Larry Wilmore Exit Interview: ‘The Nightly Show’ Host Talks Cancellation, His Final Week, Regrets & What’s Next

Comedy Central

Comedy Central on Monday morning announced that The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore would be coming to an end. It was a swift cancellation, with the late-night show, created by Jon Stewart, given one last week before going off the air a month and a half before the November Presidential elections. Comedy Central brass pointed to The Nightly Show‘s modest ratings and viral play as a reason for ending the show. Wilmore spoke with Deadline following the taping of the Tuesday episode, in which the show had revisited segments on the kinds of topics that became its signature – Baltimore gangs who called truce during the riots, and food choices for low-income people. In the interview, Wilmore talks about how the cancellation came about, his plans for the final shows (will Stewart show up?) and what he may do next, including weighing in on the rest of the presidential campaign. Before getting The Nightly Show gig, Wilmore was a Daily Show contributor, the Black-ish showrunner and co-created with Issa Rae her upcoming HBO comedy series Insecure.  

DEADLINE: Has it started to sink in that the show is coming to an end?
WILMORE: Yeah. It’s kind of surreal at first when you’re walking around like a zombie a little bit. Today it kind of started feeling like oh, okay, this may be one of the last few times I’m going to be sitting at this desk and doing this. Yeah, it’s starting to sink in.

DEADLINE: Had you gotten indications, did you have any idea this was coming?
WILMORE: No. I knew that a decision was coming, but I didn’t think we wouldn’t be able to cover the election. So whether we were going to be on or not for a third season, I never imagined that we would be off so quickly if we weren’t coming back. So I imagined a scenario where we wouldn’t be picked up, but I had not imagined a scenario where we would just be canceled immediately. So yeah, that part was a surprise.

DEADLINE: How did the network break it to you and when?
WILMORE: They called me on Thursday night and told me after that show.

DEADLINE: Did you ask to stay on through the election?
WILMORE: Well, my agents called me before the call and told me they had discussed all those things with them. They mentioned then that it just wasn’t a possibility. By the time I talked to them it was a fait accompli. So I just spent most of the time thanking them for the opportunity and just tried to stay positive on that call. Once it’s done, all you’re doing now is groveling and it’s not going to change anything, so just stay positive and be happy that you had the opportunity.

DEADLINE: Over the weekend you had some time to think about your last week. Did you make a plan for the final four tapings?
WILMORE: I’m trying to figure out the last things that we want to maybe do on the show and give the audience so each night is a little different. Monday night was our last time to talk about politics, Trump, and all that kind of stuff, so I made my last statement about that. Tonight, we decided to share a couple of our favorite taped pieces from the show. Tomorrow night we’ll do something a little different and then I think the last night we’ll say goodbye and just figure out what to do then. So each night we’ll do something just a little bit different to give people a feel of what we’ve been doing here.

DEADLINE: Any chance of Jon Stewart stopping by?
WILMORE: Possible. We may see Mr. Stewart. He may stop by and say hi. That’s a possibility. We’re talking about that.

DEADLINE: What is the one thing that you will miss the most about the show?
WILMORE: I think it’s being able to have a voice on those issues and being able to stick up for some of these voices that don’t always get a chance to be heard. We’re really proud of being able to give a voice to these things and to make our mark in that way. Whether it was putting people on panels you don’t necessarily see or covering stories that are too dangerous maybe to cover on the late-night shows. So those are the things that I’m sure I’ll miss as well as working with all the people here.

DEADLINE: What was your favorite segment?
WILMORE: Well, if I had to pick one thing I think it was our second night of the show, my favorite line was in the introduction where we first brought up Bill Cosby. I said, “And tonight we will ask the question ‘Did he do it?’ And the answer will be yes.” That was my favorite joke. It was like we’re not going to pull any punches. We’re not afraid to have an opinion. We’re just going to tell you exactly what we think.

DEADLINE: What about the future? You got wine from Samantha Bee’s show. Obviously, you have a history with The Daily Show. Have you thought about another gig in late night?
WILMORE: Late night, I don’t know. I’ll probably take a little time to think about it and if there’s a place where I can do something that fits for that place that would be great. I would love to do that again, Nellie. I really enjoyed it.

DEADLINE: What about primetime? You’ve produced several comedy series.
WILMORE: I’m definitely going to get back into that. I always enjoy doing that.

DEADLINE: Would you go back to Insecure and be an executive producer should that show continue?
WILMORE: I don’t know, although I know Issa and I are definitely going to be working on another project together because we just like working together. I don’t know about Insecure if that works out or not. Who knows? They’re doing a great job over there. In other words, it hasn’t even been discussed because this just happened, so I have no way of even knowing.

DEADLINE: You could write a script for that or Black-ish just to fill the time.
WILMORE: Yeah. Maybe I’ll write an episode of Black-ish about a guy being fired in late night.

DEADLINE: Do you have any regrets about doing the show?
WILMORE: No. None at all. Very happy that I did it. As I said, very grateful that I even got the chance to do it. It was so exciting. All the fans, the love that we got from people out there was just phenomenal. It really was. Some of the issues we were able to talk about, the fact that I got to weigh in on this election, it was really great. I wish it could have lasted longer but it didn’t, but that’s okay. That’s television. Sometimes it works out like that. So I’m very honored to have been able to do it.

DEADLINE: Will you continue to weigh in on the election on social media or elsewhere?
WILMORE: Definitely. I’ll figure out the best way to do that but I’ll definitely be weighing in probably in different forms, maybe a little social media. I may pop up on somebody’s show here and there or something like that. So we’ll see. I’ll figure it out.

DEADLINE: What do you think will happen if Donald Trump wins?
WILMORE: I hope it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, but I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen.

DEADLINE: In your statement on The Nightly Show‘s cancellation, you said that you were saddened by the “unblackening” of your time slot. What do you think should succeed you there?
WILMORE: The last thing I would ever do is try to become a network programmer. I have no idea. Obviously, if we’re not working then they shouldn’t put something like us. They should go with something completely different. Other than that I don’t have any suggestions.

DEADLINE: What is your dream next job?
WILMORE: This was a pretty big dream job. It’s kind of hard to top this for dream jobs.

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