After Stephen Colbert announced he was leavingThe Colbert Report to take over Late Night at CBS this past spring, there was only a momentary vacancy at Comedy Central – within days, Jon Stewart had named Larry Wilmore, the Daily Show’s “Senior Black Correspondent” as his replacement. Wilmore announced that the show would be called “The Minority Report” and feature a lively discussion of the issues of the day, from comedians to politicians to journalists to even those on the front lines of protest and dissent. But in the intervening months since its announcement and its initial airing this evening, not only has the show’s named changed, but the world around it. After a series of killings of unarmed black people ignited a new nationwide movement that touted police reform as a civil right, the environment that The Nightly Show premieres in is especially charged.
“Our motto for this show is that we want to keep it 100 at all times,” Wilmore told a group of reporters this past Friday while on a tour of The Nightly Show set. “That means just keeping it 100% real.”
For a show hosted by a black man with a black female head writer, and featuring more minorities in a writing room than almost any other late night show ever aired, The Nightly Show enters the scene at a moment where it stands to provide the kind of incisive, pressing, and somehow funny commentary. The kind of commentary that a generation has come to expect from their news websites, their Facebook feed, and, of course, The Daily Show. Wilmore described the show as a cross between The Daily Show and Politically Incorrect, where Wilmore will open the show with a monologue and then follow that with two segments that feature a moderated panel discussing a chosen issue. Those panelists include a rotating group of comedians, as well as what the producers have promised to be a diverse group of voices, including some less-polished people from the front lines of a movement or event.
“Our concept going in was not that we want to glamor-book first – we wanted to figure out what we wanted to talk about first, and then figure out who we want to talk about it, “ Wilmore explained. “We want it to be provocative and light at the same time. In my mind, this is the barbershop right here. We’re all in the barbershop, having a good time, no matter how heated it gets. Nobody’s ever threatened in the barbershop, but your point of view is going to get challenged. We’re going to call you on your shit.”
What exactly the "real"-ness that the creators of the show are touting is unclear, but the premiere will probably help sort things out. Whether it's the real-ness of having a staff representative of a changing America, or one that is committed to honesty or something that happens at the intersection will most likely be settled as the show goes through its growing pains -- it has only had four test shows before tonight's premiere. The guests tonight include Senator Cory Booker, rapper TalibKweli, and comedian Bill Burr, and will also have contributions from the show’s resident comedians (veteran comics like Ricky Yard, and up-and-coming talents like Ricky Velez and Shenaz Treasury).
“These are voices that are not on the network’s radar yet, but they're respected. They may be a little dangerous, and they're not really made for a sitcom. That’s who we really want to talk with,” Wilmore said.
Executive producer Rory Albanese, who helmed The Daily Show for a number of years, told Maxim that “It’s really important for us to do a show where you get to hear from someone involved in an issue rather than somebody representing the people involved.” But that doesn’t mean the program is fore-grounding either comedy or commentary. “The laugh component of the show will be there, of course. The goal of the monologue is to set up the issue, and the rest of the show is to discuss it. But we want to keep it fun, and there will be real moments of spontaneity where things really don’t go as planned.”
Showrunner Robin Thede elaborated on the idea that The Nightly Show will try to be different than the standard late night show. “We want a real point of view instead of a really great Hillary Clinton joke.”
Where The Colbert Report reflected our twisted obsession with political spin by brilliantly delving even deeper into the muck, The Nightly Show appears poised to try to hit us with a realness rarely found on the same dial as Fox News, MSNBC, and even, to an arguable degree, The Daily Show. And it would like to make us laugh.
“We’re not doing a different version of an already existing show. We’re doing something new,” Wilmore said on the set, which prominently features a globe with the global south pointing up. “All you can do is do your show, make it a good show, and just hope everybody shows up.”
Photos by Peter Yang / Comedy Central