Comedy Central Cancels ‘The Nightly Show,’ Final Episode Airs Tonight


Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” (Photo: Bryan Bedder)

UPDATE: “The Nighlty Show with Larry Wilmore” final episode aired and has been added to this story. 

It’s something many of us wanted — a good nightly talkshow with a smart, witty black host —but like too many good things, it’s coming to an early end.

“The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” will air its last episode tonight on Comedy Central. The network is canceling the show due to low ratings and “lack of social media lauzz,” according to The New York Times.

“The timing was a surprise — the shutting down timing. I didn’t know there was a possibility that we’d only have four shows left. I’m always prepared for, well, your show may go away or whatever, but I thought we would at least have the chance to go through the election,” Larry Wilmore said in a recent interview with the NYT.

I’m with Wilmore. I thought the show would’ve lasted through the end of the year when his contract was reportedly up, especially because it’s an election year. Ending “The Nightly Show” three months before millions of Americans cast their ballots for the next president seems like a wasted opportunity to generate more eyeballs and that desired social media buzz.

In the NYT interview, Wilmore also implied that he didn’t know his contract was ending and said he’d be open to having a three-month extension that would carry the show through the election.

“Of course. Absolutely. That was kind of our expectation. The question was not whether we were going to get shut down immediately but if we were going to be renewed for a third season,” Wilmore said. “My scenario was like, ‘Look, you’re still working out ‘The Daily Show,’ let’s work out both of these shows and have them work together.’ Let’s give both of these shows a chance to really find an audience would have been my suggestion.”

People became familiar with Wilmore as the “Senior Black Correspondent” on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and from his work with “The Colbert Report.” “The Nightly Show,” which Wilmore and Stewart executive produced, replaced “The Colbert Report” when Stephen Colbert was crowned the new host of CBS’s “The Late Show.” “The Nightly Show,” which debuted in January 2015, experienced great ratings for six months with “The Daily Show” as a lead-in but that changed when Stewart retired, Wilmore said. Though “The Daily Show” returned six weeks later with South African native Trevor Noah as the new host, Wilmore said “The Nightly Show’s” viewership had already began dipping.

(l-r): Jordan Carlos, Grace Parra, host Larry WIlmore, Sen. Bernie Sanders on the set of "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore." (Photo: Bryan Bedder)
(l-r): Jordan Carlos, Grace Parra, host Larry Wilmore, Sen. Bernie Sanders on the set of “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.” (Photo: Bryan Bedder)

I have to admit that I didn’t watch the show as much as I thought I would. It debuted the same month I began a rigorous full-time graduate school program and between that, work and life itself, I usually found myself snoring by the time it aired or too busy to binge on all of the previous episodes.

This isn’t to imply that “The Nightly Show” isn’t good. It’s great.

Wilmore, who I recognized from his involvement with the NBC comedy “The Office,” is everything people say they want in a nightly talk show host: he’s thoughtful, witty and worldly. For a segment of the black community that often laments over not having a black version of a Stewart, Colbert or Bill Maher, Wilmore and his show is the answer. Historically, the late night talk show landscape always has been pretty vanilla. Arsenio Hall revolutionized late night talk in the late ’80s, giving us hope. But five years later, he was out. Many have tried including basketball legend Ervin “Magic” Johnson (twice), Oscar-winning comedian Mo’Nique,  comedian Wanda Sykes, but they just don’t stick around. Even Hall tried again in 2013 but it seemed as if he left a piece of himself (the one that we all loved) in the ’90s, so his show only lasted one season. BET tried to diversify that genre four years ago when it lured T.J. Holmes from CNN for “Don’t Sleep! Hosted by T.J. Holmes” but that effort crashed and burned, too (Holmes is doing what he does best at ABC).

Wilmore was the only black host of a late night entertainment show when “The Nighlty Show” debuted, which, when you look around at other late night talk show offerings, is kind of lame. And, for all of the “I-don’t-see-color” folks, this isn’t about having a black face as much as it is about having a black voice or several black voices.  The diverse panelists and honest dialogue about current events including “sensitive” topics (read: race-related issues) on “The Nightly Show” worked. It’s no wonder several media outlets like CNN and The Altantic are questioning the good sense of Comedy Central execs.

Despite this glitch, there’s no doubt in my mind that Wilmore will be more than fine. He’s written for iconic TV shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “In Living Color” and will probably be in front of or behind someone’s camera in no time. As for the rest of us … My graduate program concludes next week, which will free up my schedule tremendously. Sadly, “The Nightly Show” won’t be around to add to my must-see TV list. Bummer.

Has life also prevented you from regularly checking out “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”? No problem! I’ve shared a few recent episodes below for your enjoyment and you can watch more here. Be sure to catch the final episode of “The Nightly Show” at 11:30 p.m. ET today on Comedy Central.

WATCH: “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” Final Episode


WATCH: “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”


WATCH: “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”


WATCH: “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”


Enjoyed this? Be sure to check out previous “Can’t Stop Watching” posts. Have a comment for the Black Entertainment site, Tweet @AishaIman with your question.