Larry Wilmore zooms in on 'Race, Religion & Sex'
Posted October 31, 2012
Larry Wilmore, "senior black correspondent" on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, serves up his second Showtime special, Larry Wilmore's Race, Religion & Sex in Florida — the state that played a pivotal role in the 2000 presidential election — Saturday at 10 ET/PT. The one-hour comedy/talk show, taped town-hall style Oct. 24 in Jacksonville, follows his Race, Religion & Sex in Utah, which aired in August. Wilmore, who won a comedy-writing Emmy and a Peabody Award for his work on The Bernie Mac Show, spoke with USA TODAY:
Q: How do you pick the locations for these events?
A: In the first show, we wanted to talk about Mormons and the importance of religion in the election, so it was important to go to Salt Lake City. And with the second show being right on the heels of the election, what better place to go than Florida, where all kinds of election things seem to happen.
Q: Why is the title Race, Religion & Sex? Why not Race, Religion, Sex & Politics?
A: My joke is these are my three favorite subjects. Everything I talk about kind of falls under one of those. There's always something interesting, and usually politics will fall under one of those, but sometimes it won't be politics. Sometime it's just the cultural issues that are important. These days I figure we should be able to cover it all with these three issues.
Q: In Salt Lake your onstage panel consisted of two comedians and two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Who's on the Jacksonville panel?
A: It's an interesting mix. Comedian Paul Rodriguez, who's great talking about things from his point of view, and a really funny young comic, Moshe Kasher, who's from Los Angeles; Republican strategist Ron Christie, a black conservative who worked with Dick Cheney and President (George W.) Bush, helps to balance out that point of view on the panel, and Current TV's Ana Kasparian, who has a progressive radio show.
Q: What topics are touched on?
A: Everything from the Latino vote to immigration. We touched on Muslim extremism, the war on women and even bestiality, if you can believe it. They actually passed a law banning bestiality in Florida last year. I mean is this really a problem in 2012? Why do we need to pass this law now?
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue right now?
A: Gay marriage is the important social issue of our day. We didn't cover it in this special because we covered it in Salt Lake City but, absolutely, without a doubt, it's one of the issues that will really bring the biggest change in our social fabric in years to come. Are we moving past race and religion as the bigger issues? No, religion is one of the reasons homosexuality is such a big issue, and many people link it to the race struggle we have in this country. So they're all kind of linked in many ways.
Q: What's going to make us laugh in Jacksonville?
A: I talked with black residents there since I couldn't find any in Salt Lake City. I asked them if they're ready for a white president. And I have some fun with the supervisor of the county board of elections. Asking him if Florida is ready not to (mess) up this time. And we had a great time with seniors. I get a little cheeky with them.
Q: How do you walk the line between raunchy and irreverent humor without slipping into insulting or derogatory?
A: One of the things I do in my show is attack positions but not people. I want people to feel safe to have their opinions no matter what they are. I present myself as a passionate centrist. So I don't want them to think I have any sort of position I'm trying to prove. I want to have this discussion.
Q: This is similar to the humor on The Daily Show?
A: It's a little bit more than that. On The Daily Show I'm playing this character, the senior black correspondent, but on this show I get to juggle a lot of things. I can do some of those funny satirical pieces I do, but then we have a really lively discussion where, as you saw in Utah, it gets a bit provocative. It can get real, people can get passionate, and it can be funny and light too.
Q: Is there a lot of edgy stuff you can say on Showtime that you can't say on Comedy Central?
A: Well, we do say it (on The Daily Show), but they bleep it out. Believe me, we say it, we just can't let you hear it.
Q: Is your goal to make people laugh or have them learn something about the issues?
A: I always want people to be entertained; that's always my primary concern. I want to put on a good show for people and, at the end of the day, if other things happen like — I doubt if we ever really learn anything — but if it gets us into some good discussions, that's the bonus.
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