OTV: Queering Late-Night Talk Shows

Aymar Jean Christian


I created Open Television Tonight to queer the late-night talk show—to disrupt its conventions and the identity of the host. Late night ranks among the least diverse hours of TV, even though late-night programming tends to be the "edgiest" in TV history. Instead of promoting the latest macho blockbuster to be sold internationally, I wanted to use the format of the talk show to showcase Chicago’s queer artists. Instead of Jimmy Fallon, you get me, a black queer academic who could never book our president as a guest. Instead of a live band, you get Hijo Pródijo, who has DJed some of the dopest queer events in the city.

Last January, a spot during the MCA’s free Tuesday programming helped us attract our biggest audience at the time, around 200 people. (Though we would soon outdo that at the Chicago Cultural Center with the premieres of a few show’s from that year’s cycle: Brujos, Brown Girls, and Afternoon Snatch.) The event was a roaring success. I had so many people come up to me afterward and tell me how invigorating it was to be in a space that artistically represented the least powerful but most brilliant artists and communities, especially 10 days after the inauguration.

The video below is from that evening and features interviews with the teams behind Open TV (beta)’s most ambitious cycle to date. These shows quickly developed large passionate fan bases and I guarantee that you will see more of these artists in the future! And because the last MCA event gave us a jolt of buzz to propel these shows, we’re doing it again on Tuesday, March 6 with three new series, Yogma, Code-Switched, and Seeds. The show starts at 6 pm in the theater.