Robin Thede made history as the first Black woman to work as head writer of a late-night series on “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.” Now, the veteran comedian is making her mark as a late-night talk show host.
“The Rundown With Robin Thede” is a weekly half-hour show that airs on BET. It features classic monologue jokes and reported pieces along with sketch comedy and musical segments.
The late-night space remains overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, but Thede is part of a vanguard of African-American female voices forcing themselves into the space –women like Amber Ruffin of “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and Ashley Nicole Black of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”
But Thede is running her own show. And she talks about her plans on making her mark on late-night.
Q: Where did the idea for “The Rundown” originate?
A: “When I pitched the show, I said I want to do a lot on pop culture because I feel some of the late-night shows rely too much on hard-core politics, and it comes off as too newsy. I want more of a Black point of view of the week’s events. At BET, we have the luxury of not having to talk about Trump. Black people already know he’s bad.”
Q: What does the show consist of?
A: “We start with a topical sketch, a spoof on something topical from the week in the world of politics or pop culture, and then we go into the studio. We have a really fun party atmosphere in the studio, and there I do two acts of “The Rundown” itself, which is a mix of politics and pop culture, quickly running down the topics of the week and giving my thoughts and takes on that –not just superficial jokes, but also diving a little bit deeper, because a lot of the stories may have been covered by other shows, but it’s really my unique take on things and what they mean to me and to our audience.
The third act is one of three things from week to week. It could be a pop-up concert, where we’re showing up around New York City in intimate locations like laundromats, bodegas, libraries, with established or up-and-coming artists. Kind of what [Dave] Chapelle did with musical performances – out of the box, kind of grittier. Or it could be a short documentary piece, which is our alternative to traditional field pieces from these sorts of late-night shows, so we’d be doing something that tackled a social issue as it relates to Black people.”
Q: Are there topics that you’re particularly excited to tackle?
A: “I think whatever matters to my audience. This is a show for BET, so it’s a primarily Black audience, but we’re inviting all sorts of people to come get an authentic view of what a Black lady has to say in late-night. I’m excited to tackle mainstream stories or more niche stories that Black people would love to hear about but aren’t getting more coverage from mainstream hosts. In my world, pop culture and politics have equal weight. It’s okay to think that [Atty. Gen.] Jeff Sessions is going to double the mass incarceration rate in this country. But it’s also okay to care that Kim Kardashian is wearing makeup 10 shades too dark. There are hosts who don’t care about what Blac Chyna does. But I do.
“The Rundown With Robin Thede” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m