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Larry Wilmore brings much-needed voice to late-night TV


Unfortunately for fans of "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert will air the final episode of his satirical news program on Dec. 18, 2014, and move on to CBS to replace David Letterman on "The Late Show."

Thankfully, however, his replacement in Comedy Central's 11:30 p.m. time slot will be none other than Larry Wilmore, the former "Senior Black Correspondent" on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," which airs before Colbert.

Wilmore brings a bevy of comedic experience to the table, including writing and producing credits on shows such as "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "The Jamie Foxx Show." In addition to acting in various films and TV shows, Wilmore has been on "The Daily Show" for 8 years, providing serious yet hilarious commentary on the black experience in America.

Wilmore's show, to be called "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore," provides a voice on late-night television that has gone relatively unheard: an African-American one. Other than Arsenio Hall, who briefly tried to revive his late-night talk show in 2013 before being cancelled in 2014, there have been no black voices hosting late-night talk shows in America.

"The Nightly Show" will provide that voice, and that voice will definitely be a lasting one. Fans of "The Daily Show," including myself, will undoubtedly tune in to see how Wilmore fares and be pleasantly surprised at his comedic genius.

It will be refreshing to have a person of color provide their perspective on late-night TV, and Wilmore's show will do more than just fill some sort of "black quota." While Colbert and Stewart have been adamant in addressing racial issues that face our nation, they were never able to provide the perspective necessary for viewers to fully understand how the issue affects African-Americans –– Wilmore does just that.

"The Nightly Show" will not just be focused on a black perspective, either. Wilmore has made it clear that his show will focus on being the voice for all those who are underrepresented in our society:

"It was never intended to be a show only about minorities. It’s a show about underdogs, and that happens in a lot of different forms, whether it’s race, gender, or whatever."

Wilmore, much like Stewart and Colbert, will undoubtedly be the target of conservative media outlets like Fox News and be labeled as a "purveyor of the liberal agenda" or something along those absurd lines. One can imagine that the racist, sexist, bigoted personalities of Fox News Channel will have a heyday calling Wilmore a "race-baiter" when in fact he's providing a voice that will ease racial tensions in this country.

One thing that shows like Stewart, Colbert and Wilmore have in common is their comedic take on serious issues. In satirizing actual news programs, these shows influence the viewer to think critically about the state of American politics, media and social issues.

There's really no other surefire way to inform someone about what's going on in their world other than to make them laugh. Cable news has developed a political twist, whereas satirical news has become the new home for real reporting and holding the powerful accountable. Wilmore will be the next in a series of watchdogs to grace Comedy Central's late night lineup when "The Nightly Show" begins in January.

Correction: The original version of this column stated that Wilmore worked for "The Daily Show" for 18 years; we have corrected the number of years to 8, and apologize for the misprint.

Reach the columnist at RClarke6@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @RClarkeASU

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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