With the changing of the guard at Comedy Central, fans and critics alike are in for a whole new era of political and pop culture commentary. Not only are the network’s two main poster boys stepping down (Stephen Colbert took his final bow late last year and Jon Stewart’s final show is in August) but their “replacements” are strikingly different – all the way down to their skin tone.
Larry Wilmore, whose “Nightly Show” took the slot where “The Colbert Report” ruled for nearly a decade, is an African American comedian, writer, producer, and actor. Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, writer, and actor was named the successor to Stewart as host of the wildly popular “Daily Show.”
Both new hosts, as you may have noticed, are not middle-aged white guys. Which begs the question, is Comedy Central color-blind, just like Stephen Colbert? Were these fellows chosen for the color of their skin as much as their witty insights and scathing skewering of current events, or is this just a happy accident? Of course, if you asked Colbert, he’d say he didn’t even know these gentlemen were black because he just doesn’t see color.
“The Minority Report”
When news of Colbert’s replacement was first announced, Wilmore’s new show was titled “The Minority Report.” Not only is that a clever re-imagining of “The Colbert Report” but a blatant acknowledgement that the network was considering the host’s race. And it’s pretty darn appropriate – especially considering the ridiculously exaggerated right-wing whiteness of Colbert’s alter-ego.
But somewhere along the way they dropped “The Minority Report” name and opted for “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” Early reports touted Comedy Central’s intention to add more diversity to their offerings and use this chance to shine the spotlight on “a perspective largely missing in the current late-night landscape,” according to “The LA Times.”
The name change was blamed on a conflict with a Fox series that was being developed around the Tom Cruise film, “Minority Report.” But Wilmore ended up being pretty pleased with the change, stating that the show “was never intended to be a show only about minorities … it’s a show about underdogs … whether it’s race, gender, or whatever.”
Broadening their scope was definitely the right move with Wilmore, and the network seems to be doing the same thing with the addition of Noah. Noah brings an international sensibility that hasn’t been fully captured by “The Daily Show” up to this point. The son of parents who were victims of apartheid, he was raised by his mother (who is also half-Jewish) in South Africa. His mother was jailed and fined for her relationship with his Swiss father, who later returned to Switzerland.
Noah’s comedy is riddled with commentary on race, ethnicity, and the political landscape of the wider world. His unapologetic digs at American excess will no doubt be right at home behind “The Daily Show” desk. And, with a big presidential election just around the corner, his take on the 2016 race should be refreshing because he’ll view the proceedings from the perspective of an outsider.
After a brief controversy about various comments found on Noah’s Twitter feed, the young comedian seems poised for a rocky start as he tries to fill Stewart’s shoes. And it’s a tough call to discern whether the detractors are going after him simply because they already hate the way “The Daily Show” points out the problems with the status quo, or does it have something to do with his race and ethnicity? Either way, Stewart is standing by his heir apparent.
“Trevor Noah will earn your trust and respect — or not — just as I earned your trust and respect — or did not,” Stewart said on-air after Twitter-gate hit.
No doubt, stalwart fans of the show will be willing to get on board with Noah and see where he can take us. And just as folks thought the biblical Noah was a crazy fool, the conservative masses (and Fox News) are likely to receive Noah with skepticism and a dash of fear.
Whether or not Noah and Wilmore are part of a political statement by Comedy Central, it is clear that the network is walking into a world full of potential controversy with their eyes wide open. Because they know something we sometimes forget: laughter sees no color, race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. But, thanks to the big balls at Comedy Central, they’ll be sure to make fun of them all.
Photo Credit: Comedy Central