Simultaneously one of the most sought-after and feared gigs in the world of comedy, hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner demands an elegant balancing act. The jokester delivering the monologue must roast the President and other major political players without crossing any lines, but at the same time, the routine has to have an edge to it. It requires a host to read the room, be quick on his or her feet, and negotiate challenges to authority without alienating the most powerful man on the planet. Stephen Colbert drew walkouts when he tore into the Bush administration, and an aide said that the former president had “that look that he’s ready to blow.” It’s not a job to be taken lightly.
This year, that job will be taken un-lightly by Larry Wilmore, writer of hundreds of episodes’ worth of comedy, host of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and longtime Daily Show correspondent. He’s expected to lampoon the racial issues festering in America in 2016, and in a conversation with CBS News previewing his routine for Saturday’s proceedings, he confirmed as much. He’s definitely feeling the pressure about the high-profile gig — “Oh, it absolutely is a scary night. Not can be, it definitely WILL be a scary night. Because no matter how you slice it, the president is sitting right next to you” — but teased his intentions to pull no punches on the homogeneous crop of candidates in the present election. (The phrase “The unblackening of the White House” is uttered.)
Wilmore outlined his philosophy of top dogs and underdogs as a unifying metaphor for the myriad injustices of organized society, and then took aim at such top dogs as Bono (his mockery of recent comments about sending comedians to deal with ISIS is choice) and self-appointed cultural gatekeepers denouncing Obama’s administration. Wilmore’s routine on Saturday will be sure to make headlines, and even if it earns him a few walkouts of his own, that may just be an indicator he’s doing something right.