With the recent appointment of Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s successor to “The Daily Show“, it’s a perfect time to notice diversity in late-night TV, or rather, the lack of it. Late-night TV caters to a
white audience and has been dominated by white men (with the exception of Arsenio Hall) until this year. Putting a person of color in the line-up adds a new perspective. Trevor Noah is a black man from South Africa. He has different ideas on foreign policy, citizenship, race issues and many other aspects. While we do have some foreigners on late night, they continue the trend of white men – they’re from Europe, such as Craig Ferguson and James Corden.
“The Daily Show” often uses Noah’s international perspective to makes fun of the United States’ ignorance toward world events.
The announcement of Trevor Noah has been received well, despite some controversial tweets. Comedy Central and Jon Stewart have put their support behind Noah and he will take over the show later this year.
Larry Wilmore, host of The Nightly Show and Stephen Colbert’s time slot replacement, also breaks the mold of white guys on late night, and adds a voice we have never seen on late night before. “I voted for Obama because he’s black” is not a sentence we hear on TV. We need educated, funny and entertaining people adding a perspective we’re not used to.
Wilmore discusses race issues often and examines the different aspects of race in America.
But something we need to keep in mind is that Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore are exceptions. They are the only non-white faces in the late night line-up right now. Since they are exceptions, they will have higher standards set by producers and studio heads. A white guy would be given the benefit of the doubt if his show received low numbers or poor reception. Since there have been so many successful white men in these time slots, a producer has seen this happen before and lead to success. They would have no reason to worry. A black man, or someone who is an exception in this position, does not receive the same benefit of the doubt. He will not be given leeway to work out the kinks and improve his show since the executives cannot predict guaranteed success. This can also be used to deny other people of color: If one black man’s show fails, executives with unconscious biases now have a reason to justify why they shouldn’t hire any black men in the future.
While there is still a conversation to be had about the lack of women in late night, these two men show a step in the right direction. Go out of your way to watch Larry Wilmore tonight and watch Trevor Noah when he begins hosting later this year. Increasing viewing numbers is the audience’s way of communicating to TV studios that we want to see more diversity. You will also learn something from hearing a different voice and perspective coming from your TV.
Collegian Interactive News Team Member Catie Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @catieperrycc.