TCA 2015: Larry Wilmore launches on a special holiday

TCA 2015: Larry Wilmore launches on a special holiday
Larry Wilmore's "The Nightly Show" is set to debut Jan. 19 at 11:30 p.m., following "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." (Richard Shotwell / Invision)

Larry Wilmore says we shouldn’t read too much into the launch date for his new Comedy Central program "The Nightly Show."

The comic will be the sole African American late-night comedy host when "The Nightly Show" airs at 11:30 p.m., following "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," starting Jan. 19. Opening night falls on the national holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Wilmore told reporters Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena that he passed on the chance to premiere later in the week.

“I had a dream that a brother needed to work on that day,” he said. “Irony intended completely. I said, ‘If "The Daily Show" is on Monday then I think we need to be on Monday.’ Starting the week was the way to do it.” 

Wilmore, who served as the “senior black correspondent” on Stewart’s program, realizes the launch date gives him a built-in topic to riff on. “I’ll probably have to say something about it, now that you brought it up” he told the writer who asked about the date. “Thanks for that.”

On-the-spot commentary about the events of the day will be a key element of Wilmore's show. While the opening segment will be a prepared comedy piece by the host, a panel discussion during the show's second half will have more in common with the roundtables seen on Sunday morning public affairs programs such as "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation."

“One of the titles I had was ‘Meet the Rest,’ ” he said.

"The Nightly Show" was originally called "The Minority Report," but Fox had first dibs on that name for its TV adaptation of the 2002 Steven Spielberg film of the same name. 

While "The Nightly Show" panel will mainly consist of comic voices, Wilmore said he is hoping to get U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey as a guest on the debut program. Wilmore stressed that he's doing a comedy show, but he's open to presenting serious conversations.

“Not every topic is going to be a laugh-generating topic,” he said. 

The TCA didn’t see any tape of "The Nightly Show," as no pilot or test episodes have been made. Wilmore said four test shows will be done this week ahead of the premiere.