Are Late Night Shows Too White?, W. Kamau Bell Explains The Need For More Host Like Arsenio Hall


As a former host of his own late night show with FX, Totally Biased, W. Kamau Bell shared his thoughts on white-male domination of late night TV. In his BuzzFeed article, Kamau examines the need for more host like Arsenio Hall during late night television.

Every time a late-night job becomes available, people on social media and websites like this one get to play Fantasy TV Exec! And we toss around overqualified, non-white guy candidates like Aisha Tyler, Maya Rudolph, Wayne Brady, Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Ellen DeGeneres, and Chris Rock. Occasionally, I even get thrown into the mix. And for a little while it is exciting to think of the possibility of these shows… until we actually hear the announcement. Don’t get me wrong. I’m super excited to see what Stephen Colbert does with The Late Show. He’s unquestionably a comedy genius. But you can’t tell me that Wayne Brady wouldn’t do as good a job as Jimmy Fallon…… But Arsenio proved that the brown-faced actors, comedians, bands, singers, and (GULP!) rappers that he put on his show made money for late-night TV. Then the networks took them, their disciples, and their audience and assimilated them all into The Borg that is late-night television — which meant that the type of booking on Jay Leno’s show that would have seemed weird on its face in 1989 was only weird in 2009 because Jay insisted on making it weird….Tell me that Kanye West interview wouldn’t have gone smoother with Arsenio in the interviewer’s chair… or with me, or with the next random black person you see. If that’s not proof of the need for more diversity in late-night hosts, I don’t know what is. …But the people who run late night don’t need us blacks to host anymore. Once Arsenio left, late night picked the bones of his show. They picked them so clean that when he came back there wasn’t enough to make it feel as different as it had been the first time. Late night didn’t need a black host because it had all the black host’s guests.

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