On “The Daily Show,” Roy Wood Jr. shines as a correspondent when he takes an issue that is in the news, like Confederate statues or police brutality, and finds an original argument that’s both hilarious and progressive.
While his stand-up comedy is not quite as topical — he mostly refrains from naming political figures and celebs — it’s still just as socially relevant.
Earlier this year, his fantastic hourlong special “Father Figure” dropped on Comedy Central. Now, he’s headlining Gotham Comedy Club with all new material.
What’s on your mind with the new material?
It’s still a work in progress. I know I have to at some point comment on what’s going on in the world, but for me I feel like I have an opportunity to wait for some of these issues to settle. With everything that’s happening with sexual harassment right now, I want to take time to study it. The trick about writing a joke about gun control or race is I have to make sure it’s funny enough that I don’t come across as some kind of conspiracy theorist. A conspiracy theorist is just a comedian with no punchline.
Has your work on “The Daily Show” bled into your stand-up comedy?
I think the biggest difference between my comedy on “The Daily Show” and my comedy on the stage, is that on “The Daily Show” we need to talk about the issue and the people surrounding the issue. . . . My comedy is strictly about the issue. I try not to b---h at people in my comedy because a year from now, five years, 10 years from now, I feel like those issues might be around, but not necessarily those people who were involved. When Donald Trump is out of the office in a week from now, or 8 years from now, race is still going to be an issue. The issue might not necessarily be Trump. For me, we can have a conversation about Colin Kaepernick, but the real issue, for me, is police reform and black patriotism.
Has working as a correspondent changed your approach to comedy?
[“The Daily Show”] has made me go more deep in my material. I can’t just do the surface. In order to say something that no one else has said, you have to have more depth. Because right now I would say there’s now eight or nine programs that will tear apart the news of the day. So we have to find an alternate angle, an approach we know no one else is going to take, and that has definitely rubbed off on my comedy. It’s left me with jokes that I know are hilarious, but I know in the back of my mind, “there’s no way someone else hasn’t thought this.” Then I won’t perform the material, even if it came out of my head. If it’s been said, I don’t want to say it.
I hear you’re taking over hosting duty on Comedy Central’s “This Is Not Happening.”
I’m honored to be trusted with hosting it this year. “This Is Not Happening” is unique in that it’s the only comedic storytelling show on TV in terms of the showcase style. There’s shows out there that will have three or four comedians doing comedy, but there aren’t any where they allow the longer-form style of comedy.