The last few years have proven that late night television can be an unpredictable, sometimes unforgiving genre, but Larry Wilmore doesn’t seem troubled about jumping into the pool of cable hosts. At a preview this morning for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Comedy Central’s newest host had the same professorial tone as his appearances as the Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show, describing the show as a “showcase for voices” and a chance to have a dialogue. “We’ll weigh in on what’s going on and then we get to mix it around a little bit and have some fun,” he said.
There are plenty of auspicious signs for the new show. It’s housed in the Hell’s Kitchen studio that was once home to The Daily Show and later The Colbert Report, and it’s sandwiched comfortably on the schedule between Stewart’s flagship political show and youth-oriented breakout hit @midnight. The show’s set, assembled in the month since Colbert’s was dismantled, has a clean and modern, almost MSNBC-esque feel, including six backward clocks keeping time in locations including “Pompeii” and “East St. Louis.” And it’s produced by former Daily Show producer Rory Albanese and former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon producer Amy Ozols, and led by head writer Robin Thede, whose writing experience includes The Queen Latifah Show and Real Husbands of Hollywood. Like its predecessor in that 11:30 spot, it’s also executive produced by Jon Stewart.
The half hour show will begin with a desk monologue, in the style of The Daily Show’s opening headlines segment, and then transition to a round-table discussion. As well as the three announced contributors – Shenaz Treasury, Ricky Velez, and Mike Yard – the producers emphasized their desire to mix comedians and politicians with “real people,” such as ground-level participants in a movement or strike. Monday’s show will feature Bill Burr, New Jersey senator Cory Booker, and rapper Talib Kweli, and Wilmore said that in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first show would focus primarily on protests and, he added with a chuckle, “this incredible year that we’ve had in race.”
The show also has a built in set of talent in their writers’ room, some of whom we can expect to see on camera at times. Wilmore talked excitedly about bringing in young or overlooked voices from all arenas, including standup Jordan Carlos, former Gawker writer Cord Jefferson, and popular tweeter Tim Siedell. “It’s a ragtag band of misfits in the best possible way,” said Ozols.
Besides describing the show as the child of The Daily Show and Politically Incorrect, Wilmore and the producers avoided comparisons to other politically minded late night shows, including HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which was a breakout hit last year with its in-depth, magazine-style pieces infused with righteous anger, and the late great Totally Biased with Kamau Bell, FX/FXX’s short-lived, unabashedly lefty show that also gave young comics a chance to dive into political comedy.
“When you’re building a show around a piece of talent,” said Ozols, “the only thing that works is to figure out what makes that particular person tick and then build out from that. That’s what we did at Fallon, because Jimmy was not in the same mold as every other late night host who had come before him, and with Larry, it’s very similar.”
The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore makes its Comedy Central debut Monday night at 11:30pm.