Larry Wilmore gets Nightly
The 11:30pm slot on weekdays for Comedy Central was hallowed ground for 10 seasons, but Larry Wilmore has taken over that slot with his new entrant in the late night line up: The Nightly Show.
Debuting this past Monday, January 19th, the show airs directly following Jon Stewart‘s well lauded The Daily Show, a four night a week satirical news commentary show that Stewart and his company Busboy Productions have been putting on with great success (set to the tune of 18 Emmy awards). Busboy also produced The Colbert Report which launched Stephen Colbert into super-stardom, helping him to land in the host seat of The Late Show after David Letterman’s departure later this year. Now Wilmore and The Nightly Show crew have big boots to fill with Colbert’s absence…so how well do they do?
The answer is pretty damn good. The format of The Nightly Show isn’t the one-on-one interviews of Stewart and Colbert’s show. Opening with a short monologue on the show’s subject matter Wilmore sets the scene for a later discussion he curates with his guests. The four guests sit around a table with Wilmore at the helm and he facilitates a roundtable talk. The show promises to tackle topics typically danced around or left out of long form discussion on cable news and chat shows.
Wilmore’s got the comedic chops to open the show with a pretty strong monologue and despite a bit of rust with his flow he’s got charisma and a quick wit that, by episode two, finally got into gear. He’s got years of experience writing, creating, and producing TV shows, but this is his first major hosting/acting gig so far. For The Daily Show, he was usually relegated to doing scripted correspondent pieces so his improvisational and conversational style wasn’t really on display, but The Nightly Show lets him run loose. After the monologue covering the daily topic he changes gears a little bit and becomes more of a moderator for the following discussion. Having four panelists including a host is a full table for only about 18 actual minutes of discussion, but the guests they’ve booked (Cory Booker, Godfrey, Bill Burr, Jamilah Lemiuex, Baratunde Thurston…) have been a mix of political, intellectual, and social thinkers who’ve been able to have differing opinions without seeming like they were arguing. Amidst it all Wilmore keeps the conversations rolling and cuts to commercial, but he throws his hat into the ring just as often.
The show ends with a two part segment called “Keep it 100”, where Larry tasks his guests with answering a tough “truth or truth” style question as honestly as possible. Bill Burr, who is white and who’s wife is black, was asked if he had to pick the race of his child…what would it be? Kathleen Madigan was asked if she’d ever lied to get a man in trouble. If Larry and the audience deem the answer to be honest and from the heart, they get a sticker. If not, they get a literal and symbolic bag of weak tea. This segment feels like the more hip and trendy side of the show, with catch phrases and props for effect, but once challenged the guests answers tend towards the interesting, even if one or two say the “obvious” decision.
All said and done, we’re not even a full week into Wilmore’s new tenure on late night TV, but The Nightly Show isn’t showing signs of balking. Every episode feels a little tighter, and with some new segments or possibly even trimming down the guests a bit the show could make the 11:30pm EST time slot a proper home.
[images from The Nightly Show broadcast, owned by Comedy Central all rights reserved]