But the most successful and important thing about The Nightly Show is that Wilmore has demonstrated exactly why late night desperately needs a point of view that isn’t Straight White Male. There are plenty of fine hosts on television, but literally none of them could open a show with a simplistic, “I voted for Obama because he’s black,” and then add, “People always ask me, ‘Do you agree with Obama’s policies?’ And here’s the truth: I agree with the policy that he’s black,” before humorously, and cleverly, spending an hour dissecting Obama’s State of the Union speech. And Wilmore didn’t just tackle policy — he also took on the race-related aspects of the speech, and of Obama’s entire presidency thus far.
While numerous late-night hosts have mentioned Selma, Ferguson, and #BlackLivesMatter, Wilmore has an authority — and an authenticity — on these topics that his peers simply don’t have. He has a more nuanced perspective, a first-person narrative, and a careful opinion informed by an entire life of, well, being black. And Wilmore is in a unique position now: He has taken his inherent lack of privilege and transformed it into a form of privilege, as the most qualified person on late-night television qualified to speak about certain topics. So far, he’s doing a fantastic job with this privilege, representing in all our complexity those of us who are still struggling to be heard.