Stephen Colbert is officially out and Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s newest faux-news desk slot The Nightly Show proved he’s all the way in, with a debut focused solely on race conversations in America.
The show, which debuted on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (how apropos), didn’t shy away from racially charged subject matter — an angle we expected Wilmore — formerly the Daily Show’s “Chief Black Correspondent” — would execute to the fullest.
He didn’t disappoint.
“The police in Florida are literally using pictures of young black men as targets. Now how can we see that and be surprised when it happens in real life?” Wilmore said. “I’m not surprised when Kobe hits a jumper. That dude practices.”
Well played. Sadly.
There was what Wilmore called “the state of the black protest” — a dually humorous but questionable look at the national eruption of demonstrations calling for the end to police brutality and state violence.
“There was the Ferguson protest… the Garner protest… the NYPD protest on the handling of that protest. Then there was like a black brunch protest,” Wilmore said. “Yesterday in Oakland people were protesting police violence. And even as I speak tonight there’s a demonstration going on in Grand Central Station because there’s no better way to win the hearts and minds of white people than making them miss the train to Connecticut.”
“It’s not that these protests are less-focused. It’s just that the goals are less tangible. In the old days, it was about being able to sit at a lunch counter or going to the same schools or even voting,” Wilmore said. “Today we’re just trying to not get shot on our way to work.”
And then there was his Real Time with Bill Maher-style panel, which allowed Wilmore to shoot controversial yet comical questions onto a table for guests Talib Kweli, comedian Bill Burr, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and The Nightly Show writer Shenaz Treasury to answer in all truthfulness. There’s a delicate balance when using race in comedy to avoid trivializing it, but Wilmore’s “Keep It 100” question and answer segment may be the answer to those pesky racial questions America wants answers to.
Like if Burr, Wilmore’s token white guy who married a black woman, could pick the race of his child. He unapologetically responded “white” — not after hearing those statistics (about black crime and death) he added.
For Kweli, there was a question about black images and hip-hop being a part of the problem (or solution). Kweli paused, but delivered a nicely packaged answer about Chief Keef’s music not being the problem when violence preexisted in Chicago.
We must also commend Kweli for putting this argument about “All lives matter” to rest with this tidbit:
“In activist movements you have what’s called solidarity, and you realize what we are fighting for, so you don’t go to a rally to beat cancer and say well you know, all diseases matter.”
Wilmore ended by thanking his friend Colbert with a “tip of the hat and wag of the finger” for “making 11:30 special.” And it’s a slot we’re happy Wilmore occupies — that is, if he continues to add to the national conversation about race in America.
Responsibly and comically. Click here to watch the entire first episode.