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Diversity in Late-Night Hosts: Robin Thede and ‘The Rundown’

Most programs that can be found on television cater to very broad audiences. For example, Saturday Night Live pokes fun at a variety of subjects, Jimmy Kimmel focuses on topical comedy that involves segments such as parents eating their kids’ Halloween candy, and James Corden is most famous for his carpool karaoke.

Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) new late-night comedy, The Rundown, which is hosted by Robin Thede, promises to cater to a more niche audience: African-Americans who watch late-night comedy. While the show itself reaches out to an audience that most late-night comedy shows haven’t dared to reach out to, its host also sets her own precedent. Thede will be the first black woman late-night host in several years.

Born in Davenport, Iowa, Thede was first introduced to comedy by her father, who inducted her with the comedy albums of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. She later went on to write several of BET’s awards shows and the TV satire, Real Husbands of Hollywood. She is also the head writer for The Queen Latifah Show and the first black women head writer for The Nightly Show.

“In creating my own show, we felt there was a void in the space where black people are spoken to in late-night comedy directly,” Thede said. “There is no show that is created to speak directly to black people.” Though her show plans to cater to black audiences, by no means does she plan to make it exclusive. “You don’t have to show your skin color to come in – everyone is welcome.”

Her inclusivity extends to production equality as well. Thede’s staff will be 40 to 75 percent women and people of color, while several departments will be headed by women.

The Rundown features no celebrity guests or extravagant segments – just Thede herself, satirically addressing issues accompanied by headings that parallel an ESPN rundown. Her style can be likened to that of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal or Jimmy Kimmel’s monologues on hot-button issues. Thede wants to provide “an authentic opinion about stories [an audience is] not going to hear anywhere else.”

Given that it’s been so long since a late-night show has taken up space on BET airwaves, it’s natural that putting another late-night show up after so long is bound to have its risks. However, executives seem to think it will pay off.

“The show’s going to cover anything from Cardi B to what’s happening in the White House,” said Connie Orlando, the Head of Programming at BET. “I think all kinds of audiences will be interested to know and listen to what Robin has to say.”

Featured Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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