Larry Wilmore-- so angry we have to laugh
By Naughty Mickie
"I'd Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts"
(Hyperion Books, $24)
By Larry Wilmore
Larry Wilmore has been in the entertainment industry for more than
20 years, acting, writing, directing and producing. His credits
include "In Living Color," "The Bernie Mac Show," "The PJs," "The
Office" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." He won an Emmy for
"Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" and a Peabody Award for
"The Bernie Mac Show."
In January Wilmore was featured in the PBS
documentary series, "Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of
America." Currently he is the "Senior Black Correspondent" on Comedy
Central's "The Daily Show" and can be seen in the film, "I Love You,
Man" as the minister.
DB: Were you funny as a child?
LW: My brother and I used to always make jokes. At a
very young age we used to do that to make each other laugh. My
father used to make us perform like trained monkeys all the time to
make people laugh. It didn't seem special, it was just what we did.
I remember liking comedians at a very young age. Flip Wilson, I
remember liking a lot and wanting to know more about him.
DB: You were a theater major at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut,
California and Cal Poly Pomona, but didn't finish, why?
LW: I left to work at the Mark Taper
Forum in their improvisational theater project, that was my first
professional gig. But at the same time I was starting to do standup
comedy. I always had these two lines of my career.
DB: How did you launch your career?
LW: I decided at a certain point I would only make
money in show biz. After the Taper I worked for a real short time,
but then I did standup full time and I made the decision that I will
only make money in show biz, so I going to have to survive. It was
good because it forced me to work hard at it. I wrote jokes every
single day, I would go to any open mic night I could find, sometimes
I'd make 10, 20 bucks a week. But within a year's time when I
started doing that I was getting booked in the clubs and I had an
act. And within two and a half year's time I was headlining clubs.
People say, "Larry how to
do you get into show biz?" And I say, "Look, if you're doing standup
it's very easy, you just get up on stage and guess what? You're in
show biz." It's a matter of really how long do you want to take it.
DB: Why write a book and why now?
LW: Because someone needed to corral black thoughts
into one place, it needed to be done. The cynical reason, there was
a writers' strike coming and I knew I needed to make some money. The
creative reason, it was something that I always wanted to do and I
got an idea for it and the timing was right.
One of my biggest
influences when I was in high school was Woody Allen and his books,
"Getting Even" and "Without Feathers," I used to be in speech and I
remember really loving those books a lot. This is my homage to that
kind of writing.
DB: How do you write?
LW: I'm a very good procrastinator, I'm a horrible
worker, so if you say, "Larry why do you write?" "Because I have a
deadline." That's the only reason I would ever do it otherwise it
would never get done. I had a deadline for a book, which I went past
several times, but it's just a matter of forcing it out of me.
Sometimes I'll get general ideas and I'll shape it and think about
it and then write it and then sometimes I'll have an idea and I'll
just start writing and it just comes out. When I write it's a pretty
full-formed idea once it actually gets on paper, so I spend a lot of
time thinking it over.
Some of it is just committing to whatever it is and
just doing it and I'll have a general idea of where it's going. Like
"I'd Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black
Thoughts") where I do the radio interview with The Man, I had some
general things that I wanted to get across and then I get into and
start writing dialog and the characters just speak for themselves.
I just have to be there writing and I just have to commit to going
down a certain path.
DB: Are you being humorous or aiming for some deeper meaning?
book is only meant for humor, it is not meant to be used in
government classes or for racial seminars.
DB: Are you trying to provoke people with your
LW: No, I'm trying to provoke them to laugh and to
buy books. I have no hidden agenda. Anything that comes across is
just my point of view and is things that I'm interested in. I wasn't
trying to write a sociology book, I was just trying to write a
It's like what I do on "The Daily Show." When I'm on
"The Daily Show" I'm not trying to do anything provocative or trying
to make any bigger point, I'm looking for the satirical point, the
point that makes me laugh and it just so happens that I have points
of view about things and those things come across too.
approach going, "This is very important, I have to make it an
important point." I would lose all the humor in it. It's the
opposite, I go, "I have to find a way to make this funny. I can't do
this." That's how I write. Writing is very scary, you're out there
DB: Has having President Obama in the White House given you any
advantages with your book?
LW: I am hoping to take advantage of any opportunity
that the Obama presidency brings. You never know because people may
just look at things differently and that would be great. And so far
so good, look at the reception even Michelle Obama has gotten in
Europe, it's actually emotional when you watch it. I saw her with a
group of young
girls in England and it was a real diverse group, some African
descent, some Muslim, all kinds of different and they were so
emotionally enthused because here's a role model for them that they
haven't quite seen. America's huge. We forget how big this country
really is on the world stage.
DB: Who is your target audience for the book?
LW: Anybody who laughs. I feel that anybody who likes
what I do on "The Daily Show" will like this book. It really is that
crowd. I think there are a lot of people that don't watch it that
may still like it too, they just haven't been exposed to some of
that type of stuff. Black satirical books aren't burning off the
shelves of book stores right now, I fell like I'm creating a niche
that doesn't quite exist.
DB: Do you prefer to write, act, direct or..?
LW: I really like all of it in different ways. Performing is so much
fun, that's immediate gratification. Writing is the toughest thing
for me emotionally. I think it's the thing I probably do the best
out of all of it, but it's the hardest thing for me to do at the
same time. Producing is probably the most fulfilling thing to do. I
love producing a lot, just putting the whole thing together and
writing is part of producing of course. I like directing a lot too,
it's very similar to producing in terms of what you're doing,
especially in film.
For me, I really want to act, but I've been writing
and producing all these years. What's interesting about being behind
the scenes is that many times it's not as big a deal to be in front
of the camera any more when you really wanted to be in front of the
camera, when you were the hungry dog looking for the bone. You don't
care any more, you can just be yourself and your natural sense of
humor can come through.
kind of the position I'm in now. I'm in the movie, "I Love You,
Man," and they called me to do that, I didn't even audition for it.
That was great. They thought I was funny and I got to hang out with
Paul Rudd for a few days. It was great, he was so much fun. It's fun
to be in that kind of position where you really don't care because I
actually don't in terms of "I've gotta do this for my career." When
you're in your 20s that's how you think, but now it's like, "This
would be great to do that," but I'm doing this too.
DB: Do you have anything else you would like to add?
LW: I would just love it if more people
because aware of the book because I really am proud of it, it was
so much fun to do and I think it is something different that's out
Wilmore is currently developing a comedy centered
around cable news for HBO in which he plans to star. "I'd Rather We
Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts" should be available in
paperback by Christmas.
When Wilmore isn't busy working, he enjoys spending
time with his wife and their two children, as well as his other
relatives, smoking cigars in Pasadena with his friends and
performing magic at the Magic Castle in Hollywood-- his specialty is
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