When “The Colbert Report” left the air in December, it left behind a big half-hour timeslot to fill. Colbert’s unique blend of satire and politics was able to transcend its “Daily Show” origins to become its own beast. The show had a fervent fan base and left the air as fresh as ever. Naturally, this led to doubts about whether the replacement act would even come close to hitting as strong as Colbert did.
In May of 2014, Comedy Central announced Larry Wilmore would take over the timeslot upon Colbert’s departure. Like Colbert, Wilmore was groomed in political comedy on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where he served as the show’s Senior Black Correspondent from 2006 to 2014. Regardless of his experience, there were still skeptics who wondered if Wilmore could breathe his own life into a political late night comedy show. Those doubts were laid to rest on Jan. 19 when “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” debuted at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
“The Nightly Show” finds its strengths in synthesizing a program that borrows from the best aspects of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” while also adding its own spin on the formula. Similar to Stewart’s and Colbert’s shows, Wilmore begins his by sitting at a desk and speaking directly to the camera about the absurdity of the news that day. But unlike Stewart and Colbert, Wilmore’s show chooses to focus on one specific news topic and poke fun at, interpret and dissect it. So far, the topics discussed on the show are boldly controversial and fully embrace that quality. Some that were already discussed include Ferguson protests, gay marriage, the allegations against Bill Cosby and issues within the NFL.
“The Nightly Show” thrives on tackling legitimate issues while also poking fun at them. The show’s entire second half is devoted to discussing the news in a panel discussion with Wilmore acting as the moderator. Wilmore always makes his stance abundantly clear and challenges the always-rotating four-person panel with simultaneously hard-hitting and humorous questions. So far the panel has consisted of a variety of comedians, politicians, journalists, authors and more each representing varied political, racial and social views.
The final segment of the night, and often the most entertaining, is “Keep It 100,” which Wilmore describes as, “the black version of Truth or Dare except here we don’t have the dare.”
In this segment, Wilmore poses a question to each member of the panel. Sometimes the question is absurd, but other times they are very personal or controversial. Wilmore challenges the panelist to be 100 percent honest in answering. He then decides if they “kept it real” and awards them with a “I Kept It 100” sticker or a “weak tea” tea bag if they did not.
“The Nightly Show” is an impressive feat. The show manages to meaningfully examine news topics and actually delve into the real issues while simultaneously finding the humor in them. The debates in the show are just as lively as the laughs, and this is entirely due to Wilmore knowing exactly when to go in and when to pull back and be serious. This perfect balancing act is what keeps the show’s formula feeling fresh every episode. It’s an exciting show so far, and one to keep an eye on.