Most of you have probably been watching THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE this week - and the numbers indicate that many of you did, but if you haven't, you can watch right here on your internet machine. The show hasn't even been on for a full week yet, but Wilmore has already tackled issues like Ferguson and Bill Cosby with exactly the kind of hilarious aplomb we'd expect, given the show's DAILY SHOW pedigree. (FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT: Larry Wilmore is on the Writers Guild Foundation's board of directors. But still, full disclosure aside, the show is awesome, right?)
Of course, as many of you probably know, Wilmore's own pedigree wasn't too shabby, even before he began appearing as TDS's Senior Black Correspondent. A southern California native, he began his career as an actor and stand-up comic (you can still find some of his old comedy videos online), and later became a writer for shows like IN LIVING COLOR, SISTER SISTER and THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR. Early in his writing career, he got two opportunities to appear in an episode of SEINFELD, but didn't take them.
Despite that, however, Wilmore became the master of his domain, with more and more writing gigs on high-profile shows, like the "Performance Review" episode of THE OFFICE. Here's one brilliantly written scene from that episode - the first meeting between Michael and Jan after they had awkward sex in an earlier episode:
Michael's inappropriate desperation dominates the scene, but what's truly wonderful here is Jan's attempt to salvage some semblance of professionalism from the meeting without being excessively harsh.
But Wilmore wasn't just writing episodes of other people's shows; he was creating his own. Like, for instance...
Lasting three seasons and produced by Eddie Murphy, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, THE PJs was a stop-motion animated sitcom - the only one of its kind - starring Eddie Murphy in the lead role. Murphy co-created the show with Wilmore and Steve Tompkins, and it was hilarious. Here are a few pages from the pilot; note its mastery of both verbal humor and the kind of physical humor you can only achieve with animation:
The blend of "the hot water ain't workin' cause your daddy ain't workin'" with Thurgood's admonishment of the dripping faucet is what gives this show its entertainment value; sure, THE SIMPSONS had been combining that kind of humor for a decade already, but this was the first primetime animated show highlighting a Black family.
Later, Wilmore did it again, this time by himself, when he created THE BERNIE MAC SHOW, which may have not made the late great Bernie Mac a star, but it certainly helped quite a bit. Originally titled THE CRIB,
Note the part where Wilmore writes that the acting style will be naturalistic, and the show will be shot in cinéma vérité style. Almost like a documentary. Hmmm... is there another show like that? One that began production after BERNIE MAC had been on the air for four seasons? And that eventually procured Wilmore as a writer?
OK, sure - the original British version of THE OFFICE came out at around the same time as BERNIE MAC. But BERNIE was in development at about the same time. Either way, Larry Wilmore was ahead of his time.
We've got other BERNIE MAC materials in the library, as well as more OFFICE and PJs scripts - we'll have a special display for the next week or so, if not longer.
And if that's not enough Larry Wilmore for you, here he is again, in EXCLUSIVE video form! In 2009 he joined our CREATING A SHOW FROM THE GROUND UP panel, along with Chris Brancato (FIRST WAVE), Doug Ellin (ENTOURAGE), Andrew Marlowe (CASTLE) and Margaret Nagle (SIDE ORDER OF LIFE). Jay Kogen (THE SIMPSONS) hosts.