Pop Goes The News – As a correspondent for The Daily Show, Roy Wood Jr. both travels across the U.S. talking to people from all walks of life and sits at the desk with host Trevor Noah sharing his thoughts on current events.
So, who better to ask: What the fuck is going on in America?
“I don’t know, man,” Wood replies, with a sigh.
“America has turned into that drunk, noisy prick at the bar that everybody else wants to kick out. We used to be the nice, kind, polite person but now someone’s come up to America at the bar and basically said, ‘Hey you’ve had too much to drink, America. You gotta get out of here.’ And America’s going, ‘You don’t tell me when to leave.’”
In addition to being one of the funniest talents on The Daily Show, Wood is a hilarious stand-up comedian who riffs on the world as he sees it. During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this year, Wood explained why he insists on getting a bag when he shops. “As a black man in this country, people need to know I paid for this stuff. Not only do I need a bag, I need that receipt and I want people to staple it to the outside like Chinese carryout.”
Wood will bring his act to Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival on July 27.
“A lot of it is my thoughts on everything that’s going on in the world right now,” he says, on the phone from Chicago where he is taping a new special – a followup to last year’s Father Figure. Wood adds that he’ll peruse Canadian headlines to see what he can add to his JFL set.
“My comedy’s a lot about the world and the way I see it so I’ll see what’s going on in the zeitgeist and in the world at that time and work it into the act a little bit,” he explains, “but I’m pretty sure I’ll come with 85 per cent of an agenda already in my head.”
There’s a good chance the name of a certain U.S. president will come up – or maybe not. Wood says he’s looking forward to being in a “mental oasis” like Montreal. “At least in Canada, Donald Trump is on the second page of the paper, not the front.”
Wood admits Trump has provided a lot of fodder for comics.
“It’s good for comedy but just because it’s good for comedy doesn’t mean it’s good for our sanity,” he says. “I would rather have a world without Donald Trump than a world with unlimited Donald Trump jokes.”
Still, Wood knows that in these turbulent and politically divided times, people are looking for escape.
“I think comedy soothes and there are some people who need soothing,” he says. “And there’s some people who don’t give a damn and they’re having a ball right now. They could care less about what’s happening in the country.
“But I definitely think there are people who are turning to comedians. Or alcohol. Or ‘shrooms.”
Born in Alabama, Wood eventually earned a degree in broadcast journalism and worked in radio.
Wood says he knew early on that he could make people laugh. “I first realized I was funny in high school, riding the bench playing baseball because there was always the possibility to crack on the opposing team,” he recalls. “And then I realized that I can do it professionally after I became a waiter and started making people laugh at the tables.”
He was part of the New Faces line-up at JFL in 2006, appeared on Last Comic Standing in 2010, had a three-season run on U.S. cable sitcom Sullivan & Son, and joined The Daily Show in 2015.
Wood’s interviews with regular Americans – including Bigfoot-believing, gun-toting, homophobes – allow him to combine his journalism training with his comedic talent (and his knack for keep a straight face).
“Before starting at The Daily Show I thought, ‘there’s no way there’s people like this in the world.’ Turns out the world is full of people that don’t agree with the way you think,” he explains. “So once you understand that, it makes things a little more level. I may not agree with the person I’m interviewing but I just have to respect there’s someone out there who [for example] truly believes that all of the victims of school shootings are crisis actors who were hired.”
Wood and his girlfriend Salone Monet recently welcomed son Henry – but don’t expect to see Wood change who he is on camera or on stage.
“Being a father hasn’t changed my comedy, it’s only changed my work ethic,” he says. “So, I probably run myself a little ragged at times but as far as the type of material that I’m doing, I don’t think much about that.
“If anything I want my son to see it, I want my son to know what I thought about the world.”