'You gave voice to underserved voices'

By Nick Maslow
Updated August 19, 2016 at 01:18 PM EDT
Comedy Central

Larry Wilmore signed off from Comedy Central on a high note Thursday, sharing powerful parting words and receiving praise from Jon Stewart in the last episode of The Nightly Show.

“Your last show? Oh my God — what, did you piss off Peter Thiel?” joked Stewart, an executive-producer of The Daily Show spin-off, while alluding to PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel and the Gawker shut-down.

Then Stewart got heartfelt, telling Wilmore, “I just decided to stop by and tell you I love you. And may I say something else, if I may? Do you have a moment? I have been in situations in what we call show business, television where my name has been on the show, and they’ve locked the door and told me — this was a Paramount executive — ‘Get your s— and get out.’ And a very wise man said to me, ‘Do not confuse cancelation with failure.’ And I took that to heart.”

Stewart continued: “So I will say this: What you, my friend, were tasked to do, you have done — and done beautifully. You gave voice to underserved voices in the media arena. It was a show that was raw and poignant and funny and smart and all of those things. You did it from scratch.”

Stewart’s speech addressed Comedy Central president Kent Alterman’s interview with the New York Times about the Nightly Show‘s cancellation on Monday, during which Alterman said Wilmore’s program “hasn’t resonated” with viewers.

“You took something and got better every f—ing day,” Stewart told Wilmore. “We talk about a little thing called — I guess the word someone uses — resonance. Did you resonate with an audience? I would say not only that, but in an important way, but in a way you don’t even realize yet and won’t reveal itself for years to come, and it’s this: You started a conversation that was not on television when you began. And you worked with a group of people who you invited to that conversation to collaborate with you, to sharpen that conversation, and what you don’t realize is that you walk out of this room, that conversation doesn’t end.”

He ended the tribute with a kicker, saying, “You did it, my… mishpocha,” the Yiddish word for family (and a reference to Wilmore’s controversial remark to President Barack Obama at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April).

It’s been a whirlwind week for Wilmore, whose show was canceled by Comedy Central on Monday. Following the cable network’s decision to ax the program, Wilmore said he’s “really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity.”

He added: “But I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election or ‘The Unblackening’ as we’ve coined it. And keeping it 100, I guess I hadn’t counted on ‘The Unblackening’ happening to my time slot as well.”

In an interview with EW, Wilmore said he intended to take a break from covering politics “for a while,” but that he would “love to moderate a debate.” He also entertained the idea of someday returning to late night TV, saying, “I would love to, that would be a nice thing. But I’m going to take some time to think about it and see what I really want to do. I still like scripted shows and that sort of thing, so I’ll probably get back into doing some of that on the producing side.”

Wilmore confirmed to EW on Wednesday that his last episode would include an appearance by Stewart, who hosted The Daily Show during Wilmore’s long-time run as the show’s “Senior Black Correspondent.”

Watch Stewart praise Wilmore in the video below, and then see Wilmore’s full finale here.

The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore

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