In the spirit of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, CBS’s After Midnight is a reboot of Comedy Central’s quasi-game show @Midnight that the network chose to replace The Late Late Show with James Corden. The show, executive produced by Stephen Colbert, selected young Netflix fixture Taylor Tomlinson to be the host and after ten episodes, it is time to see how the show’s politics match up with its traditional talk-show counterparts.
There is one bit of good news for those wanting their late night comedy to feature less liberalism. Through ten episodes, After Midnight has featured 38 political jokes, which comes out to 3.8 per episode which is considerably less than the other five daily late night shows.
However, of those 26 have been directed towards conservatives, six toward liberals, and six towards those that could be deemed non-partisan. That comes out to 68 percent. If those trends hold, it would make After Midnight two percentage points more liberal than 2023 Jimmy Fallon, but much more liberal than 2023 James Corden. It would also be less liberal than 2023 Colbert, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, and The Daily Show.
Tomlinson may be a liberal, but so far she has avoided wearing her liberalism on her sleeve. The most overtly political Tomlinson has gotten was mocking certain Trump supporters trying to take down Taylor Swift which then inspired a game where guests tried to come up with political song titles, some of which were more partisan than others, but none of which targeted the left.
Another segment focused on when Ron DeSantis withdrew from the GOP primary, but that was focused on his Winston Churchill misquotation. In that segment, Tomlinson made a self-deprecating joke that she was doing “politics things” because she has previously stated she stays away from political comedy because it is not something she feels she can speak authoritatively about, “I’m just very like — what’s going on in my life right now? What, in my experience and personally, do I feel like I have some authority to talk about?”
But beyond puns and other relatively tame jokes, some of the jokes against conservatives on After Midnight are indirect attacks, meaning that, for example, abortion is not explicitly mentioned, but beneath the surface there is a critique of pro-life ideology. For example, Tomlinson showed the following 2019 clip of a mentally ill Brazilian woman angrily shoving a priest and asked for a trigger warning to go along with it to which Marcella Arguello answered, “your body, her choice.”
Woman pushes Priest off stage during a mass live broadcast pic.twitter.com/eE8I1pKByj
— More Crazy Clips (@MoreCrazyClips) January 22, 2024
If Tomlinson claims to avoid talking politics because she does not consider herself an authority on the topic, what she does feel like she has the authority to speak about is her upbringing in a devoutly conservative Christian family. Tomlinson got into comedy as part of a church class, but since then, she has not only moved away from the church comedy circuit—one could say she actually got fired— but from the church itself saying, “the truth is, I didn’t feel like I was [religious] for a really long time.”
She accuses the church of being too weak on mental health issues—Tomlinson lost her mother to cancer when she was eight years old despite her prayers and her father quickly remarried—and too judgmental. To wit, she also spends a lot of time attacking Christian sexual ethics and “purity culture” and the most mean-spirited joke thus far is probably Tomlinson struggling to control herself when Sophie Buddle narrated a video about a day in the life of a billionaire’s wife, but the “joke” was that it was really about masturbation and Biblical understandings of sexual morality:
To date, After Midnight has been a mixed bag, a result helped by the show’s nature as an improv game show that gets its material from what happens on the internet instead of the news. Whether that changes as the show and Tomlinson become more established and we see more of the news and political side of the internet in segments like the Trump-Swift one is to be seen. What hurts the show is Tomlinson’s tendency to bring on comedians who share her worldview, so when politics or religion do come up, it is more liberal. Whatever path After Midnight chooses to go down, NewsBusters will be here to document it either way.