Wilmore is the latest attempt by comedian Larry Wilmore to enter the late night political landscape. Larry’s previous attempt at being the host of the late night talk show came in the form of The Nightly Show on Comedy Central. Wilmore differs from the prior effort in several ways. The Nightly Show was about having a community conversation about how the country was taking the wrong path. Wilmore was the moderator of that conversation, but its success or failure depended on who was speaking on any given episode. Aside from knowing that show was going to politically lean left, nothing in the conversation they had newsworthy. Guests were just commenting on what happened rather than adding a different voice to the conversation. Wilmore seems to correct that mistake by letting the people who are most affected by the decisions of the administration be the ones whose voices are heard the loudest.
Wilmore is about having as many voices heard as possible rather than being angry about what’s happening in the country today. The question is whether that’s different and diverse enough to have any lasting power on a streaming service nobody’s used yet? To watch Wilmore week after week, you have to use the streaming service Peacock, the on-demand service made by NBC Universal. So how do you have a conversation nobody’s hearing? Wilmore seems to think that to succeed, you must make a vocal appeal to those who are most disenfranchised.
In episode one, Larry Wilmore first espouses that White people had to lose everything that they care about to be aware of the idea that Black Lives Matter. This is a bold first statement by the comedian mostly because, based on news evidence presented, he has a point. The problem with him having a point isn’t that he has it; it’s delivering the message. Wilmore wants to be a show that has conversations people aren’t comfortable dealing with. Still, it plays out like a targeted attack on the very people who, in many parts of the country, have defended that same movement he is so passionate about. The dialogue about that feels like a rant of a person that’s angry about how things have gone, rather than constructive criticism of what needs to be changed to make the world a better place.
Where I will give Wilmore some credit is how the show structures and conduct interviews. The first person interviewed by Larry Wilmore is Cori Bush. She is a community organizer who is running for congressman of her state. Larry asked her how someone would go about doing the type of marches that have caused so many people to join in and feel empowered. He also asked what does it feel like to be at a rally that size were looting is going on, and the cops are firing rubber bullets. The questions we internally ask but never know the answer to. That’s the strength of this show the questions no one will ask. For this show to succeed, Wilmoreneeds to be that voice.
Larry’s second interviewee was Megan Rapinoe of the US women’s soccer team. He took the time to ask her how she felt about the gay community’s role in supporting the rallies taking place and the pushback the team received from fans and, in some cases, other players in the sport. Until those types of questions have been asked of someone in the sport, it was the last thing I would’ve thought of as important. Wilmore made it important and made its host essential in that conversation. The last part of the show was dedicated to whether photos of looting during the rallies could be considered looting or reparation depending on the photo. This game was played with Amber Ruffin, whose eponymously titled The Amber Ruffin Show airs after Wilmore’s timeslot. It was a waste.
Wilmore will only stay essential if this show makes the decision to make unheard voices its focus if it’s tails it doing that, then it’s just another show trying to break into the late night landscape. We all know what happened with Larry’s last attempt, I hope this is better, and he has a longer stay in the late night game.