Home Arts & Entertainment Art A Conversation With Roy Wood Jr.

A Conversation With Roy Wood Jr.

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- Harrison DiCocco

Roy Wood Jr. is a comedian you might recognize as one of Trevor Noah’s correspondents on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”  You might also know him from his new show, “This is Not Happening” where he performs as its latest host. Roy Wood Jr. is currently touring his stand-up and is performing at Dr. Grins Comedy Club this Saturday and Sunday. The Collegiate got to stop by the club on Friday night to ask him a few questions.

How is your new show “This is Not Happening” going? How does hosting differ from corresponding on “The Daily Show?”

“This is Not Happening” is a pretty easy program. It’s just storytelling, and I inherited a brand that was already up and rolling so it already had framework. It’s just my job to step in and not screw up what Ari Shaffir built. It’s a pretty cut and dry show, it’s stand-up, it’s storytelling from stand-ups. You know, some of it’s from actors and stuff like that, or people who haven’t done stand-up regularly. Like, I don’t know when the last time we got an hour special from Howie Mandel, but we got a story out of him which is pretty dope.”

“But the corresponding work is closer to journalism, like it’s a lot less comedy and a lot more analyzing. Mike Tirico from ESPN said something that I thought was really profound, he said it as a throw away which shows you how dope he is. Somebody asked him about his job being a sports reporter and he said, “I’m merely an observer of the human condition.” And I think that’s what we are at “The Daily Show.” We are observers of the human condition, and it’s my job to find some kind of punchline or joke in the middle of all of it.”

Why would you recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet?

“This is not Happening” is the only storytelling comedy show that exists across all platforms, all channels, all streaming sites. There are a lot of different places to watch stand-up comedy. This is the only place to watch storytelling. That is also hilarious and amazing. Storytelling in its rawest form, that’s the root of music, the root of books and literature. It’s the root of comedy. So many things start from that first block.”

At “The Daily Show” you all have to watch hours of news coverage. Do you ever see Trump do something stupid and go, “Yes this will be an easy week for jokes?”

I don’t think there is ever a celebration of misgovernment. I do think comedians think more about – alright it’s time to really come with something that’s effective. You know, at the minimum bring a higher level of awareness of what’s going on. You know a lot of comedians are happy that Trump has happened. I think it’s good for business. Everybody’s ratings are up across the board, people’s numbers are up across all charts pre-election to post-election, so there has been a change in the diet of the consumer.

When Trump says something now it’s like, “What did he say? Alright that’s not crazy enough. That’s a nothing burger.” Like, we are almost at the point now where we can look at what happened with Trump in the morning, and know whether or not that headline is going to be relevant by 6 p.m. when we tape the show. So you start to learn…what’s a smoke screen and what’s a legitimate viable news bite. And there are days where he throws you curveballs where you are just chilling, and you got a show you are working on and then he goes on “Fox and Friends” and loses his damn mind. So you don’t know what you’re going to get.

What initially grabbed you to do “The Daily Show?”

I mean “The Daily Show” is an institution. So if you get an opportunity to audition for it you say yes immediately. It’s a no brainer. You know, thankfully coming from everything I did at ESPN and kind of goofing off there and stuff. I know that helped me some. Neal Brennan co-created the Chappelle show. … He put in a word for me so I could get the audition, so it’s not like there was a big open call and everyone had a chance. It’s just one of those things where all the opportunities lined up at the same time and everything else was, “You’ve been training for this moment! When talent meets opportunity!”

Have you ever felt unsafe performing a live fieldpiece?

I’ve never feared for my life while shooting stuff. After you shoot it, and people start shooting you n-word messages and stuff like that. People tend to watch us more closely when we’re out now, ‘cause there is a resentment against the media. So we’re out and we’re asking questions, and this is from – really both sides. I mean the right more so than the left. In the last couple of months the left has started to become more hyper aware of how issues are presented as well. So you know I’ve never felt not safe, but I’ve definitely had people yell and stuff like that.

We have a pretty big open mic community here in Grand Rapids. What would you recommend, or what advice might you give to any local comics?

The goal I set for myself when I first started stand-up, was to once a month perform somewhere different. Whether different city or different venue. I didn’t always hit that goal, I generally did. Granted, I toured in the south. There (are) much more opportunities up here.

If you drew a triangle from Chicago to Cincinnati to Pennsylvania. There is at least three months of steady comedy workin that area, and there is no reason (not to perform) once a week if you are serious about it. There is no reason you wouldn’t perform at one of those places. And if not to perform, but to observe. Watch as much comedy as you can, watch a lot of it on TV, and watch a lot of it live. Watch like a customer, don’t stand in the back of the room on your phone. Sit there in a chair, and be annoyed. For me, I learned a lot more from stuff that annoyed me and angers me than I do from things that I enjoy. I learn what I don’t like, and I learn not to do those things.

I played this game called “Guess the joke” all the time. Whenever I watch a comic I try to figure out where the joke is going, if the joke doesn’t go to that place. I just wrote a joke! And there is ways to take that joke, and twist it put into other capacities. So there are things that are beneficial to not living in a bubble. ‘Cause at the end of the day I feel like the occupation of comedy is a reporter. You report on your life, or you report on the world. Those are the only two jokes that exist. To me, those are the only two jokes that matter. The only two jokes that don’t do those things are an incomplete joke in my opinion.

So get on stage as much as you can, and don’t worry about the money. The money will never come, you will never get paid. Even the comedians who you think are getting lots of money, Those comedians are as disgusted as you, at the money they are making.”

Roy Wood Jr. can be seen performing at Dr. Grins through Sunday, April 29 with shows at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. For more information visit Dr.Grins.com.