If I May: Even More White Guys on TV
Issue   |   Tue, 04/18/2017 - 23:16

Recently, Comedy Central, the network that airs “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” announced two new late-night projects. One called “The President’s Show” stars Anthony Atamanuik, a white male actor and improviser. Atamanuik is an expert Donald Trump impersonator and the show will essentially take the form of a standard late night program, except the host is “Donald Trump.” The other is a yet-to-be-named project that will star Jordan Klepper, another white male who has made a name for himself as a correspondent on “The Daily Show.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Jimmy Kimmel’s potential retirement from late night, and how I was hopeful to see ABC replace him with a new type of face on late-night television: the face of someone who was not a white male. Of course, they haven’t yet made any sort of decision, as Kimmel’s contract stipulates that he will still be on the air until at least 2020. However, these new Comedy Central shows — both with white male stars — bring back feelings similar to those I had when I heard of Kimmel’s possible retirement. The Donald Trump-themed show is one thing — it is at least a response to current events, and the premise of the show practically requires a white male lead. On the other hand, Klepper’s show is essentially a replacement for “The Nightly Show,” hosted by Larry Wilmore, a black comedian (the show was cancelled last summer after a year and a half on the air). So when a person of color failed to “resonate with audiences,” according to Comedy Central president Kent Alterman, the network decided to return to the tried-and-true method of putting a handsome-but-not-too-handsome, snarky white guy at the helm. This is just a disappointing trend in late-night television that I hope will change in the near future.

However, these two particular cases are a little more complex for me. While I am dismayed by television networks’ continued preference toward white performers, I am also very happy to see both Jordan Klepper and Anthony Atamanuik receive the validation they deserve for long careers of great comedic work. Both Klepper and Atamanuik improvised with house teams at the UCB Theater in New York City, which is one of the most prestigious improv theaters in the country. Atamanuik has recently gotten a lot of deserved attention for his masterful impersonation — both in accuracy and in commentary — of Donald Trump. Klepper has been doing excellent work as a “Daily Show” correspondent since his arrival in 2014, particularly in his coverage of Trump rallies. Both of these men, in my opinion, deserve to have their own television shows, and I am very excited to see what they will do with their programs.

I have a hard time reconciling these two opinions. On the one hand, I am excited that Comedy Central chose to give shows to two comedians who have worked hard and put out great content. On the other hand, it is pitiful that television networks almost always continue to place their trust in white men. I hope that one day, I can be thoroughly happy that a talented white man has gotten a new late-night television show because I know that there is diversity elsewhere on late-night. Of course, today is not that day. In order for that day to come, one of these networks will have to make a decision to break the status quo of white male-ness. So, ABC, if you are for some reason reading The Amherst Student, please do not replace Jimmy Kimmel with a white man when he retires.

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