This week, Philipps turned those last three words into a hashtag—#YouKnowMe—as part of a campaign encouraging women who’ve had abortions to tell their stories and help remove the stigma around the issue. “1 in 4 women have had an abortion,” she wrote on Twitter. “Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”
Philipps is known for her frankness on social media, but that quality didn’t translate naturally onto Busy Tonight—not at first, anyway. The show had relatively low stakes: For four nights a week, the 39-year-old greeted her audience with a short monologue (popular topics included self-care, Oprah, and margaritas), chatted with one of her celebrity pals over drinks, and then jammed out to an artist. The vibe was, to put it in Philipps-ese, chill AF, and the aesthetic (bold hues, neon wall decor, shelves full of cute tchotchkes) was designed for Instagram picture-taking. Philipps opened each show with a lo-fi, Snapchat-style video hyping up her studio audience. She ended each one in a nightgown she called “Mr. Nightgown” while singing a lullaby to the camera.
Busy Tonight was basically one big half-hour slumber party, and it took some time for it to click. The series stumbled at the outset. Interviewing didn’t come easily to Philipps, especially when she had multiple guests. And despite her comedy-acting prowess, Philipps isn’t a comedian who’s accustomed to delivering zingers for several minutes at the top of a show or making bits—such as exchanging asides with her writers sitting in the audience—feel unforced.
But if Busy Tonight was more frothy than newsworthy, it was still, in its way, illuminating. Philipps is acutely aware of (and has admitted to) how her openness on social media has netted her more opportunities than her acting—on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougar Town—ever did. She understood that the fans tuning in were doing so because they had followed her online and liked how brassy she was there; that when she mentioned “Marc,” they’d know she meant her husband, the screenwriter Marc Silverstein; and that all of this—being the center of attention on her own show after a lifetime of supporting roles—was utterly new to her, as a longtime TV actor.
As a host, Philipps toggled between being confident and self-deprecating, charming and awkward, bringing to late night not just a rare female presence but also a breezy, experimental energy. When a joke failed to land, she acknowledged it. When she made jarring transitions in her monologue, she called herself out. When she didn’t know about something in the pop-culture zeitgeist, she leaned into it. (In an episode with Geena Davis, Philipps revealed that she hadn’t watched a single Marvel movie, including “the one where they’re in a spaceship and there’s a raccoon.”)