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Is What’s Good for Taylor Tomlinson’s Career Bad for Her Life?

In September, the night before the comic Taylor Tomlinson made her Radio City Music Hall debut, she called one of her three siblings in tears, asking: “Why do I feel like it’s not enough?”

This emotional moment had long passed when she strode onstage the next day wearing a stylish black suit, sleeves rolled up, and commanded the cavernous room with an hour of cheerful, intricately woven jokes delivered at a fast clip. One theme was how professional success does not necessarily translate into personal happiness. She killed. The following afternoon, sitting outside at a Manhattan coffee shop near her hotel, Tomlinson described dispassionately how she cried before the career highlight of selling out Radio City. “There have been times when I thought I’m only good to people 40 feet away,” she said.

Tomlinson, 30, who undertook her first theater tour just two years ago, has emerged as one of the most acclaimed, in-demand superstars in comedy, the rare young stand-up with mass appeal in the current fragmented landscape. After two Netflix specials produced in her 20s (and a third premiering next month), she became the only woman to make the top 10 grossing comic tours of 2023. She performed 130 shows, more than anyone else on that list, including Kevin Hart, who topped the list. And to follow that up, she is taking over the late-night TV slot vacated by James Corden on CBS, debuting Jan. 16 as the host of the comedy show “After Midnight.”

I followed Tomlinson for 10 months, tracking the development of her new special, periodically seeing shows and debriefing her afterward. What I saw up close is that spending the year in and out of hotels is isolating, but so is being a rapidly ascendant comic at her level of success. “There sometimes feels like there isn’t anyone my age to talk to,” Tomlinson told me.

Tomlinson with Stephen Colbert when it was announced she would be taking over the late-night spot following his show.Credit…Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

“IF YOU WANT to make yourself feel sad, compare your career to Taylor’s,” Dustin Nickerson, her good friend and the opening comic throughout her recent global tour, told me, before comparing her to a five-tool player in baseball who has all the skills to be great. “Watching her this past year has been watching someone become a celebrity.”

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