The other night on The Nightly Show, all the guests were asked the same question: if there was some random human and the guest’s favorite dog drowning and they could only save one, which would it be? One person picked a dog. Another picked the human, but because she’s allergic to dogs. And the other two equivocated. I found that shocking. I’m very fond of dogs. But I don’t think for a minute that any of those people would actually save a dog and let a fellow human being drown. It jut wouldn’t happen.
There are laws against animal cruelty. But as far as I know, there are no laws against humanely killing your own dog. Murder of a human is pretty much the most extreme law that one can break. There are even laws against assisted suicide in cases of people dying from an extremely painful cancer. So it just isn’t the case that we as a society would save the dog — cute and smart as it may be.
I know that I’m kind of obsessed with the “Keep it 100” segment on The Nightly Show. But it really is a stupid segment. It is the least honest thing on the show. People consistently do not keep it 100. They pander to the audience and to the other guests. It is too often the case that Larry Wilmore wants to hear a particular answer and so it is only that answer that is judged as having kept it 100. But sometimes it is the case that the “safe” answer is also the truthful one.
But by far the biggest problem I have with the segment is the assumption that an answer quickly blurted out is more authentic than one where the guest has to think. The implication is that what the guest is thinking about is how best to finesse the answer. But the truth is that a good question should take time to think. On this episode of the the show, Anthony Anderson was given “weak tea” simply because he took too long to answer. This is anti-intellectual nonsense that is beneath the level that The Nightly Show is clearly aiming at.
In a previous show, one of the guests was asked if she would kill Antonin Scalia thus assuring same sex marriage, if she knew she could get away with it. The guest gave a perfectly fine answer to the question. But I thought about what my answer would be and I am sure that I would be given weak tea. The truth is that killing Scalia is a fantasy of mine. Really: I think about it far more than is healthy. Just the same, I know that I would never do it. It is very simple: even though I think Antonin Scalia is a terrible person who makes our society far worse than it would otherwise be, he is still a human being. I could never kill someone for an abstract reason.
So what does it mean to “keep it 100”? I’m afraid that on The Nightly Show it means to just say the first thing that comes to your mind. It is your gut reaction. It is not the truth writ large or small. And it trivializes what are often deep questions. If Larry Wilmore wants some kind of gimmick to get people to say outrageous things, he should find something else. Because outrageous comments are very rarely truthful. And equating the two only coarsens public discussions of important matters.