Larry Wilmore Knows: Heavy Lies The Late-Night Mantle Larry Wilmore talks to NPR TV critic Eric Deggans about the pressure of moving from his job as the "senior black correspondent" on The Daily Show to his spot as host of the new show Minority Report.
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Larry Wilmore Knows: Heavy Lies The Late-Night Mantle

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Larry Wilmore Knows: Heavy Lies The Late-Night Mantle

Larry Wilmore Knows: Heavy Lies The Late-Night Mantle

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Next year, Larry Wilmore will tackle what NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says is the second toughest job in television. Wilmore is the guy replacing Stephen Colbert in the timeslot right after "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. By the way, the toughest job - Colbert's. He'll be filling David Letterman's shoes at CBS, but back to Wilmore. Eric Deggans says the pressure is on.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Larry Wilmore has one teeny, tiny concern about replacing Stephen Colbert. He might screw it up pretty badly, and then they never let another black guy host another late-night TV talk show.

LARRY WILMORE: We ain't going to let any other brothers do it now. We gave him a chance. That's the pressure, right there.

DEGGANS: Now, I know he's joking because Larry Wilmore has already succeeded in just about every other job in television comedy.


UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: Once upon a time in the projects...

DEGGANS: He developed an animated series with Eddie Murphy about a superintendent working in a housing project called the PJs. On NBC's "The Office," he played a diversity consultant while he was working as a consulting producer on the show.


WILMORE: (As Mr. Brown) Instead, we need to celebrate our diversity. OK...

STEVE CARELL: (As Michael Scott) Celebrate good times, come on.

DEGGANS: And he's won over "Daily Show" audiences as the senior black correspondent.


WILMORE: Shop and frisk is what the media calls it, Jon. Brothers just call it shopping.


WILMORE: You know, and by the way, make up your mind, America. You can't tell brothers to pull up our pants then arrest us when we try to buy a belt.

DEGGANS: Wilmore's new show, "The Minority Report," will give him a half-hour to carve up diversity related controversies with his signature mix of snark and punchlines. The concept and the notion that Wilmore should host it came from the king of late-night info-comedy, "Daily Show" mastermind, Jon Stewart.

WILMORE: I'd say Jon is the combination of, like, Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite and, for me, I would add Jesus, you know. (Laughing) If Jon blesses you - that's why I say Jesus, you know - then the audience says, oh, OK.

DEGGANS: Wilmore commits a kind of comedy jujitsu when he makes fun of our hang-ups about race. People of color can see themselves in the jokes, and white folks can laugh without feeling racist.

WILMORE: When I'm working on "The Daily Show," I understand that I am having a dialogue with the audience about something that is pretty charged, and I'm always trying to work on, what is this really about?


WILMORE: Consider this - according to an NBC Wall Street Journal poll, a majority of whites see America as colorblind. Whereas a majority of blacks see white people as crazy.


WILMORE: And when we're on "The Daily Show," I'm always suspect of the first joke that we get on it because I always feel, that's usually where everybody's going to arrive, but let's keep going. Let's keep carving away, and let's get under that. And what else is this about?


WILMORE: White people tend to look at race relations through rose-colored glasses, and black people resent the use of the word, colored, in that last sentence.

DEGGANS: Wilmore is facing one of his biggest career challenges, just when he thought he was too old for late-night TV. He's 52. That will be older than every host on the network shows. And he had other options. He'll have to leave another series he cocreated - a sitcom on ABC this fall called "Blackish." He's also pushing to finish co-writing a script, which makes an HBO show of the web series, "Awkward Black Girl." He was pretty busy even before the Letterman-Colbert switch was announced, but then a friend called.

WILMORE: (Impersonating Colbert) You got to do the Wilmore rapport. (Laughing) He actually said the name right there. And then I thought, hm, well, that's actually not a bad idea. I actually talked to Comedy Central a couple of years ago. And then, I swear to God - it's like, the next day, this whole viral campaign started on Twitter and Facebook about, Wilmore to replace Colbert, you know.

DEGGANS: When Wilmore takes the stage next year, he'll probably be the only host telling jokes on late-night who isn't white. So the implications are obvious. If Larry Wilmore doesn't succeed, late-night may always be destined for domination by smart-alecky white guys. And that's no pressure at all. I'm Eric Deggans.

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