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Comedian Taylor Tomlinson talks about using stand-up to tackle hard topics

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Each week, a well-known guest draws a card from our Wild Card deck and answers a big question about their life. This week, we hear from comedian Taylor Tomlinson. She's the host of "After Midnight" on CBS and has put out three Netflix specials, including this year's "Have It All." She tackles hard topics in her stand-up, including her mom's death, which came up in her conversation with Wild Card host Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RACHEL MARTIN: Pick - one, two, or three.

TAYLOR TOMLINSON: Let's do three.

MARTIN: How do you stay connected to people you've lost?

TOMLINSON: I think you have to - do you mean people who have died or just people you've lost...

MARTIN: I know we say lost...

TOMLINSON: ...Touch with?

MARTIN: I mean, you can interpret it however you want to. Yeah, I should say that. What am I talking about? It means dead.

TOMLINSON: Yeah (laughter).

MARTIN: It means dead. What does it mean - like, I lost touch with my second grade teacher...

TOMLINSON: Right.

MARTIN: ...And I stalk her on Facebook.

TOMLINSON: Right.

MARTIN: Like, no.

TOMLINSON: That's so funny. I know now you don't have to lose touch with anybody because of social media.

MARTIN: Right, you don't.

TOMLINSON: Yeah, no, I think, especially since we're both in the dead mom club, as they call it, I think just talking about them and asking people who knew them longer than you for stories and people who knew them in different ways than you - or even, like, what they would think of movies and TV shows that are coming out?

MARTIN: Yeah.

TOMLINSON: Like, you know? Like, I think my mom would have really liked Substack. Like, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TOMLINSON: Like, I remember talking to my grandma once, and we were like, she'd probably have a blog, right?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

TOMLINSON: Like, it's just even stuff like that (laughter).

MARTIN: What do you share in common with your mom? You were young when she died, but what do people tell you about how she shows up in you?

TOMLINSON: This is sort of sad, but I felt like, because she died so young - she died when she was 34, and she was sick, like, the last two years. So she got sick at 32, I think. And she had kids really young. And so when she died, I was like, wow, a what a waste, you know? What a waste of such an amazing person and just taken way too soon - and all this talent and creativity that I have scraps of. And so that's probably a big reason why I've tried to stretch those scraps as far as I can and have been able to, you know, with the help of Netflix.

But there - I had, like, a moment, maybe a year ago, where I was like, man, I really pushed the bits of her I got to the limit because, in some ways, I just feel that I'm the unrealized potential that she didn't get to realize, which is so sad.

MARTIN: What was your mom's name?

TOMLINSON: Angela.

MARTIN: I think Angela would be into Substack, and she would be into Taylor Tomlinson...

TOMLINSON: That's very nice.

MARTIN: ...For sure.

TOMLINSON: I hope so.

MARTIN: Yeah. I'm pretty sure.

TOMLINSON: Maybe she wouldn't. Maybe she'd be like, you're kind of a hack. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: She'd be, like, a heckler at all of your shows (laughter).

TOMLINSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. She's like, I don't get it.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: That's Taylor Tomlinson talking with Wild Card host Rachel Martin. And you can hear the whole conversation on the Wild Card podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "FIRE IN THE SKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.