Something about this recent piece in Chicago's RedEye publication sounded a bit off. What could it have been? Oh, that's right. It was the part wherein the writer claims that Deon Cole was the first black writer ever for The Tonight Show, and cites an NBC spokesperson then has Cole talking about getting a congratulations call from the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "This is a big deal," as Cole told RedEye. Except. Well. Cole isn't the first black writer for The Tonight Show, unless we're narrowly defining that as the Conan O'Brien edition, which is 109 episodes long.
Fact is, Jay Leno employed Larry Wilmore, Kal Clarke and Suli McCullough as writers on staff at one point or another. Not sure what Johnny Carson's track record was, because I wasn't alive then*. *Not true.
One thing I can say, however, is that Conan and company have quickly made Deon Cole a bigger part of the show after his initial appearance as a stand-up, not only hiring him as a writer but putting him front and center to vocalize racially sensitive topics. He did so as recently as Friday's show, which I saw in person (no, you did not see me on camera). Would you like a recapper on this? I can do that for you in 3, 2, 1…Roll the clips!