Thursday, August 18, 2016

Larry Wilmore's Last Hurrah on Comedy Central

Our show going off the air has to mean only one thing--racism is solved.

Larry Wilmore

If it were only true. Actually, as Wilmore and his crew air their last hurrah tonight on Comedy Central, racism is still a cancer on the soul of the republic. But you can't blame him. After all, it isn't like he has shied away from the subject.

No, since the, "Nightly Show," hit the air in January of last year--tasked with replacing the wildly popular, "Colbert Report,"--Wilmore has charged head long into the hateful maw of racism from a perspective no other late night TV host previously had, or could. That's simply because, as an African American, he grew up staring straight into its reptilian eyes on a daily basis.

Jon Stewart could and did attack it intellectually. However, Stewart and to a greater extent, Colbert seemed preoccupied with mugging it up for the audience and any sort of comedic commentary they offered on racism came from an arm's length. That was even when Wilmore periodically showed up on, Stewart's version of "The Daily Show," as a correspondent in the field.

Hey, let's face it, neither Stewart, or Colbert would have dreamed of, or dared to, sit down at table in a Baltimore diner and speak with local gang leaders about the riots which were ravaging parts of the city after Freddie Gray's death. Wilmore did just that.

They also never thought of running a segment about how poor, inner city, neighborhoods, have a shocking lack of access to food stores which sell things like fresh meat, vegetables and fruits. One Wilmore report did so and it was brilliantly tinged with a combination of faux amazement, comedy, and subtle, yet palpable, frustration.

The panel portion, which ends each show, is usually populated by his staff and guests who are primarily, but not solely, African American. Those round tables--as well as the entire enterprise--are geared to be equal parts funny and telling. Not to mention aimed at making a lot of white people either slightly uncomfortable, or utterly outraged, depending on their political and social views.

Of course Wilmore hasn't limited his sarcasm and satire to the single issue of race. Right wing politics, sexual harassment and the gay struggle for equal rights are also prime targets. In fact his anger bubbles closest to the surface when he confronts people like Bill Cosby, who he refuses to call by name. In almost in every instance he refers to the disgraced comedian and sitcom star as, "the motherfucker."

Even though, "The Nightly Show," is ending this evening, there is little doubt Larry Wilmore will land on his feet. He has been around for a while, mostly behind the scenes as a writer and producer. According to Wikipedia his credits include writing for and producing, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and "The Jamie Foxx Show." In addition he created and produced, "The Bernie Mac Show" and won an Emmy for writing its pilot episode.

The real loss will be for those of us who tend to stay up late and are invested not only in political and social current events, but love topical humor. Trevor Noah will remain in charge of, "The Daily Show," but the South African émigré always seems a tad too cuddly and self amused for someone seeking out edgier programming.

The ratings just weren't there for "The Nightly Show." At least that is what the suits at Comedy Central are maintaining and, in truth, they're right. The released viewership figures pale in comparison to what Colbert's were and Noah's are now.

Larry Wilmore rarely failed at comedy though. The trouble is he's too good at making sure you can't sit back, relax, and laugh at some worn out caricature of racism. When you watch his show you are actually confronted by the modern reality of the ugly beast. And, in the end, that's something many viewers don't want to do, especially when they're looking for nothing more than a cheap guffaw right before hitting the sack.

sic vita est


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