Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore didn't plan on having his new book debut the same day Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office, but it's a happy coincidence he'll live with all the same. In I'd Rather We Got Casinos (and Other Black Thoughts), Wilmore reveals, among other things, how he feels that Al Roker is both a tragic and magical figure, why he'd replace the terms "African-American" and "black" with "chocolate," and how black men are portrayed on television.
The title for the book comes from a line Wilmore delivered on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about Black History Month (it's this month, in case you forgot), telling Stewart: "Twenty-eight days of trivia to make up for oppression? I'd rather we got casinos!"
Wilmore shared some other thoughts with me before he began his nationwide book tour this week. What was the first "black thought" you had that inspired the rest of the thoughts in the book? "How can a brother get paid during the writers strike? It was really that pragmatic. I should probably do a book because there's going to be a writers strike. And then I came up with the line...I'd rather we got casinos," he said. "That's how I work a lot. I think of the title and it will give me the impetus to write something. I used to write a lot of sketch. And coming up with a good title would get you thinking and would really drive the writing."
He first thought he'd play off of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. "And then I thought I'd do a parody of hope," Wilmore said. But he would dismiss that. "It just seemed too one note to me. I thought if I were reading that, I'd be bored by the end of the first chapter."
Are you really serious about replacing the words African-American and black with chocolate? "It's already been vetted many times before." He talks about how the Rev. Jesse Jackson mentioned it in his infamous "Hymietown" remark during his 1984 presidential campaign. "The full sentence is we're going from Chocolate City to Hymietown. He was talking about Harlem. But no one considered the Chocolate City part of it. They only cared about the Hymietown part." Of course, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin used the word "chocolate," too, to describe his city after Hurricane Katrina, and that was met more with confusion than outrage. "People were confused because they thought he was saying that was the name of the city," Wilmore said.
It seems as though just about every on-air personality associated with The Daily Show either has their own TV show now (Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Rob Corddry, Demetri Martin) or is in development on one (Rob Riggle, Jason Jones, Samantha Bee). Can you shine any light on this? "It's just one of those things that attracts really bright people...so you know sometimes you get in those situations where you're really lucky, and it makes you stay on your game. I just always feel fortunate to be a part of it. Because it can be the opposite. Where you feel like you're the only one who cares about something."
How would you compare the Daily Show environment to your experience as a writer for In Living Color? "It was very similar, that was one of my first gigs. To see Jim Carrey before he was really a star, that's something I'll never forget...Jennifer Lopez being a fly girl...I remember having coffee with Rosie Perez...I never thought Rosie would be nominated for an Oscar and that J.Lo would become the Elizabeth Taylor for her generation."
For his thoughts on creating a Peabody Award-winning show with Bernie Mac, and his new development deal with HBO, read on.