You’d be hard pressed to find a comedian that better personifies Brooklyn than Wyatt Cenac. The Fort Greene resident and former “Daily Show” correspondent came out with a comedy special on Netflix named “Brooklyn” in 2014, and his ongoing stand-up showcase “Night Train” at Littlefield is one of the best rooms in both Kings County and New York. Now he’s defending the borough from gentrification in new web series “aka Wyatt Cenac.”
In the six-episode series, Cenac stars as an everyday Brooklynite annoyed by the onslaught of baby carriages and specialty mustard stores in his neighborhood, who also happens to have a secret vigilante identity, The Viceroy.
amNewYork caught up with Cenac to talk about the new project.
What gave you the idea for “aka Wyatt Cenac?”
The idea kind of came from when I was taking meetings with people in LA and people would talk to me about, “What’s your semi-autobiographical scripted show that’s like a ‘Louie’ or a ‘Seinfeld?’ ” And I felt on some level ‘that’s kind of a high bar,’ but also it seems like there’s been a lot of shows about comedians and their off time. So, I was trying to think of something that was sort of like what a comedian does, in terms of you work nights and people aren’t really sure who you are in the job or who you are outside the job. A crime fighting vigilante was the closest comparison I could come to.
You once wrote a short Luke Cage comic for Marvel. Did that experience inspire you?
It definitely added to some of the inspiration. I feel like I’ve been someone who has been interested in comic books for a long time — as a kid I used to read comic books — and I think on some level the idea of writing a comic book was fun, but also I go to see comic book movies and TV shows, and to some degree I knew I was never going to be asked to play Batman, so why not make my own character if somebody is willing to give me money to make it?
Gentrification is a big issue for both your vigilante character and yourself in your stand-up routine. How is it different approaching the issue in a web series?
In some ways it helps to flush out things I talk about on stage, and getting to tell the story in a different way. There’s an episode that is all about a kid who is left on my stoop that I have to baby-sit, and that’s a thing that happened to me. I talk about it on stage and I enjoy being able to translate it in a different way with actors, actresses and the crew. It’s a nice way to contextualize something like that.
In the way that Brooklyn has changed in the past 15 years, have you seen some of those similar changes in other big cities when you’re on tour?
Oh sure. I think it’s funny because I did a stand-up special a couple years back that’s called “Brooklyn.” And I think one of the critiques about it was that I was talking about things that were very particular to Brooklyn. But also the things I was talking about, I was talking about because I had been on the road and I had seen similar things . . . Whatever city you live in, there are people there who are older than you who remember what it used to be and grumble because they’re being pushed out or being forgotten. I haven’t seen any mayonnaise shops — I think that’s one that Brooklyn has definitely held firm — but there’s definitely change happening all over.
If there was one aspect of Brooklyn that you could save from gentrification or change, what would that be?
I think for me the thing that I appreciate the most about Brooklyn, outside of social things, that’s an aesthetic thing, is the architecture. The brownstones, a lot of the buildings in Brooklyn — and New York in general — are beautiful old buildings. And new developments come in, and there’s something sad about it not being in the same style, building one of those giant glass monstrosities. If I were the totalitarian dictator of Brooklyn I might put a cap on how tall buildings could be and I’d demand that they all follow the same aesthetic of what’s been in the borough for a long time.
Streaming: ‘aka Wyatt Cenac’ begins streaming Oct. 3 on topic.com