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Larry Wilmore Debuts Tonight as The Only Black Face on Late Night Talk TV

Jenn Doll, authorThe late night talk show lineup is about to get darker and spicier tonight. At 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central, the nation will be introduced to the clever, sardonic wit of Larry Wilmore, who will officially be the only African-American late night talk show host.

Of course it’s a time slot that has seen diversity before, with the likes of Arsenio Hall and George Lopez. Now Wilmore gets his shot, taking over from Stephen Colbert and benefitting from the generosity of an extremely popular lead-in show in Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

Stewart, who created virtually his own genre of talk show with a format that skewers the ridiculousness of the media and bone-headed politicians, suggested that Wilmore, 53, replace Colbert when he left to take over David Letterman’s time slot on CBS after Letterman retires later this year.

As a correspondent on Stewart’s show, Wilmore’s job was to confront race on a regular basis. Don’t expect that to change on Wilmore’s own show, which is called “The Nightly Show.” He told NPR that from his position, there aren’t many sacred cows he can’t go after.

“There’s the ‘Top Dog/Underdog’ rule,” he said. “Underdog gets to make fun of Top Dog, but Top Dog can’t make fun of Underdog. And people get mad at it, but sorry … that’s just how it is.”

“It happens in gender, race class — every situation… Top Dog, you can’t make fun of Underdog,” he said. “But guess what? You get to be Top Dog. Congratulations.”

And he couldn’t get a more auspicious day to commence than the nation’s Martin Luther King holiday, which you can be sure will be pointed out tonight by Wilmore.

But Wilmore also told NPR that he’s committed to the idea that the Black guy doesn’t always have to talk about race.

“I may be talking about Obama’s boring budget speech,” he said. “So the show’s not marginalized where I can only talk about a black thing or the Minority Report thing.”

In describing what his show will look like, Wilmore said each broadcast will probably begin with him sitting behind a desk commenting on the day’s news — perhaps featuring field reports from contributors. That’s kind of the way Stewart does it. But then he would move on to an unscripted panel discussion, sort of along the lines of Bill Maher’s show.

Wilmore will kick things off tonight with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and rapper Talib Kweli as his first two panelists. So we get an early indication that he won’t be running from race—not with the outspoken and fearless Kweli in the mix.

“I look at it as, ‘Who do I want in my barbershop talking s – – – with?” Wilmore said with a laugh. “That’s the big group of people we’re collecting for the show. … Who’s our [longtime Colbert guest] Andrew Sullivan? Who’s that kind of person who is going to be our Nightly Show-type of guest?”

Hopefully Wilmore will have many years to answer that question.

What people are saying

3 thoughts on “Larry Wilmore Debuts Tonight as The Only Black Face on Late Night Talk TV

  1. Lynda Hardin-Poston says:

    It seems that late night was the only "white zone" left on TV. Daytime has blacks EVERYWHERE, every talk show has at least one, they dominate the commercials, they host most of the game shows. You would think that the whites are the minority in this country if you came from Mars and used TV as a gauge of population saturation. They may as well take over late night, too. Will they EVER be happy with what whites give up to not hear Sharpton and Jackson whine that the blacks aren't properly represented. They whined about the Oscars, they whine about EVERYTHING unless the blacks dominate. It is rediculous! Political correctness is just out of hand.

  2. Hi Lynda,

    I am not sure why there is a need for zones on television. Quickly tv is becoming a media for the general masses and when people want something more specific for race, gender, SES, politics, then they go to the internet. As only ~60% of the US population is non-hispanic white I would hope African Americans, as well as all other races and ethnicities are seen in every aspect of television. As we have less "zones" and more multiracial individuals, the idea of what an American looks like is also changing. I hope for your health and happiness you are able to change your idea of who the US is into a much more accurate depiction.

    Best,
    Tiffany

  3. Willoughby Spitt says:

    @the"rediculous"LyndaHardin-Poston: It seems as though KKKracKKKers always have something SALTY to say.

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