Over the course of his career, Roy Wood Jr. has made it to NYC a handful of times each year for shows. But as all new residents discover, living here is totally different.
“The biggest issue for me has been figuring out the commute,” says the comedian, who arrived in NYC six weeks ago from Los Angeles. “With my standup background, over the course of two vehicles I put half a million road miles on the odometer. Now, I’m just lost. I can literally get myself from Birmingham, Alabama, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, no map, no Mapquest, no GPS, no nothing. Now, I can’t get from Chelsea to Williamsburg!”
Wood, 36, a veteran comic known for a little bit of everything, from prank calls on his radio show to the TV series “Sullivan & Son,” just became one of the new correspondents on Trevor Noah's “The Daily Show.” (He walks to the studio from his Midtown West apartment.)
On Nov. 13, Wood will also take part in the all-star lineup of Comedy Central Live in Brooklyn,part of the 12th annual New York Comedy Festival, featuring 60 standup shows in six days, Nov. 10-15. (He’s taking a cab to his show at Kings Theatre.)
We chatted with Wood about what he’s looking forward to doing at his new post, what makes standup special, and how chicken nuggets and open-carry laws both fuel his comedy.
How’s “The Daily Show” gig going?
They’ve really been very cool about allowing the correspondents to have a lot of input on what they think is funny and the angle on which we could approach it. A great example would be the piece that I did in Washington, D.C., about Justice or Else! Million Man March 20th Anniversary — I got to give a lot of input on how we should approach that piece and things that I said to certain people out in the field.
It’s a collaborative effort with your field producers, but it very well could’ve just been, ‘Here’s the story, go get it,’ much in the traditional way that a reporter has to adhere to whatever their news director tells them to do.
Is there anything you’re looking forward toaddressing?
What I’m most excited about is being able to get out into the debates and really figure out ways to expose the candidates and their supporters to the truth of what a lot of these issues should be. Because in an election in this country, we lose sight of the issues that need to be debated for the sake of looking at these people like characters; it’s almost like we’re voting for class president.
No, it’s not about who’s the coolest or who yells at the moderator the meanest at the last debate; it has to be legitimate attention to the issues, and being able to use humor to merge the two. I’ve been trying to do that for so long in my standup and to have a bigger stage to spit some of those ideologies, it’s a gift.
Where do you find inspiration for your comedy?
For me, anger and annoyance are the fuels. [Dave] Chappelle talked about it in a magazine interview a few years ago about how every comedian should identify what feeds their joke machine. And I know that for me, the best bits that I’ve been able to do on late nightare always on issues that annoyed me and kinda drove me up the wall.
And it could be mundane, it could be something as simple as, why are restaurants charging extra for sauces when you order chicken nuggets? Or it could be something much more serious with regards to open and concealed carry permits in schools for the parents — why are you bringing a gun to a PTA meeting?
Has NYC been treating you right?
I walk to work, but for all of the comedy shows that I’m starting to do in and around the city I have to ride the train, it just logistically makes sense. I’m still figuring out which train, which track, and I’m on the wrong platform. People say the train is easy — yeah, ‘cause you’ve been living here forever, I’m new. It’s the 3 line on the F track, I don’t know what that means, just get on it, there hasn’t been a train in 15 minutes and it’s late.
Then you get on the first one that comes and it’s the wrong one.
I’ve literally done that. I just need to be in motion, I feel safer in motion.
That comes from doing a lot of driving.
I’ve come here four or five times of year to do standup and various TV appearances and stuff. So I’m not a stranger to the city, but it’s totally different when you have an apartment versus when you have a hotel room.
Tell me about the Comedy Central showcase.
My job is to get onstage and be as funny as I can in the time that Comedy Central allots me, and then I’m going to kick back and relax and watch some damn legends walk up and down that stage and do their thing.I can’t speak for all comedians, but I never fell out of love with standup. I still enjoy watching it, I still enjoy going to live shows, sitting down, having a two-drink minimum and just listening to somebody share their thoughts.