Larry Wilmore’s “Minority Report” Blazing Trails for Minorities in Comedy

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“The Daily Show” continues its reign of TV’s leading men with it’s newest successor to the crown, Larry Wilmore. Known as “The Daily Show’s” Senior Black Correspondent, the even-mannered Wilmore will be launching “The Minority Report” in January 2015 at post-“Daily Show” time slot 11:30 p.m. This slot has been held by “The Colbert Report” for nearly a decade, and the change is a result of Stephen Colbert‘s decision to leave “The Daily Show” empire and conquer new territory in late night.

If “The Minority Report” proves to be a half hour program of jokes about the minority experience, then it will fail.

Colbert has been a pioneer in news comedy, coming a long way from his days as correspondent on “The Daily Show.” Often seen as Jon Stewart’s righthand man, Colbert is cutting the cord and blazing a new path as heir to David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show.” The much-loved “Colbert Report” leaves in its wake big shoes to fill. Hopefully, Larry Wilmore has big feet.

Wilmore is a well-known name in black comedy, currently showrunning ABC’s new comedy pick-up, “Black-ish.” Unlike the over-the-top antics of the Wayans Brothers or the exploitative nature of comics like Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock, Wilmore’s comedy is calm, subdued, and intelligent. His humor is a refreshing brand, which is why I’m excited for his show. What I’m not excited about is the possibility that Wilmore will rely heavily on his black identity to fill his TV show with exhausted race jokes.

Judging by the title “The Minority Report,” Wilmore is not looking to step outside of his comfort zone–he will cling to his identity as Senior Black Correspondent instead of Hilarious Anchor. My concern is that he is boxing himself in, sticking only to satirical news about minorities and relying heavily on race gimmicks to get easy laughs.

Wilmore isn’t alone on playing the race card in comedy — after all, 90% of comedy performers use the same old scenarios and punch lines to get that “it’s funny because it’s true” applause. But how many times can we hear a joke about a black man suffering police discrimination while driving a fancy car? If “The Minority Report” proves to be a half hour program of jokes about the minority experience, then it will fail.

Wilmore needs to bring something fresh to the table. In comedy, sticking to one facet of the human identity — such as race — is completely limiting and not very entertaining. Not to mention it gets old and it gets old fast. Give us incongruity in punch lines, deliver situational humor we haven’t seen in a Tyler Perry movie, bring us something fearless and original.

A decade ago, Colbert was fearless and original: he revolutionized the way we consume political satire, leveling the playing field with his egotistic conservatism and allowing the non-political savvy viewers to laugh just as much as those up-to-date with current events. It was a new way to laugh, a new way to think, and a new way to view the quickly deteriorating state of the union. Can Larry Wilmore have a similar revolution? Will he, like Colbert, manage to forge his own brand of comedy? What dimension will he add to “The Daily Show’s” roster?

For the time being, I remain optimistic. Larry Wilmore is extremely funny, and I plan on watching his series premiere. But if he wants to keep me as a viewer, he’ll need to widen his arsenal of material.

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Anna Turner

Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.

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