Why Larry Wilmore Is the Perfect Host for Obama's Last White House Correspondents’ Dinner
More than any other comedian working today, Larry Wilmore has been the ideal voice for President Obama’s last year in office.
With less than 9 months left in his second term, President Barack Obama “doesn’t give a fuck” anymore. At least that’s the message comedian Larry Wilmore has been broadcasting for the past year.
This weekend, Obama will deliver his eighth and final stand-up routine at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. And in the plum but intimidating spot immediately following the president will be Wilmore, who, since his Nightly Show debut on Martin Luther King Day 2015, has become the definitive voice of Obama’s final years in office.
That’s right. This year’s #NerdProm is now officially the #BlerdProm.
Obama’s willingness to throw caution to the wind—especially when it comes to race—in his final years as president has been a major theme of Wilmore’s show since the beginning. And it is likely to be the primary focus of the comedy on Saturday night.
It was during Wilmore’s first week on the air as host of The Nightly Show that Obama delivered his seventh State of the Union Address. As he has said many times before and since, Wilmore prefaced his coverage by disclosing that he voted for Obama “because he’s black.”
During the president’s speech that night, which had followed a devastating midterm election for Democrats, Obama winked at Republicans while jokingly chastising them for refusing to applaud the country’s economic success.
“Doesn’t he realize he just lost an historic election? I mean, both Houses by historic margins, even his own party was deserting him. Doesn’t Obama know he won’t be able to get anything done in his last two years?” Wilmore wondered, before it hit him and he started to giggle. “Oh, he doesn’t give a fuck! He doesn’t care what people think anymore.”
Even better was the “‘aw snap’ moment of the night” when Obama said “I have no more campaigns to run” and Republicans began to clap. He cut them off with the ad-libbed line, “I know, ‘cause I won both of them.”
“Barry got his groove back,” an impressed Wilmore said. “Look, he may not get anything done in the next two years. But at least he’ll still be black.”
This “Obama don’t care” theme has continued throughout Wilmore’s White House coverage, including last summer when Obama made his first trip as president to Kenya. “He never would’ve gone to Kenya in his first term,” the host said, referring to any lingering birther nonsense. But at this point, “He really doesn’t give a fuck what people think.”
More recently, when First Lady Michelle Obama performed a rap song about college with Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah, Wilmore commended the president for “rolling out as much black as he can during his last year in office.” Along with the rap video, Wilmore pointed to Obama dropping the “n-word” on Marc Maron’s podcast, singing “Amazing Grace” at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and “just letting prisoners out of jail.”
“At this rate, by next summer, they’re going to be playing dominoes out on the White House lawn and blasting music so loud that the neighbors at 1603 Pennsylvania Avenue call the cops,” Wilmore joked.
Then there is Wilmore’s 2016 campaign coverage, in which, under the umbrella of “The Unblackening,” he has outlined America’s plan to “de-Negrofy” the White House and say “fuck you to the notion that once you go black, you never go back.”
“When you have somebody like a Donald Trump,” Wilmore told Mashable in an interview last October, “he made no bones about trying to disprove Barack Obama’s Americanism in trying to make him out to be some foreigner that was born in Kenya—I thought that to be very racist. When people say, ‘Let's take our country back,’ my way of saying that is, ‘Yes, you want to unblacken the White House.’”
But just because Wilmore has expressed support for the president doesn’t mean he won’t make jokes at his expense as well. “I like Obama a lot, but remember, I supported him because he was black,” he said in a recent interview with CBS This Morning. “I can attack his positions all I want.”
“I have to keep it 100,” Wilmore added to CNN, using the same truth-telling standard he tries to keep himself to on his show. “And what are they going to do? There’s not enough time to sic the IRS on me.”
Since Wanda Sykes helmed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner during Obama’s first year in office, the gig has been performed by a parade of white male late-night hosts. Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien were fairly solid while Jay Leno and Joel McHale left something to be desired.
Seth Meyers stands out for delivering such brutal jokes to Donald Trump’s face that the GOP frontrunner has decided to stay far away from this year’s event. And then last year, SNL’s Cecily Strong was upstaged by Keegan-Michael Key, who brought down the house with his “Anger Translator” routine alongside Obama.
Now that America finally has not one, but two black late-night hosts in Wilmore and Trevor Noah, it is only fitting that Obama’s fellow “blerd” should take the reigns this time around. Just as Chris Rock was the perfect comedian to tackle the #OscarsSoWhite controversy at this year’s Academy Awards, there is no better performer than Wilmore to help sum up the final year of America’s first black president.
And should Hillary Clinton make it into the Oval Office by next April, the White House Correspondents’ Association need only consider one name for the job: Samantha Bee.