10 things to know about Larry Wilmore before his ‘Nightly Show’ debut

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Nightly Show’ host Larry Wilmore: ‘I couldn’t have started the show at a better worse time’.

Soon, Larry Wilmore will be famous-famous. The comedian and seasoned television producer makes his hosting debut Monday on Comedy Central with “The Nightly Show,” taking over Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report time slot.Seated at the head of the oblong table where he will preside over his new Comedy Central series, “The Nightly Show,” Larry Wilmore was moderating a vigorous, sometimes sincere, sometimes acerbic panel discussion about the attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Right now, he’s what he calls “cable famous”: Many people already know him as the “senior black correspondent” from The Daily Show, and hardcore fans know his work as a TV writer (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, In Living Color), showrunner (Black-ish, The Bernie Mac Show), and actor (How I Met Your Mother, The Office).

Sally Kohn, who contributes to CNN and The Daily Beast, said that society reacted differently to mass shootings depending on who had committed them. “When white people commit crime in the United States,” she said, “nobody says, ‘Gosh, what’s wrong with white people?’ ” This debate, held last Tuesday night on a newly constructed set at a Midtown Manhattan studio, was a dry run not meant for broadcast. On Jan. 15, two Mormon dissidents, John Dehlin and April Young Bennett, both members of a critical minority that challenges the church’s positions on issues like women’s ordination or LGBT marriage, announced that they had come under the threat of church discipline. While Wilmore is a veteran of comedy and television — he cut his teeth as a writer, and later producer, for several popular ’90s comedies that focused on black families — he has only held small roles in front of the camera and avoided too much of the spotlight.

It was seen by an audience of Comedy Central executives and “Nightly Show” writers and producers, including Jon Stewart, anchor of “The Daily Show,” who sat in the front row. It’s very… appropriate.”) But the whole thing makes him a little nervous. “I’m approaching that area where it’s like, ‘Yeah, I know that guy. I’d rather be scared by something somebody says.” Other panelists scheduled this month are actors John Leguizamo and Jon Lovett, newswoman Soledad O’Brien, New Yorker editor David Remnick, and writers Frank Rich and Ilyasah Shabazz (Malcolm X’s daughter). So get to know your new favorite late-night personality with these 10 facts, and catch the first episode at 11:30 p.m., featuring Senator Cory Booker, rapper Talib Kweli and comedian Bill Burr as guests. These viewers will be watching for how this show distinguishes itself from its highly regarded predecessor, “The Colbert Report,” whose singularly arch M.C., Stephen Colbert, will succeed David Letterman at CBS in September.

Within the world of Mormon progressives, this week’s news seems like a confirmation of the worst fears they entertained last June: that the church is actively purging its membership of dissenters. At 53, he’s got a resume and maturity that a 28-year-old joke slinger can’t match, and he’s planning a show that’s not afraid to mix the serious with the silly. “Better to have an authentic, interesting conversation and have the show be a little quieter than just setting up jokes that at the end of the day nobody cares about,” he said. “That, I’m not interested in. Wilmore said in an interview earlier that day. “What’s driving this is, we’re finding things out, we’re making discoveries.” Having known since May that Mr. But that they have a public presence at all is notable, he says, given the insularity and conservatism of Mormon culture. “A lot of Mormons will just internalize it and suffer in silence,” Dehlin says. Dehlin began his podcast after his own growing doubts about LDS theology and history—its claims about Joseph Smith’s revelations as well as historical facts about polygamy and church history on race—led him to question his faith, and he fell into a deep depression.

Wilmore said he wanted his show to look at “events in the world from the perspective of the underdog,” while being “provocative and absurd, all those things rolled into one.” This blueprint has yielded a show that at its outset will have one segment of Mr. That’s another reason I think Jon felt comfortable saying, you know, Larry’s got this.” Originally called “The Minority Report,” the program was designed to showcase underdogs, not simply racial minorities. In time he became a vocal advocate to modernize the church in other ways, giving a TEDx talk supporting same-sex marriage, researching the experiences of LGBT Mormons, and supporting Ordain Women. In 2011, Dehlin, who is also finishing a PhD in psychology, conducted a 3,000-person survey to understand the reasons why Mormons are leaving the church—often, he says, because of intellectual or social justice concerns—and says his website has attracted tens of thousands of followers. Wilmore hopes he and the viewers learn something. “I don’t always feel like I have to have a strong opinion about something,” he said. “Sometimes I’m agnostic about an issue and my whole thing is to try and get more information.

In 1993, the church excommunicated a number of critical intellectuals who became known as the “September Six.” However, the hierarchy’s monopoly on church image began to change with the advent of the Internet, as progressive Mormons were able to connect with one another in unprecedented ways. It led to a “decentralization of perspectives about the church, and far broader public engagement among the laity about difficult aspects of Mormon life,” said Brooks. I call myself a passionate centrist, which means half the time I disagree with myself.” “We’ll change on the air, as well,” he said. “A show like this has to adapt on the air. Many progressive Mormons have “been waiting to see how the church would respond and when.” Last June, when Kate Kelly and Dehlin were informed in the same week that they were called to disciplinary hearings, the answer seemed to come. I’m being facetious, because I know there are a lot of people of color who like those kinds of things, but my other joke about black people is that we don’t have time for irony.

Dehlin says he’s heard from hundreds of people in the past year who were questioned or disciplined by local leaders about their perceived unorthodoxy. Wilmore and his staff brainstormed possible routines for the new show’s contributors: one for Shenaz Treasury, a reporter and Bollywood actress, about the sexual harassment she experienced online; another for Mike Yard, a stand-up comedian, who would explain that he had gone so far off the electronic grid that he was performing only for Amish audiences. But Kate Kelly’s excommunication in June seemed a step too far. “It felt violent,” says Edmunds. “It can’t be overstated.” In the face of public scrutiny, the LDS hierarchy seemed to back down slightly, not pursuing official discipline of Dehlin for months. Wilmore said it was exciting enough that a channel was giving this opportunity to someone who might otherwise be invisible — if not for his race, then for his age. Attempting to stifle dissent by silencing visible critics, she says, only creates “a hydra.” “There’s still this mindset that [critics] can be corralled and the membership can be ‘uncontaminated’ somehow.

And I think that’s been proven over and over again to not work.” Instead, she’s seeing people who had never before considered critics’ arguments say that the church’s response is making them pay attention. Indeed, as one follower wrote on Dehlin’s website last June, “I don’t know if you’re a 21st Century Martin Luther or a heretic, but I do listen to your podcasts religiously.” In her resignation letter, Edmunds noted, Bennett wrote that she had ultimately chosen to resign so she could attend her brother’s wedding, concluding that, “while others may take my place as an author or an advocate, no one can replace me in my role as my brother’s sister.” To many Mormon feminists, Edmunds said, that line has felt like a call to action. “We said OK, April said there will be other voices.

I’m a fan of back porches!” I think there’s a big hole in late-night commentary that hasn’t been filled in a long time, and people want someone good to do it. Politically, you call yourself a “passionate centrist.” Is comedy easier for centrists, because you have more options–you can skew right or left–instead of just approaching every joke from one party’s platform all the time? You’ve mentioned in other interviews that when you were growing up, the most prominent role for black comedians was “the fast-talking ex-con.” At the time, stand-up comedy was a little bit more raw, focused on sex and drugs. Wilmore, you’re going to have to cut your hair.” And I’d say, “Well, Father, technically, the rules say it can’t go down over your ears.” [Laughs] No, I didn’t think of it that way. And so he gave this speech and he walked out of the gym and I did this impression of him: [Wilmore takes on an Irish accent] “May I have your attention please?

My teacher said, “Larry, you should audition for that.” It was a show we wrote through improvisation with messages about drugs and stuff, and we toured it around to schools. So the kid comes over, looking for grape soda, and it’s like, “Oh, you would assume we had grape soda?” And the kid’s like, “Found it!” [Laughs] That’s very funny to me. She’s black!” Back in her day, people would pass as white, so from her point of view, it’s like, “She’s black!” But for me, it’s like, nobody’s hiding the fact that they’re black.

There was one episode that Kenya wrote called “The Nod.” [Editor’s note: In the episode, “the nod” is half-jokingly described as “the internationally accepted yet unspoken sign of acknowledgement of black folks around the world.”] Some people just don’t know what that is, so you have to explain what that means.

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