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Taylor Tomlinson Is the Perfect Late-Night Host for The TikTok Era

Taylor Tomlinson Is the Perfect Late-Night Host for The TikTok Era

The internet is dumb and the joke parade is fun, but there is something heavier riding on “After Midnight.” That is, of course, the well-documented fact that Tomlinson is the lone woman headlining a late-night network show, a form historically dominated by men. Although a number of women have won a late-night slot in recent years, only a couple of their shows have lasted more than a few seasons. After a while, news coverage of their appointments tends to have a “Groundhog Day” effect. The title of “only woman in late night” sure has been applied to a lot of people.

Funny enough, the American late-night talk show began with a woman. “The Faye Emerson Show,” starring the titular actor, ran from 1949 to 1951. Considered the first of its kind, it featured political conversation as well as guests like Duke Ellington, Édith Piaf and Steve Allen, who would become the first host of “The Tonight Show” in 1953. Late night quickly transformed into a boys’ club, though. Hosts became beloved institutions, with Johnny Carson (31 seasons) and Jay Leno (22 seasons) enjoying long tenures on “The Tonight Show,” and David Letterman leading “The Late Show” for 23 seasons. Today’s late-night mainstays — Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon — have been hosting their shows for between nine (Colbert) and 22 seasons (Kimmel).

Joan Rivers broke through with “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” in 1986, the culmination of more than two decades of appearances on Carson’s program, including three years as his permanent guest host. (“It’s simply a question of ratings,” an NBC aide told The Times in 1983, when Rivers got the job as Carson’s permanent substitute. “She pulls them in better than anybody else.”) But despite her track record, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” didn’t last: She was replaced as the show’s full-time host the following year. Some woman-led late-night cable shows have had substantial runs more recently, including “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” (seven seasons) and Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Lately” (eight seasons). But it’s easier to find shorter-lived projects, like “The Mo’Nique Show,” “The Wanda Sykes Show,” “The Rundown With Robin Thede,” “A Little Late With Lilly Singh,” “The Amber Ruffin Show” and “Ziwe.” It’s telling that all of those shows were hosted by women of color.

Where women have become talk-show titans, however, is on daytime television. These programs have long been a space for hosts like Oprah Winfrey, Wendy Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and the women of “The View” to build their empires. Daytime talk-show viewership remains overwhelmingly female, so you can see an argument that audiences would want women sitting in the host’s chair. But women have also, in recent years, made up a majority of late-night talk-show viewers. So you have to wonder: Which sexist justification is given for denying women long-term hosting gigs? Is it that they don’t have the comedic skills to pull off the monologue? Does the authority conferred by the late-night desk inspire the vague feeling that an affable man should be in charge, while women are better suited to the “coffee with your friends” energy of daytime shows?

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