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This local man loves elections

If there’s one thing we can all agree on—and it just may be the only thing we can all agree on—it’s that this year’s election cycle has been surreal.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Larry Wilmore. “It really is like a [Salvador] Dali painting. I mean, that clock is just melting all over the place in this election. It’s unrecognizable at this point.”

But the Pomona-born Mr. Wilmore is fascinated by the machinations of the American electoral process, no matter how distasteful it has been this time around. 

“For me, I love elections,” said the comedian, actor, writer, author, producer, political commentator and, most recently, the host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. “I’ve been a political junkie since I was a kid, watching Walter Cronkite. So I can’t get enough of this time of year.” 

Mr. Wilmore will bring his insights on the election to Claremont on Wednesday, November 9 at Bridges Auditorium with “Larry Wilmore: Making Sense of the Results.” Tickets for the 8 p.m. event are free, but RSVPs are required online at pomona.edu/events/larry-wilmore-making-sense-results.

Although he chuckled at the mention, Mr. Wilmore has moved deftly, though certainly not quickly, from standup to “noted satirical journalist,” as he is referred to in Pomona College’s promotional material.

“I suppose [it’s true] at this point,” he said. “But it’s funny when you’re a comedian. I always say, ‘You guys know I’m a fake journalist, you know?’ I’m just giving my comic perspective on things more than anything else. But I am a fan of journalism. I’m not an expert pundit. I would lose in a policy argument. But I can distill, I think, what’s going on. I think I’m good at that. I stay in my lane!” 

The event is a homecoming of sorts for the 55-year-old entertainment industry veteran. He was born and raised in Pomona, the third of six children for Betty and Larry Wilmore. Mr. Wilmore attended Damien High School in La Verne, graduating in 1979. He studied theater at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, but left early to pursue acting and standup comedy.

Mr. Wilmore was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1992 for his writing on In Living Color. He won in 2002 for his writing on The Bernie Mac Show—a program he created and for which he served as executive producer.

And this year he received an NAACP Image Award for outstanding comedy series for Black-Ish, a show for which Mr. Wilmore served as executive producer. He may be most familiar to viewers from The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, which ran from January 2015 to August of this year, or as Jon Stewart’s “Senior Black Correspondent” on The Daily Show.

Mr. Wilmore said it would have been a far-fetched thought to be a guest lecturer at the esteemed Claremont Colleges when he was growing up in Pomona.

“Ha! I never ever imagined something of the sort,” he said. “I mean, of course, when you’re younger you never think anybody ever wants to listen to anything you have to say. But I’ve always been an admirer of those schools.”

This fractious election season has left many of us bruised, divided and frankly disgusted. It’s a weird time to be an American.

“I think we’re kind of confused as to who we are and where we’re going,” Mr. Wilmore said. “When you look at the fracture of the two parties, people don’t even know how to judge how Obama did. There’s not even a consensus about what just happened these past eight years.” 

The divide is across both major parties, he added. 

“You have a president with extremely high approval ratings, but the job approval is extremely low. Like, how people feel about where the country is is low. And that doesn’t comport with itself. That doesn’t make sense. So there seems to be some cognitive dissonance about what just happened.”

Strange times, indeed. 

“I think there was such a split about how government could work when Obama came into office, and that fracture never healed itself,” he added. “I mean, when you look at his signature legislation—the Affordable Care Act—I can’t think of any type of legislation on that scale that got zero votes from the opposition and yet somehow passed. That just doesn’t make sense. Say what you will, legislation can’t be that horrible, and if it’s that horrible, how does it get passed?”

 

“When you think about it, in the 1960s a much more dangerous piece of legislation called the Civil Rights Act got bi-partisan support at a time when people were literally being tortured in the streets by fire hoses and arrested,” Mr. Wilmore recalled.

“And we’re talking about healthcare and it can’t get one vote from the other side? I mean, what does that say about us? Who are we? Where are we? I think on both sides of the aisle [that fracture] just manifested itself in different ways, everything from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, from Bernie Sanders to even the Trump phenomenon. That’s my layman’s perspective on it.”

Despite his modesty about being labeled a “satirical journalist,” Mr. Wilmore has strong opinions on the television branch of the fourth estate. 

“I think a lot of young people just don’t trust the news to be as unbiased as they purport to be,” he opined.

Mr. Wilmore’s commentary will be followed by an interview-style discussion with Pomona College W.M. Keck Professor of English Kevin Dettmar.

The self-confessed “political junkie” was downright giddy when asked if he was ready for election day. “History will be made next week, regardless of which way you’re voting. Good lord, I’m not ready for this!”

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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