Larry Wilmore has been keeping pretty busy since The Nightly Show aired its final episode on Comedy Central last summer, between helping co-create HBO’s Insecure with Issa Rae and serving as the executive producer on the ABC sitcom Black-ish, but the comedian announced Tuesday that he’s adding another project to his schedule: a podcast with the Ringer, Bill Simmons’s digital-media venture out of Los Angeles.
Wilmore’s new show will be called Black on the Air, and the first episode is slated to drop this Thursday. In a press release, Bill Simmons said: “Larry is one of a kind — not just one of the best thinkers and fearless voices we have, but someone who can talk to anyone about anything … I think it makes perfect sense for Larry to become the 22,354,919th human being with a podcast.”
Indeed, Wilmore’s first guest will be Norman Lear, the legendary television producer behind a string of classic 1970s sitcoms like All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Lear himself just launched his own podcast earlier this month, an interview show called All of the Above (by Simmons’s accounting, Lear would be somewhere between the 22,354,900th and 22,354,918th human being with a podcast). Wilmore’s future guests reportedly include Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, both of whom also have their own podcasts. (The Bernie Sanders Show and StarTalk Radio, respectively.)
It’s worth noting that the news of Wilmore’s podcast comes not long after he appeared as a guest on the March 22 edition of The Bill Simmons Podcast, where the two engaged in a wide-ranging discussion that covered the NBA, politics, and Wilmore’s own career. And it’s further worth noting that Wilmore’s swift transition from the guest chair to his own Ringer show is somewhat reminiscent of the arc that ultimately led to the creation of Crooked Media. Former Obama staffers Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer were guests on Simmons’s podcast last March before going on to pilot their own show on the Ringer’s podcast network a week later, which eventually evolved into Keepin’ It 1600, the show that ultimately gave rise to their progressive Crooked Media venture.
That vague similarity probably doesn’t say very much about how Wilmore’s podcast will play out, but it is something of a testament to the unique strength of the platform that Simmons has built over at the Ringer since its inception in the wake of Grantland, Simmons’s previous media venture that was cultivated under ESPN. While the Ringer has broadly been appraised as not having quite lived up to the potential established by Grantland, the company’s podcast network has nonetheless proven to be incredibly vibrant and groundbreaking in its own right. In February, Simmons told Recode that the company is doing all right financially, driven in large part by the revenue generated by its podcast network, which continues to churn out a steady stream of new shows. Before Black on the Air was announced, the network had just rolled out a new gambling podcast Against All Odds, in addition to its core content like the flagship Bill Simmons podcast, the pop-culture podcast The Watch, and its various sports-specific podcasts.