I enjoy satire. This art-form, perhaps more than any other, holds a mirror up to society and says, “We are really screwed up.” I’ve been privileged in my lifetime to enjoy some of the best TV satire which has ever been produced. I grew up on The Muppet Show, came of age with The Simpsons, and have kept my sardonic edge with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Satire is, perhaps, my native tongue. This is what has made the absence of The Colbert Report feel so strange, there was a satirical gap in my psyche.
Larry Wilmore has come to the rescue.
I was interested in what Wilmore would bring to the 11:30 time-slot vacated by Colbert, but an article I read Monday morning made certain I put this show in my Hulu queue. The Nightly Show was going to be a departure from what I’d previously seen from this TV veteran.
On The Daily Show Wilmore played the character “Senior Black Correspondent,” a witty, provocative, and funny faux-pundit. This character, however, was being dropped once he stepped into 11:30 – Wilmore intended to portray satire on The Nightly Show as straight-up Larry Wilmore. I was intrigued at how it would work out. It’s not that playing satire as the straight-man isn’t possible. John Stewart plays this angle up beautifully on The Daily Show every episode, but he does so while surrounded by eccentric characters 1. I wasn’t certain what format Wilmore would use to pull it off. He succeeded brilliantly.
The opening monolog was as as close to Senior Black Correspondent as the show gets. In it Wilmore tackled a wide-range of race related topics with the same provocative wit as he did on The Daily Show. It still wasn’t the character as played on Wilmore’s previous late-night gig. Rather, it revealed some of the bits of his own personality which made up the Senior Black Correspondent character. While it doesn’t have the “epic rant” quality of fellow The Daily Show alumn, John Oliver, it’s TV well worth watching.
The Nightly Show then moved to a semi-free-for-all discussion moderated by Wilmore 2, who handled his guests well. Topics were open, but Wilmore was helped by some strong partners his first time out. The most entertaining moment was Senator Cory Booker being labeled “weak tea” in response to the question, “Do you want to be president?” I don’t laugh out loud much in the early morning, but this earned a good laugh.
Finally, Wilmore has opened himself up to being surprised by his audience. Questions can be tweeted to The Nightly Show each day, and one question will be posed to the host each episode. The first question, posed by his staff, was, “What was the last racist thought you had?” Seeing Wilmore wince as he read it added to the the tone of the presentation, I’m looking forward to what pops up in the future.
Just one show in, The Nightly Show has shown that it can be a worthy addition to the satirical landscape.