These days comedian Larry Wilmore is best known for his role as The Daily Show's "Senior Black Correspondent." But the veteran comedian and writer has been behind the scenes of some of television's most successful shows. He created The Bernie Mac Show, for which he won an Emmy, and was on the writing staff for In Living Color and Sister, Sister.
This weekend he bring his specialty - political satire - front and center in a one-hour comedy special called Larry Wilmore’s Race, Religion and Sex…in Utah airing on Showtime. He spoke with ESSENCE.com about the job requirements of a Black correspondent, discovering Salt Lake City's gay population, and the growth of Black Mormons.
ESSENCE.com: So how does one become a senior Black correspondent?
LARRY WILMORE: You have to be the first. You demand the title.
ESSENCE.com: What are the job requirements?
WILMORE: You have to have a perspective of the Black experience from a senior level. You have to be on it.
ESSENCE.com: You’re doing first comedy special in Salt Lake City, Utah of all places. Why there?
WILMORE: Because there are more Black people in Utah than anywhere. [Laughs] I’m just kidding. But no, I thought that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is as unique as Barack Obama’s Blackness was in the last election. A lot of people don’t know about Mormonism so I thought it’d be great to do this special from there. The show’s kinda like a town hall meeting.
ESSENCE.com: Tough, and conservative crowd in Salt Lake City, no?
WILMORE: Here’s the thing you don’t know. Salt Lake City is a very progressive town. It was named the “gayest” city by the Advocate. It really is the gayest unknown city. Its like,’ where did all these gay people come from?’ It’s very progressive – there’s a big arts community there. We taped this a week ago and the audience loved the fact that we came to their town and had this discussion. People were really passionate.
ESSENCE.com: So the city gets a bad rep.
WILMORE: Yeah, because people don’t know about it. One of the ideas for the show was Larry Wilmore talks to America. Rather than talk about all these cities, I wanted to do a show where we actually got to the place and have a discussion. I found this guy named Don Harwell, who’s the president of the Genesis Group, an African-American Mormon support group. Go figure! There’s a growing population of Black Mormons. I didn’t know Gladys Knight is a Mormon. You discover so much stuff when you start looking underneath it. It’s kinda like when you want to buy a car. You look at that car and you think about it, and then you suddenly start seeing it all over the place. That’s kinda how it is with Black Mormon’s – they just start popping up all over the place.
ESSENCE.com: Let’s talk politics. What are your thoughts on the Obama campaign this time around?
WILMORE: Well, can’t go on hope and change. That was for White people. We didn’t need hope and change – we were gonna vote for Obama. I think he probably has to go on his likeability and the fact that he’s the person who people are going to trust the most to keep taking our country forward. Romney has to run on his confidence in handling the economy. It’s gonna be a close election because let’s face it, Obama’s not really running against Romney, he’s really running against the economy.
ESSENCE.com: How do you think he can get the Black vote again?
WILMORE: I don’t think he has to worry about that. There was a funny report today that said Romney has like zero percent of the Black vote. That was hilarious. Which isn’t true – there are many Black conservatives out there. I think the people that support Obama are going to support him again. I think the question is gonna be how much of the youth will be energized this time around.
Catch Larry Wilmore’s Race, Religion and Sex…in Utah this Saturday, August 25 at 11pm.