On The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, Robin Thede made history as the first black woman to ever be head writer of a late-night series. Now, the veteran comedian is coming to BET with The Rundown With Robin Thede: a weekly half-hour show that will feature classic monologue jokes and reported pieces along with sketch comedy and musical segments. Thede spoke with EW about how the Rundown will work, and how she plans on making her mark on late-night.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what will the Rundown actually look like?
ROBIN THEDE: We’ll start with a topical sketch — just like a quick, 60-second sketch at the top of the show, a cold open that gives you 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.
And 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 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.
And the third thing?
And the other thing could be an evergreen sketch. So there is a heavy sketch component, too, from week to week, whether it’s just the topical sketch or a longer sketch at the end of the show. But everything we’re doing is comedy first, mixed with this elevation with information and relevancy to what other issues are going on. I think that politics and pop culture have no separation these days. You can just look at our reality show president meeting with Kanye the day after he was elected, not even getting briefings from intelligence. That’s the world we live in. And even what’s going on with the NFL is so political, but it’s also pop culture as well.
Are there topics that you’re particularly excited to tackle?
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.
What did you learn from your experience at Larry Wilmore?
I think I learned you have to be authentic in your comedy; otherwise, people will see right through it. I think, especially in our panel and in the pieces I would write, I think comedy is one thing, but you can’t just be funny anymore, you have to bring a point of view, and that’s exemplified with what Kimmel is doing with healthcare and what Seth Meyers is doing with Trump; people want to hear your opinion and they want to hear how a comedian gives it in a smart and funny way.
The Rundown With Robin Thede premieres Thursday at 11 p.m. ET on BET.
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