On Monday, South African comic Trevor Noah started as host for “The Daily Show,” with his guest, comedian Kevin Hart. His start was so momentous that Larry Wilmore, host of follow-up show, “The Nightly Show,” used his opening monologue of to note it was the first time that a black television host was followed by another black television host, as seen here.
On his show, Wilmore and his panel skewered former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush over his comments that Democrats get black voters by offering them “free stuff.”
“It’s not that we think of ourselves as victims who deserve your handouts, it’s that we know we have to work our asses off to overcome a system that for decades has institutionalized ways to keep us out of society,” said Wilmore. “So the idea that black people are strategizing to get anything for free out of this country is insulting, exclamation point.”
Jimmy Kimmell, Jimmy Fallon, Carson Daily and James Corden did not have black guests on Monday, but Stephen Colbert had Michelle Obama and John Legend, while Seth Myers had Chiwetel Ejiofor and Conan O’Brien had Terry Crews.
On Tuesday, Noah, Fallon, Colbert, Corden and O’Brien did not have black guests. But Kimmel had Viola Davis, Myers had Kenan Thomspon, Daily had Meagan Good and Joy-Ann Reid and Andy Cohen had Mike Epps on “Watch What Happens Live.”
Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch noted that Jet magazine had a back-page feature simply called “Television,” which offered a rundown of nearly every black person who would be appearing on prime-time TV over the coming week: their names, which show and what time.
Demby noted that Jet publisher Robert Johnson admitted that the feature as hard to fill. “There was a time, when we first began the TV page, when we couldn’t come close to filling it,” he said. “There weren’t enough blacks in a given week to fill the page. So we would list all the blacks and then fill all the remaining space with the blacks who would be appearing on radio.” Readers, Johnson said, would clip out the page and put it next to their TV sets.
These days, we’re seeing more diversity on television in shows including “Empire,” “Jane the Virgin,” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” And those actors and actresses are showing up on the late night shows. But television is still controlled by people who control the purse strings and tend to put on shows that don’t target audiences of color. But change is inevitable as more people of color use unconventional ways to capture the attention of audiences and majority minority populations continue to grow.