Pop-Break Live: The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

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Live Report: The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

On Tuesday January 20th, I went to a live taping of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Specifically, I went to the second taping of the show ever. It was an interesting experience and I wanted to let people know what to expect if you find yourself lucky enough to score a few tickets.

First, I should mention that this isn’t my first rodeo. I have been to several other similar live shows in the past. I have probably seen around five or six Colbert Report tapings, which used the same studio that the Nightly Show currently calls home. It was always a fun experience and I think it really helped me to understand what makes a good audience experience.

First of all, if you are going to The Nightly Show, you are going to be spending a fair amount of time outside. Probably about a two hours, so you have to dress warmly. Bring a book or headphones or a couple of friends to keep you company. If you are alone, don’t be afraid to introduce yourselves to your line mates. They are mostly kindred spirits who like political commentary and love things that are free.

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Once you get inside, you just kinda stand around in a room for an hour. That bit was the worst. It was mostly the worst because The Colbert Report did it a lot better. Part of it had to do with the fact that Colbert’s waiting room had TVs that showed highlights of The Colbert Report to keep you from realizing the length of the wait. Nightly can’t do that because they don’t really have highlights yet and showing The Colbert Report highlights might set a weird expectation.

The biggest area of improvement for the show experience has to be the welcoming committee. To give you an idea of what I mean, when you went to a Colbert Report taping, the experience up until this point was very similar. The big difference came when you got you first set of instructions. The cheeriest girl I have ever seen would come out and explain to the room that they are about to see Stephen Colbert and have an awesome time and they can ask him questions and have fun. And I remember the first time I saw it, I thought it was a little much but now I realize it is just right.

The first person we meet at The Nightly Show is a woman who really didn’t seem like she wanted to be there. She also didn’t know what we were going to do. We were going to go in soon, maybe. Who knows? Not her. She didn’t mention the warm up comedian or the time to ask Larry questions. This was such a huge missed opportunity. It is the welcoming committee’s job to hype me up. She is the Flava Flav to Larry Wilmore’s Public Enemy. And while this may seem like a small gripe, it really does set an expectation for the rest of the night. I want to volunteer my services. I would be cheerier than anyone on this Earth has any business being for the sole purpose of making the show excellent for the audience. My twitter is @nationofnando. Get at me.

Once we got in, we must have sat down for an hour before the warm-up comedian came through. He did, and I’m not exaggerating, about 45 minutes which consisted almost entirely of crowd work. By the end of his routine, we knew what everyone in the audience’s job was and where they went to school. Unfortunately, no one had an interesting occupation so there were a fair amount of awkward pauses. He did his best. I would link him here but I am almost certain we didn’t get his name. Next time.

Pop-Break's Matthew Nando Kelly always Keeps it 100.
Pop-Break’s Matthew Nando Kelly always Keeps it 100.

Finally, Larry Wilmore came out to address the crowd. He was really great at speaking with the crowd and he had an earnestness that seems like it could only come from someone who was really excited for his show. Overall, I really liked Larry. How can you not? The man has worked on so many classic shows. He was a writer on In Living Color, Sister Sister, and even worked on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He had a tremendous run as The Daily Show’s Senior Black Correspondent. He may not have been the obvious choice to take over for Colbert but once you look at the resume, you gotta wonder why it took him this long to get a show. Much to the audience’s surprise, Larry asked if anyone had questions for him. It’s a shame no one told us about this (looking at you welcoming committee) but I had a question prepared just in case of this situation.

I was the second person to ask Larry a question and it was a question I had been thinking about all week. I asked “Do you have extra ‘Keep it 100’ stickers around and can I have one?” He very politely answered “No” explaining that they just didn’t have swag like that on set yet and hopefully once they get a rhythm going, they will be prepared. I accepted my answer and sat back down but noticed one of the producers disappeared. He came back with the sticker and I was really excited. Larry called back on me saying that to earn the sticker, I had to ‘Keep it 100’ so he came up with a question. “Are you scared of the black people in the audience?” Larry asked. I paused, but not too much to be considered weak tea before answering “Should I be?” He checked with the audience and with their approval, Larry awarded me the ‘Keep it 100’ sticker. I shook his hand and wished him good luck. It was what I imagine the kid in the Polar Express must have felt like when he received one of Santa’s silver bells. I know I had to be the first audience member to receive one since the segment premiered the night before. I now proudly display it in the same frame as my signed drawing for Rocket Raccoon by Sara Pichelli. It is truly in a place of honor.

The show itself taped about how you’d expect. Wilmore was able to do everything in one or two takes, which was really impressive given the lengths of the monologues. The panel segment was interesting. I was at the episode that discussed Bill Cosby, which I believed was the best episode that they have produced thus far. I may be biased, but I think I have something here. The more focused they can be, the better. The panel was able to engage with each other and it really felt like something I hadn’t seen before, outside of some of the great English panel shows and of course Bill Maher. The question I keep getting asked was “How much of the panel conversation was edited out for time or content?” and I have a very unsatisfying answer of “Not much.” Almost everything they shot went to the episode and that is truly an accomplishment. I also felt, as an audience member, truly activated by the panel segment. Our applause and booing was crucial to the energy of the discussion. As an audience member, you feel like the fifth guest and that is REALLY COOL.

Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin
Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin

Getting tickets to the show is stupid easy at this point. First, I would follow The Nightly Show on Facebook and Twitter. Currently the Facebook page only has 50,000 likes. That is nothing compared to similar shows. That is where you will see the announcements for tickets and I cannot stress enough how free they are. They are completely free. Currently, plenty of tickets for the next month are available. Keep in mind, you have to be there at 3pm to get in but if you can manage that, it is absolutely worth it. Follow this link to reserve tickets to the show. You can reserve up to four and if you don’t end up going, there is no penalty. I really recommend it.

Last thing. If you go, you have to do one thing for me. Right before Larry started his first short bit before the intro, my girlfriend Emily whispered in my ear “We should chant”. Originally, I wasn’t on board but by the end of the monologue, I realized that this is another huge opportunity. The first night had no chant so we had the chance to start a Nightly Show tradition. Stephen Colbert got his “Stephen” chant and you could see how it fired him up. Larry deserved one too. As he finished the monologue, I whispered back “Let’s chant Larry” and I shit you not, it totally worked. Not only were we able to start a huge “Larry” chant that night, which he acknowledges in the episode, but two out of the other three shows have had a “Larry” chant. So if you go see the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (and if you are able to, I really recommend you go) make sure to start the chant. And Keep it 100.

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Matthew Nando Kelly is an incredibly cool and handsome staff writer for Pop-Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Aside from weekly Flash recaps, he writes about film, television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He loves U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. He can also occasionally be found writing lists on Topless Robot and his twitter handle is @NationofNando. He’s serious about that job, Larry.
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Matthew Nando Kelly is the cool and tough Managing Editor of Pop Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.