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8 comedians who deserve late-night shows and aren't white dudes

Hannibal Buress does a standup set on February 7, 2014.
Hannibal Buress does a standup set on February 7, 2014.
Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

With the announcement that Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as host of The Late Show, we now know what late night will look like for the foreseeable future. Both he and his main competition — Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, who only just started — and aren't going anywhere soon. Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Craig Ferguson, and Conan O'Brien are still reasonably young and show no signs of stopping, either. A newer crop of hosts, notably Seth Meyers on Late Night and Pete Holmes on TBS, has emerged, though they look like they'll have to wait a while for promotions.

Some of those shows are actually pretty great (Holmes, in particular, has been killing it lately) but it's kind of a problem that every single one of them is a white dude. There's no particularly good reason for that to be the case, given how many talented women and people of color could run awesome shows. There are the obvious choices — Chris Rock, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ellen DeGeneres, etc. — but also some less famous comedians who deserve a shot as hosts. Here are just a few.

1) Eric Andre

In a sense, Andre — who may be best known for his role on the much too short-lived Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 — has his own late-night show. The Eric Andre Show, which has had two seasons on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim so far, is a public-access show parody that has guests (like "George Clooney" and Chance the Rapper bathing in a giant teacup) but is mostly just Andre hanging out with his buddy Hannibal Buress (who's also a good candidate — see below). It is almost certainly too weird for CBS but I would accept an 80 percent weirdness reduction if it meant anything remotely like this were on network television.

2) Kamau Bell

Bell is the one of only two people on this list who've actually had a late-night show before (assuming we're not counting whatever The Eric Andre Show is). Totally Biased ran on FX for about a year before getting canceled late last year. It's a shame, since at its best Totally Biased was not only funnier than the rest of late night, but more incisive than political cable shows, too.

Take the debate Bell moderated between comedians Lindy West and Jim Norton, above, about the use of rape jokes in comedy. It's the kind of topic that other shows would make a horrific, misogynistic mess of (see: Tosh, Daniel), if not avoid altogether. Bell managed to put together a calm debate between smart people where each argument was given its best airing. That doesn't happen anywhere on television, and it'd be thrilling to see Bell make it happen again.

3) Hannibal Buress

Buress has a busy schedule these days, between acting and writing in The Eric Andre Show, appearing in Broad City, and voicing characters for Chozen and China, IL, and he's said he's not sure a talk show is the right format for him. But he's a more than capable Ed McMahon figure on the Andre Show (check out "Hannibal's Hands"), and more importantly, the man is funny as all hell. His first visit to Letterman, above, landed better than any late-night standup set I've seen, and deservedly so.

4) Cameron Esposito

Not a lot of comics have their first-late night appearance in front of not one late-night host, but two, but when Esposito premiered on Ferguson's show, Jay Leno was the guest of the night. And she killed it so thoroughly that the set turned into a running conservation between her, Leno, and Ferguson, until she walked over, took a seat on the couch, and just did banter for the rest of the segment. By the end, both Leno and Ferguson were predicting she'd take their jobs.

5) Kumail Nanjiani

Like a lot of people on this list, Nanjiani is mostly known for his stand-up. That's not a bad qualification for a job where daily monologues are a requirement, but Nanjiani also stands out for being able to do social commentary in a way that feels neither didactic nor predictable and stereotypical. See the opening joke in the above bit, on how most birthday parties he went to growing up had monkeys as entertainment. The joke isn't about how ridiculous his childhood in Pakistan was; it's on the audience for just rolling with wild generalizations about another country without a second thought.

6) Tig Notaro

Anyone who's heard Notaro's by-now-legendary story of how she and her best friend Sarah Silverman kept running into early '90s pop star Taylor Dayne knows she can make a monologue land. But she became my dream pick for the next late night opening when she did the above appearance on Conan, in which she totally derails the show and seizes whatever control Conan might have had of the segment within seconds of arriving. And it's sufficiently hilarious that he doesn't even care.

7) Retta

If Retta's work as Donna on Parks and Recreation isn't case enough that she needs a talk show, watch above what happens when Anderson Cooper brought her on as a cohost of his daytime talk show. Or, better yet, when she went on Conan. I would watch a full hour of Retta punking people through opera.

8) Wanda Sykes

Like Bell, Sykes used to have a talk show, only to have it canceled. But Sykes was put in a pretty impossible situation, given a Saturday night slot on FOX opposite Saturday Night Live, and between her show and her time as a writer for The Chris Rock Show she has more experience in late-night than anyone on this list (with the possible exception of Kamau Bell). Plus, her show was actually awesome. "Wanda Sykes getting tipsy with people" is a pretty solid show concept, it turns out.

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