Robin Thede earned her first writing credit at the 2014 BET Awards, crafting jokes for show host Chris Rock. The gig sparked a fast-paced career in the entertainment industry—a career marked by firsts.
As head writer for Comedy Central’s Nightly Show starting in 2015, she became the first black woman to hold that position for any late-night show. One year later, Thede became the first black woman to serve as head writer for the 2016 White House Press Correspondence Dinner.
She’ll also be the only late-night host currently on air who is black and female.
“It’s a quality that Ms. Thede knows will immediately set her apart from her many competitors,” wrote Dave Itzkoff in The New York Times.
Thede’s irreverent comedic style is a natural fit for late-night, the programming block characterized by acerbic hosts and borderline-offensive skits.
“I purposely put my name in the title so no one can replace me,” Thede quipped in an interview with Essence.
Watch the trailer:
The Rundown will be Thede’s chance to share her charismatic and hilarious style with a wider audience, who may not be familiar with her as a TV personality (although viewers will recognize her humor if they’ve watched any of the daytime, late-night and scripted TV shows where she’s credited as a writer.
“Some people only know me as a comedian, and some people only know me as a writer,” Thede told Variety. “This show blends field and studio comedy and plays to my strengths as a writer and performer. I want to create a (show) that is unlike anything else on the market.”
BET has the same goal. Connie Orlando, BET’s head of programming, told The New York Times that the network was looking to shake up its programming with late-night comedy.
“It was something that made sense for the direction we’re going in,” said Orlando. “We realized our real prime time starts at 10, and our audience loves to laugh. It felt like the perfect moment to add the voice of an African-American female to the conversation.” Orlando also believes the show has potential to go viral and reach viewers outside BET’s demographic.
How? Late-night talk shows are fueled by current events, relying on the daily news cycle for their commentary. Race relations and women’s issues heavily focused on. Thede is in a unique position as a black woman to provide commentary on these topics from her own experience—adding a level of genuine credibility to the late-night set that, until now, hasn’t existed for black female viewers.
In an interview with The New York Times, Thede predicted this credibility would help her show gain traction. “I’m speaking to stories that matter to us,” said Thede, referring to black women. Members of her community will tune in to “to get an authentic opinion about stories they’re not going to hear anywhere else.”
But The Rundown has great potential to engage viewers from every demographic, according to Orlando.
“The show’s going to cover anything from Cardi B to what’s happening in the White House,” Orlando told The New York Times. “I think all kinds of audiences will be interested to know and listen to what Robin has to say.”
— #TheRundownBET (@TheRundownBET) September 27, 2017
Thede and her team have made it clear that their show will embody diversity behind the scenes, as well, with a staff comprised of women, people of color, and LGBT individuals.
The late night is about to wake up.