There’s no denying, that when Stephen Colbert announced he would take over David Letterman’s post at the Late Show on CBS, comedy fans experienced a tsunami of bittersweet wash over them. Sure, we were thrilled that Colbert had become such a media force that suits at late night network television felt the fake news man could attract viewers away from basic cable. But, then there was also this feeling of, “Why, Stephen? Why have you forsaken us?” I mean, if Comedy Central is good enough for Jon Stewart isn’t it good enough for Stewart’s protégé?”
Those feelings were, in hindsight, fleeting. But they were real. I’m sure you felt the same. Right? Right?
This was all before Comedy Central announced that, with the guidance Jon Stewart’s production company, Larry Wilmore, mostly known at the time as Daily Show’s senior black correspondent, would take over Colbert’s slot. So yeah, knowing the dude who created The Bernie Mac Show, wrote for In Living Color and has, in recent years, starred in and produced his own Showtime specials was taking over, was good news. And with The Nightly Show premiering at 11:30 pm ET tonight on Comedy Central, things are looking great.
“Jon felt there were so many talented voices that weren’t being heard,” Wilmore said Friday morning at The Nightly Show’s new studio (The Colbert Report’s former space) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “So, it’s cool to have a program that’s not only a showcase for those voices but a show for talk, to have a real dialogue—and have some fun.”
If you needed a bite-sized, easily digestible description of the show Wilmore somewhat reluctantly offers, “It’s like if The Daily Show and Politically Incorrect had a kid,” before adding, “but we’re carving out our own niche.”
“We have our own compass that is very firmly planted. We know exactly what we want to be doing,” Amy Ozols, co-executive producer tells Laughspin. “We don’t care what other shows are doing and I think that’s the only way to do it. The television landscape is very crowded and we have to do our own thing. And Larry’s thing is, he tells the truth. Larry says we need to ‘keep it 100.’ And [executive producer] Rory [Albanese] and I didn’t know what that meant. But now we do. It means ‘to tell the truth, keep it real.’ And that’s Larry’s mission statement.”
For Wilmore, along with Ozols, Albanese, supervising producer Sue Fellows and head writer Robin Thede, part of that mission means The Nightly Show’s panel discussion – the cornerstone of the show – may not always be populated with A-list celebrities. “We want to book real people,” Albanese says. “If we’re doing a segment on a strike, I want to talk to the guy who inflates with big rat.”
That’s not to say, we won’t see familiar faces. Panelists will likely feature Nightly Show contributors Shenaz Treasury, Ricky Velez, Mike Yard alongside comedians, policy makers and more. Tonight’s show will feature Bill Burr, Senator Cory Booker and musician Talib Kweli. This month, you’ll also see former Barack Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, journalists Amy Holmes, Soledad O’Brien, David Remnick, Frank Rich and Matt Taibbi as well as actress Ali Wentworth, author (and daughter of Malcolm X) Ilyasah Shabazz, comedians Kathleen Madigan, John Leguizamo and Baratunde Thurston.
So, be sure to tune in tonight at 11:30 pm ET on Comedy Central and tell us what you think of the show. For the time being, check out this cool time-lapse video of The Nightly Show studio being built out of the former Colbert Report set.