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Q&A: Larry Wilmore to Keep It ‘100% Real’ at White House Correspondents Dinner

Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore,” will tap into his long history as a comedy writer and faux-journalist for his next gig: host of the White House Correspondents Assn.’s dinner April 30. The 54-year-old previously gained acclaim as the “senior black correspondent” on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and, before that, wrote for TV shows like “In Living Color” and “The Bernie Mac Show,” which he helped create.

How does one learn they are going to headline the White House Correspondents dinner?

There was kind of chatter about it. Then you get the word from your agent. Then you start screaming and calling everybody.

How high will this rate in your career?

If I do nothing else in my life, it’s, you know, ‘Your grandpa performed for the president once.’ Not even having my own TV show will mean anything because the grandkids will be like ‘What’s this ‘television’ thing you keep talking about? What is that?

Will there be a lot of pressure?

You have to follow the president [onstage]. That is more intimidating than performing for him. … He is the president, so people feel they are obliged to laugh, but then when he is funny on top of that, it’s very difficult. He really has gotten better, too. When he first started, I think he was a little stiff. But he kills the room now.

It hardly seems right that he got to be leader of the free world and got comedy chops.

It’s one of the biggest injustices of his administration.

You’re an African-American comic doing the last of these big dinners for the first African-American president. Will you bring that up?

I might get a little sappy, who knows. … But I will be keeping it 100% real. Or ‘keeping it 100,’ as we say on my show.

You attended the dinner last year. Does this audience like having its foibles exposed?

Believe it or not, they really like you to make fun of them on that stage. There is a lot of self-deprecation and sadomasochism happening there. … I’m just going to treat it with the respect — and the disrespect — that it requires.

Is there any message you would like to leave with President Obama?

I haven’t formed anything yet. I just hope the first black president isn’t the last one.

Click here for full coverage from Variety’s Hollywood and Politics issue.

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