Larry Wilmore Reveals Tweak That Turned ‘Nightly Show’ Around

“That was crazy,” Comedy Central host tells TheWrap. “We were killing ourselves — it was insane.”

Last Updated: May 6, 2016 @ 9:49 AM

Larry Wilmore’s “Nightly Show” premiered in January 2015, but it wasn’t until this past December that the Comedy Central series hit its stride.

The host, who has spent the past week brushing aside debate about his White House Correspondents Dinner appearance, told TheWrap that a key change implemented this winter really paid off: the show decided to start booking just one guest a night, instead of four.

The initial pitch for “The Nightly Show” — initially named “The Minority Report” — was a full half-hour of pure discussion. In other words, no monologue, no sketches, and perhaps not even an isolated guest interview segment. That was executive producer Jon Stewart‘s vision, at least.

And they tried a version of that initially, but it was brutal, Wilmore said.

“That was crazy,” he said. “We were killing ourselves — it was insane.”

It wasn’t just the writers’ room feeling the pain — producers had to try booking four guests per night, four nights a week. As such, the corresponding Talent department for the show was “huge,” Wilmore said.

“We were killing those people! They worked really hard,” he said. “They were good, too.”

Now, it’s just a couple of people in the department, and only one guest per night — plus the “Nightly Show” regulars, of course. And it’s all going much, much smoother, Wilmore said.

A more comfortable production is evidenced in the show’s recent Nielsen numbers: “The Nightly Show” stayed flat year over year in the key 18-49 demographic for 2016’s first quarter, but rose 6 percent in total viewers, hitting an average of 801,000.

Plus, the retention rate from Trevor Noah’s “Daily Show” is up 10 points, reaching 84 percent last quarter. The biggest inroads have been with young males, a very desirable group for advertisers.

“The Nightly Show” airs Monday-Thursday on Comedy Central in the old “Colbert Report” time slot.