Charlamagne tha God Talks 'Hell of a Week,' Why He Considers Kanye a Nazi, and Angela Yee Leaving 'Breakfast Club'

The radio host sat down with Complex to talk about his new late-night talk show 'Hell of a Week,' Kanye West, and Angela Yee leaving 'The Breakfast Club.'

Charlamagne Tha God Interview
Comedy Central

Image via Ismail Sayeed/Comedy Central

Charlamagne Tha God Interview

Charlamagne tha God is just getting started.

The radio personality, whose real name is Lenard McKelvey, has been in the media game for more than two decades but has continued to elevate himself and his career by taking on new challenges along the way. Most recently, he took on a late-night talk show host role on Comedy Central’s Hell of a Week With Charlamagne tha God.

On Hell of a Week, he shares his unfiltered opinions on politics, the week’s biggest cultural news, and conducts the type of celebrity interviews he is notorious for. The variety news show follows a similar format to his 2021 show Tha God’s Honest Truth With Lenard ‘Charlamagne’ McKelvey, which was also produced by Stephen Colbert. Charlamagne has a full writers’ room, a production crew, and a team of panelists he collaborates with weekly, but the hosting responsibilities fall solely on him. The radio host’s deadpan and frank delivery when asking questions and having conversations has gotten him into trouble in the past, but this era of celebrity podcast hosts has brought forth a new level of appreciation for those like him who aren’t afraid to ask hard-hitting questions. He speaks freely on the radio, but he says working with other writers and comedians challenges him to view and approach things differently.  

Aside from his new TV hosting duties, Charlamagne has also launched The Black Effect Podcast Network, the Short Black Handsome Productions company with Kevin Hart, and his Black Privilege Publishing imprint with Simon & Schuster—all with the purpose of helping others succeed. “I like seeing who that next person is and giving that person an opportunity to express themselves. That’s what I like to do,” Charlamagne tells Complex. “Anything that I’m doing now if it’s just about me, it’s not big enough.” 

He’s taking that same mentality as his popular Power 105.1 morning show The Breakfast Club is on the verge of a major transformation. Co-host Angela Yee’s upcoming departure means Charlamagne and DJ Envy will continue sharing co-hosting duties, and while Charlamagne knows the value of Yee’s presence on the show, he’s looking forward to the changes. “Angela Yee is irreplaceable and you could never replace that piece we’ve made history with. We’ve all made history together,” Charlamagne says. “Some people say we might be one the most impactful radio shows of all time. But you can never replace her. It’s just, to me, the natural evolution of a radio show.” 

Charlemagne hopped on a Zoom call with Complex and he opened up about his new gig at Comedy Central, The Breakfast Club, his thoughts on Kanye West, the state of hip-hop media, who should host The Daily Show, and more. Read our interview with the radio host, lightly edited for length and clarity, below.

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How is the late-night show going for you? How has that transition been?

The late-night show is going great. Late-night television is always interesting, especially in 2022. There are so many different options out there for people to indulge in and not just on the late-night tip. Why does the world need another platform for people just having certain conversations? With all of that, I feel like the show is still doing well and it’s a show, especially with the new format, it’s my type of show, which is a show that has a conversation by committee. 

We got the panel and it’s us four up there just talking about things that happened during the week. I always think smart conversations with smart people about things that truly impact us all are always beneficial. I’m just glad we get the opportunity to do it every Thursday.

How is the late-night show different from hosting The Breakfast Club with two people? Is it more challenging in a way?

Nah. I’m hosting it by myself, but it’s a whole team. It’s a whole staff behind me and people that I’ve worked with for a long time. My showrunner Rachael Alicia Edwards, I know Rachael for over a decade. When I first started at Viacom, she was an executive assistant to another one of my homegirls. We both have grown and that’s what it’s about. Now of course when I got my own opportunity to have my own vehicle, she’s the showrunner. My other homegirl Bianca [Brunette] would have been with me on every single talk show I’ve done with Viacom. People don’t realize this is the biggest talk show I’ve done thus far. But prior to that, I had two smaller ones on MTV2 called Charlamagne & Friends and Uncommon Sense

Bianca worked with me on both seasons of Charlamagne & Friends and all three seasons of Uncommon Sense. I do have a whole team behind me. Even when I’m up there doing my one-on-one thing, it’s writers that help me craft a lot of this language that I was going to say anyway. That’s pretty much easy. Then I got the crowd right there as well. So I’m playing off them and then by the time the panel comes in, it’s like the same formula of Breakfast Club or the same formula of Brilliant Idiots. Because every week with Brilliant Idiots, it’s me and Andrew [Schulz]. For Breakfast Club, it’s me, Angela, and Envy. There’s always energy to bounce off and people to bounce off. The formula really isn’t that much different, it’s just different people.

One thing that has always made you stand out is your straightforward approach when asking questions and delivering the messages and opinions you want to deliver. When it comes to Hell of a Week, has your approach changed in that regard? 

Yeah, nothing’s changed. I definitely have a writers’ room and it’s actually refreshing to have a writers’ room because I’ve never had that before. I never had that with radio. Radio, you go in there every day and it’s really just you versus millions. You’re literally playing a game of one-on-4.5 million people daily. But when you have a team of writers in there that you can say, “Hey man, this is what I’m interested in talking about. This is my POV on this situation. Help me broaden this POV or challenge the POV so we can make it even broader.” I like beating things up in a room and coming to a bigger conclusion about things. I like having the writers and the straightforward approach. That never changes, that’s never going anywhere.

Has Comedy Central given you boundaries about things that you can or can’t discuss on the show? 

They’ve never given me boundaries, but there are things that have come up. This was a public thing so I can say it, but when we had Ray J on the show. Me and Ray J sat down for 17 minutes and of course, you can’t air the whole 17 minutes on the show, which is fine. Even on Breakfast Club, we don’t air whole interviews on the air. We might sit down with an artist for an hour and on-air we might air 20 minutes, but immediately when that 20 minutes is up, you can go on The Breakfast Club YouTube page and watch the whole thing in its entirety. Even in a setting of television, I’m fine sitting down and having a conversation that I know is only going to be six minutes for TV. Because if it goes 10 minutes, or 12 minutes, you put the rest of it online. 

I don’t like when people’s thoughts are edited. If you’re going to edit it down to six minutes, let’s at least keep full thoughts. Don’t chop somebody up in mid-thought and move on to something else. I personally don’t like that. So we had Ray on and it was a very sensitive time because he was venting about the Kardashians and what they’re trying to do to him and putting the sex tape blame on him. What people don’t realize is that it’s really impacted his real world, meaning his business and everything else. We couldn’t put the whole 17 minutes out just because Kris Jenner is a mob boss out here in the world of television. People didn’t want to upset her and they didn’t want any possible liability.

For sure. 

So what they put on the air is all that we were able to put out. And Ray J was frustrated by that. Highly upset. He lashed out on social media at me, at the show, and at everybody else, but mainly at me. Because that’s somebody that I’ve been knowing for 20 years and he’s come on Breakfast Club and always been able to speak his mind freely. So when he sees me on a platform, he feels like, “Oh, this is where I’m going to go to get my message out.” So for him to be edited like that, it comes back to me. But that’s all the network, that’s Paramount, Viacom, that doesn’t have anything to do with me. So they’ve never come to me and did X, Y, and Z, but they have their own internal conversations and I can’t argue with them. It’s their airwaves.

Charlamagne Tha God Interview
Charlamagne Tha God Interview
Charlamagne Tha God Interview

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