Interview: Robin Thede (THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE)

Robin Thede

After serving as Head Writer on THE QUEEN LATIFAH SHOW and writing for Chris Rock at the 2014 BET Awards, Robin Thede made headlines when she was named the first black woman to be a Head Writer for a late night show.

Thede has played an integral role in steering THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE (Comedy Central) into a worthy successor to THE COLBERT REPORT.

The WGAE spoke with Robin Thede about THE NIGHTLY SHOW, keeping it 100 and SCREAM QUEENS.

As the Head Writer for THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE, what kind of stories/topics do you find the most engaging to cover?  

I really like the stories that speak to people’s collective outrage. And “outrage” can be good or bad, although it’s usually in response to a tragedy of some sort. Either way, collective outrage is always an intriguing place to start because it gives you a basis for discussion that will genuinely affect people. On our show, we get to talk about things as they happen, and voice an opinion in real time. That’s both challenging and invigorating.

Can you give us a peek into your typical day at THE NIGHTLY SHOW?

Sheer and utter chaos. Beyond that, pretty normal!

The day starts at 9am, where we choose the topic for the day if we didn’t already do so the night before. From there, we go through 3-4 rounds of re-writes until we’ve honed a script that says exactly what Larry’s point of view is on a given topic. Or at least one that has super funny jokes. But hopefully both!

How does your writing room operate?

We don’t operate. We’re not doctors and if we were, we’d be terrible at it.

Tell about THE NIGHTLY SHOW love of doing food segments. There seems to be some magic cooking whenever Larry is around food, whether he’s interviewing Baltimore gangs at a diner, speaking with Bernie Sanders over soul food, ice cream with Nancy Pelosi or enjoying a meal as news clips play out some ridiculous political downward spiral.

Larry is a foodie, what can I say? Actually I don’t even know what a “foodie” is, but if it’s someone who enjoys talking to newsworthy folks with food in his mouth, then he’s one. I guess the food thing has naturally developed out of Larry’s love of conversation. The whole idea behind this show was to have authentic conversations about issues in the news. That’s what “Keeping it 100” is all about. And if you’ve ever had a great conversation with someone, it was probably over food. So I suppose it’s our way of sharing a mutually beloved activity in order to facilitate a natural, honest dialogue.

What’s the most difficult story to make funny for a wide audience?

Anything that has to do with children or death or both. Tamir Rice, the Charleston Mass Shooting, any number of police killings, etc. are the hardest to cover but also the most necessary. Comedy is the only way you can talk about these tragedies, most of the time. And we are careful never to make fun of the event, but rather people’s reactions to it or surrounding circumstances that stem from the incident.

How much news do you consume in any given day? What are your go-to media outlets? 

Way too much. I follow every sort of media source from conservative to liberal and all points in between. My mind is mush at this point.

What kind of environment do you like to be in when you write (i.e. a quiet room with no music; highly caffeinated at a coffee shop)?

I don’t have a choice. Usually, at work, I’m in my office or in the rewrite room amidst a dozen people all throwing out ideas. But if I’m working on personal writing, I prefer a quiet corner at home, huddled in a ball, crying. That’s not weird, right?

What TV shows, movies, comedians would you recommend others check out? Whose twitter should everyone be following?

I’m going to get crap for this, but SCREAM QUEENS on FOX is the most devilishly acted and well-written piece of comedy on television out of this fall’s new crop of shows. It is subversive, dangerous and completely timely. It’s honestly some of the best comedy I’ve read in a long time. UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT also just makes me happy. And twitter-wise, Chrissy Teigen is always great for a laugh.

Is there a character throughout the history of film or television that you wish you could’ve written?

Bette Davis’s “Jane” character in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? but only so I could have been on set to see all the fighting between her and Joan Crawford. I heard it was super nasty. And I love a good cat fight. But you already knew that from my love of SCREAM QUEENS.

You can find Robin Thede online at robinthede.com and on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @RobinThede