Larry Wilmore rises to the top

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Larry Wilmore Prepares for His ‘Nightly Show’.

When you walk onto the set of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, which debuts tonight, you can tell that it’s the same space The Colbert Report occupied just weeks ago.These aren’t the words you might expect to hear from the host of new late-night comedy show to describe his television program just days before the premier.”It’s kind of a hybrid, if you will, of ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Politically Incorrect,'” Wilmore said in this story. “The first part of the show is the scripted part where I’m weighing in, giving my take on the events or event of the day that we’re going to be talking about.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.

Where Colbert’s desk sat, there’s a Meet the Press-style table with five seats, instead of Stephen Colbert’s one-person desk, but that’s about the only major change (even though the set was built from the ground up, as seen in the time-lapse video below). Monday on Comedy Central — the old “Colbert Report” timeslot — Wilmore tells a group of reporters, “If ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Politically Incorrect’ had a kid, it would be this show.” On one side, a desk with several chairs invites panel discussion across from a green screen. 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 the other, there are shelves decorated with old clocks, cameras and typewriters opposite a wall of clocks with jokey time zones such as Pasadena, Obama’s Birth Place and Pompeii among others.

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. The Supreme Court of Canada hears an appeal in a discrimination case between the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal and Bombardier over a decision to deny training to a Canadian pilot of Pakistani origin blacklisted by the U.S. government. In fact, when I asked the show’s executive producer, Rory Albanese, whom I’ve known for years, if he would be comfortable if I wrote an article titled “the show that doesn’t care about laughs,” I thought he was going to hit me. Wilmore, who was just about to begin test shows when he spoke with reporters last week at the Television Critics Assocation winter press tour, was planning to break “Nightly” into several segments. 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.

While Colbert featured a self-aggrandizing caricature basking in his own cluelessness, Nightly ditches the fake TV pundits for real debates among real people. “We’re just keeping it a hundred,” host Larry Wilmore says. “That’s ‘keeping it one hundred percent real,’ for people who don’t know. Rory didn’t know what it meant for months.” “I’m like, ‘Great idea, Larry!’” says Wilmore’s co-creator Rory Albanese, air-Googling into an imaginary keyboard. It’ll go wherever it goes.” Late night: Jay Baruchel guests on “Conan” (10 p.m., TBS), Anthony Mackie guests on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (10:35 p.m., WDSU), Bad Suns perform on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (10:35 p.m., WGNO). I think we may cover the State of the Union address.” He also said he would address the controversial all-white acting nominees at this year’s Oscars — but that he would coyly save his salvos for a later date.

Quite simply, he is someone worth watching, which is why Stewart created “Nightly” for him, under the auspices of his Busboy Productions, after Colbert left to take over David Letterman’s late-night show on CBS. Wilmore knows he does not have the luxury to experiment behind closed doors, and he will be figuring out on his feet what works in front of an audience over the next several weeks. “I’m not doing a show where I’m setting up comics to do jokes,” Mr. When Jon Stewart first pitched the idea (a show originally titled The Minority Report, a title ultimately scrapped to avoid confusion with the movie of the same name), he wanted a vehicle to showcase voices that aren’t normally showcased. Wilmore’s mild-mannered demeanor and dimple belie a trenchant wit. “Larry is the guy you want to bring out to dinner with you,” says Kenya Barris, who worked with Wilmore on the ABC sitcom “black-ish.” “You sit and have a conversation, and it’s the best conversation.

Wilmore says he is fond of voices who “might be too dangerous for a network sitcom.” The show’s first panel will be about protest as an idea — with guests including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, rapper Talib Kweli and comedian Bill Burr. Wilmore said the booking of guests will be a fluid process that may go “up to the last second.” Even so, Albanese added that John Leguizamo will be coming, as well as President Obama’s speechwriter Jon Lovett, Soledad O’Brien, New York magazine writer Frank Rich and New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick. “To me, provocative means be entertaining,” Wilmore says. “And provocation comes out of authenticity about something we’re really interested in and we really care about. I’m expecting really good things.” That Wilmore is also black — not the first to host a late-night show, but the only one currently — is a change of pace in a landscape historically dominated by white men. 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.

Day, much of early episodes’ discussion will likely focus on the racial issues that consumed the United States in 2014. “[King] is the patron saint of the nonviolent protest,” Wilmore says. “Protests, in particular, will I think be our first topic.” But it’s not all doom and gloom; Wilmore insists he’s looking to create a mood that straddles “provocative” and “light.” “This is my barber shop,” he says. “No matter how heated it gets, we’re all in the barber shop—we’re having fun. The Los Angeles native is the Emmy-winning creator of “The Bernie Mac Show,” co-creator of the critically acclaimed animated series “The PJs,” and served as a writer on “In Living Color,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “The Office,” on which he also appeared. Interestingly, Wilmore told us before we started the discussion: “No jokes from your act, keep it a real conversation and the humor will flow organically from that.” Well, Wilmore was right.

We did have a provocative conversation about issues from police brutality to anti-Muslim bigotry to Bill Cosby that was both very real and often very funny. But on another, he is a black guy hosting a late-night talk show, and there is baggage that comes with that, particularly from the minority community. And in 2008, the Comedy Central audience did not take to David Allen Grier’s “The Chocolate News” – a look at the news in a comedic way from the black point of view. 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.

Albanese described Wilmore as “comedy Jedi.” Now, if I had not spent time on a test panel with Wilmore hosting, I could dismiss that claim as a producer puffery. 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.

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