I don't know what to say. You should have worked harder so it was you up here."

Taylor Tomlinson: Finding Humor In Tragedy || Taylor Tomlinson 2023 by Taylor Tomlinsion on YouTube

Few work as hard as Tomlinson does, or reveal as much in their comedy, as she did when she shared a difficult diagnosis on stage:

"I'm so glad I know that I'm bipolar now. I mean, I have the right meds. I got a mood ring. I'm handling it. But when I first found out, it was a very tough pill to swallow – and I've swallowed a lot of pills! Because when you first find out something like that, you're like, 'Oh man, am I gonna tell anybody? Should I tell anybody? And if I do tell people, am I hot and/or talented enough to be an inspiration?'"

All joking aside, her openness was an inspiration to many, as has been her directness about the help therapy has played through her life.

"I really want to find out if I am my therapist's favorite client. You can't just ask. They won't tell you. I've tried."

Tomlinson's new show, "After Midnight," will feature herself and other comics riffing on the latest updates from a little place called the internet. She tells me it's television's equivalent of comfort food.

So, what is her biggest learning curve about herself from this new gig? "Honestly, the thing I'm most nervous about – and this is sort of a lame, uncool answer – I am naturally very introverted," she said. "And it's something I've worked on a lot over the years, the social aspect of it and how many people I'm gonna be interacting with and, like, being 'on' in that way. Because that is a skill that doesn't come to me naturally. But again, I feel like I'm in a place now where it is something that I am better at and want to continue to keep getting better at. But it is the thing I'm most nervous about, weirdly enough."

Comedian Taylor Tomlinson, host of the new late-night series "After Midnight." CBS News

But something that does seem to come to Tomlinson naturally, and that's served her both on stage and off, is finding the humor in life's most difficult situations. She said, "If I can write a joke about something that was sad, or hard, or uncomfortable for me, it sort of neutralizes that event and makes me go, 'Oh, that's a joke now. That's not, like, a bad thing that happened. That's a joke.' It makes me feel like I got something out of it that – I know you can't, like, hold a joke in your hands, but it has the same feeling, because you can put it in a special, or on a late-night set, or even if it's just a clip on Instagram. I'm so grateful that I have an outlet like standup to do that with.

"But you should go to therapy, too," she laughed.

An introvert, who goes onstage in front of thousands, a once-sheltered kid, who's now flying high in public without a net, Taylor Tomlinson might not have it all … just yet. But she seems well on her way.

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Story produced by Anthony Laudato. Editor: George Pozderec. 

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