Larry Wilmore: Too Black, Too Strong, But Just Right

When you consider that Skynet has already sent a Terminator from the future to kill America’s next Black president, Larry Wilmore’s performance as host of the White House Correspondents Dinner makes perfect sense. Yes, it was one for the ages.

Perhaps it is this realization that is the source of disdain for some.

In a comedic performance with references to “Jigaboos”, that “Black Jesus” painting from  70s sitcom Good Times, to “Grady” from Sandford & Son, as the roast master, it’s easy to understand why some people – namely the dinner’s mostly white media elites, celebrities, and politicians in attendance – were a bit uncomfortable with Wilmore’s twenty-minute set. By the time it was over, it was quite apparent that Wilmore’s act was not just another episode of The Nightly Show on Comedy Central.

Seriously, the only way the night could have been any Blacker would have been if Paul Mooney was added to the lineup, and Michelle Obama led the room in doing the electric slide and the cupid shuffle to anything by Parliament Funkadelic in between sets bt Frankie Beverly & Maze.

Wilmore ended his acerbic barbs with sincere personal remarks about what it meant to him to see a black president in his lifetime.

“When I was a kid I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback,” Wilmore said. “Now think about that: A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world. Words alone do me no justice. So, Mr. President, I’m going to keep it a hundred. Yo Barry, you did it, my nigga.”

At that point, I stood to my feet and gave him a standing ovation. Why? Because I got it. His remarks reflected a feeling and sentiment with which most black folks can identify. The truth is that given the level of disrespect in the way President Obama has been treated during his presidency, while not totally unimaginable given this country’s history, it’s hard to imagine another black person having the privilege being the central figure at such an event ever again. And even so,as much as Obama has been the subject of countless spoken and unspoken “nigger” jokes and insults. The fact remains, to black folks like me, Obama is our “nigga.” Like it or not, as a source of pride, it’s one thing that can never be removed from the history books as much as racists would like.

Comedian Larry Wilmore
Comedian Larry Wilmore

But don’t tell this to Rev. Al Sharpton who is of the opinion that “to say that to the President of the United States in front of the top people in media was at best in poor taste.” But see, while the context of Wilmore’s closing line was lost on Sharpton, what’s really troubling is the fact that Sharpton – like many of my cousins – were more concerned about the white gaze; or, specifically “how we would look” in the eyes of white folk.

To that, I say, Negro, please! Sharpton has been wearing a perm for the last forty years. How dare he worry about how we look in the eyes of white folks today? I mean, it’s not like Wilmore used the word with the intent to degrade or diminish the historic nature of Obama’s presidency.

But, of course, don’t tell that to Sharpton or the many people debating the use of the word on social media since the dinner this weekend.

As I see it, if you can’t “keep it a hundred” in a room full of rich white people like Larry Wilmore did while doing a comedy routine, then what’s the point in being black or even pushing the envelope?

The White House Correspondents Dinner under Obama started with Wanda Sykes in 2009, and it too was controversial for some. Which is funny when you consider that there has been hardly any controversy associated with this annual event that has been around since 1914. With this year’s dinner being Obama’s last as POTUS, Larry Wilmore’s performance – by far the Blackest ever – was the perfect bookend to a historic and consequential presidency full of challenges. Challenges which for the most part was predicated by and rooted in racial animus.

But hey, perhaps all of this could have been avoided if Obama wasn’t black and nobody had the bright idea to invite a black comedian to host an event for the Washi8ngton D.C. bourgeoise. Yeah, who needs a black comedian when black people are only needed as dishwashers and busboys at such events. After all, where would America be without us as The Help.

Watch Larry Wilmore perform below: