This week the new ABC show "Black-ish" debuts.
It's about an African American family living in Southern California.
The father, played by Anthony Anderson, has everything he needs--financial success, beautiful family--but something is missing. He starts to worry that maybe his kids are a little too color-blind. Here's a trailer for the show:
One of the show's original creators and executive producer is Larry Wilmore, who most people know from his time as senior black correspondent on the Daily Show.
He stopped by the studio recently to talk about the show and his new project, the upcoming comedy show "The Minority Report" that will replace "The Colbert Report" when Stephen Colbert leaves to host "The Late Show."
What does the word "black-ish" mean?
It has kind of different meanings. In the show the father means it as a funny kind of negative. He feels their children have lost some of their identity. But it also plays to the positive that culture is sort of black-ish these days. It's appropriated black culture in so many ways … from music to style to speech.
Bill Cosby made a point about race in "The Cosby Show" by not talking about race. With "black-ish" you are making race front and center. Why go that route?
That's certainly what the pilot is but the show is really about identity. And race is the first step in that identity ladder. When Cosby came around all the discussion had been race up to that point. He was called the best black Jewish black comedian when he was first coming up at the Friar's Club.
And he wanted to make a point about black privilege in those days too. He thought if you're going to have these people why talk about race? But now we've come kind of full circle so we are not shying away from that—it's not going to be every story, but we're also not running away from it.
I often wonder what it's like, as a black man, when racist stories break like Donald Sterling. Yet it gives you a lot of grist for the comedic mill.
It's one of those ironies of doing socially conscious comedy. When Ferguson broke I was right in the middle of doing "black-ish" and told "The Daily Show" I wasn't going to be able to do anything during the summer. But I told the "black-ish" executive producer, 'I can't do Monday, I have to talk about this.' Oh no, it was the New York thing, the guy who died from the chokehold. And by the way I didn’t find anything funny about it.
Do you ever have a hard time finding something funny to say about these racist news events?
I had no idea what I was going to say on that one but I knew I had to say something and when I got there we found it. We only had a day but after we did that the Ferguson thing happened.
In your opinion how can we, all jokes aside, really get an honest dialogue about race to move us forward?
The reality is we will never be finished. I think all you can do is keep talking because there will always be new issues about something. And some issues pop up that you didn't even know were still there, like this Adrian Peterson thing with his children. Who would have thought that was an issue right now? It's amazing to me as we see all the different layers of the race dialogue too. But I think we need a healthy dose of the talk that you do and the comedy I do because I think we should laugh about some of these things if we can.