Despite some ratings struggles (The Nightly Show is about 40% down in ratings compared to The Colbert Report), Larry Wilmore's new Comedy Central show has overall been a critical success, with thought-provoking segments on complex issues including Ferguson, Bill Cosby, and the NYPD. But Wilmore stumbled badly last night with a deeply misguided segment on Bruce Jenner coming out as a transgender woman—a segment which included a lot of bewildered, tone-deaf jokes from the host as well as a cringe-worthy visit from Colin Quinn as Pinocchio.
If Wilmore had stuck to the initial Republican-bent of the joke, maybe the piece could have been salvaged? But instead, Wilmore treats his personal discovery of transgender people like he just learned about aliens from Mars. The muted, confused reaction of the audience mirrors his material: "My head is starting to hurt," he says at one point. "I feel like Ted Cruz trying to understand Global Warming. All the evidence is right in front of me, it's just my brain can't process it, I'm confused."
This was all bad enough, but the segment nosedived for good once Quinn's Pinocchio came out to let Jenner know everyone in the "puppet-to-real boy community" supports him. Whatever chuckle we'd normally get from comparing Kanye West to Jiminy Cricket was drowned out by how uncomfortable and completely off the mark the whole thing was.
Larry Wilmore manages in a 10 minute segment to marginalize & trivialize trans issues, conflate sexuality & gender, & belittle the community
— Harry T Dyer (@HarryTDyer) April 28, 2015
Can't tell if Larry Wilmore is being cissexist or is just bad at jokes
— Kris C (@therealkrisc) April 28, 2015
Maybe Larry Wilmore's trans segment just starts off a little—yeah, OK, nope. No thanks. pic.twitter.com/17oH593Lbd
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) April 28, 2015
As Digg put it, if this is a topic "you repeatedly admit you have no understanding of, the sound journalistic advice would be to not cover it at all, rather than mistreat an already marginalized community."