Our concerns over whether or not Comedy Central would be able to replace The Colbert Report have seemingly been put to rest. While waiting until September for Colbert to make his Late Show debut will be tough, after the first week of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore we can all feel much more comfortable that the 11:30 slot on Comedy Central is in good hands.
It’s quite the challenge for a new show — especially one under such immense pressure — to find a voice right away, but the first four episodes of The Nightly Show had countless moments that made it clear Wilmore knows what he’s doing. First off, there’s the ingenious “Keep It 100” segment, in which panelists are given a difficult question and have to keep their answers 100 percent real. This feels like it will become the show’s calling card, at least in the early stages. In the pilot, Wilmore asked Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey if he wants to be President. When he said no, Wilmore gave him some “weak tea,” which is the punishment for anyone whose answer is deemed dishonest by Larry or the crowd.
No one was more honest than Bill Burr, though. When Wilmore asked if Burr — who is married to a black woman — would prefer to have a white child or a black child, he answered “white” without hesitation. This was easily the most “real” answer of the week, and Burr earned a strong round of applause.
The “Keep It 100” segment works partially because of the discomfort of the questions, but also to see where that discomfort leads. As a comic who has already ruffled feathers, Burr didn’t have much on the line. But when former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett was asked if he knows anything about the President that would damage the President’s reputation, he hesitated and stuttered before finally saying no. Wilmore admitted that he might be telling the truth, but gave him the weak tea nonetheless.
Journalist David Remnick had no problem admitting there were moments he thought Obama was an a**hole, while conservative news anchor Amy Holmes of The Blaze stated without hesitation that if he she had attended the State Of The Union, she would not have applauded the President. Everyone’s comfort zone is effected differently, and the segment should be fascinating going forward.
“Keep It 100” isn’t the only place where The Nightly Show shined in its first week. Wilmore’s own commentaries have been hilarious and insightful throughout, particularly his sharp take on the ongoing Bil Cosby scandal.
In the above clip, Wilmore takes down several of the arguments made by Cosby apologists, noting how ridiculous it is to care if the number of accusers is 34 or 35. Then, he asks “let’s consider for a second if Cosby didn’t do it,” before putting one second on the clock. “Okay, we’re done.”
Later in that same episode, when panelist Keith Robinson argued Cosby is innocent until proven guilty, Wilmore dismissed the claim, astutely pointing out that this doesn’t mean we can’t convict him in the court of public opinion, nor does it mean we can’t rely on common sense. He made no secret of his stance, stating quite simply that Cosby “did that s***.” It was one of the best takedowns since the scandal broke.
None of this is to say the show is perfect. There were moments of nervousness during the first episode, and right now, the four-person panel (five if you count Wilmore) feels crowded. In a 22-minute show, where everyone is pressed for time, having so many panelists means not everyone will be able to articulate their arguments in the strongest fashion. In the future, Wilmore would probably be wise to drop down the number by one.
Still, these are minor gripes. In just four episodes, The Nightly Show has not only justified its existence, but established itself as something everyone should be paying attention to. This show has the potential — as it continues to work out the kinks and find an audience — to become a driving force in how America thinks about uncomfortable subjects like race relations and feminism.