Roy Wood Jr. quenches AU students’ ‘thirst’ for comedy with Tavern performance
“The Daily Show” correspondent talks performing on college campuses, role of comedy in society
Right before “The Daily Show” correspondent Roy Wood Jr. took the stage in the Tavern Saturday night, he said he felt rejuvenated and anxious.
It was the end of a stressful week filled with about his second one-hour comedy special, “,” which premiered on Comedy Central on Jan. 25. By the time he woke up Saturday afternoon, he said he didn’t feel exhausted anymore knowing that he would later be synergized with the AU student body.
“I enjoy performing at colleges where I feel like the student body is engaged in what’s happening in the world, because my comedy is about what’s happening in the world,” Wood said in an interview with The Eagle.
He performed after opening sets by local D.C. comic Fernando Madrigal and NBC stand-up showcase finalist Ali Clayton. When Wood entered the space, he was immediately greeted by an excited crowd of AU students that nearly filled the entire room.
Wood joked about the failed economy that has people turning their cars into taxis and buying food sold right out of a truck. Students roared with laughter when he talked about the irony of Hillary Clinton making money selling a book about why she was unemployed, and why so many black superheroes don’t have time to worry about saving the rest of the world.
Receiving that sort of response from such a young crowd makes it seem like not all is lost, Wood said.
“I am surprised that as angry as young people are, that they’re still able to find their sense of humor in the midst of all of this bullshit that’s going on in our country right now,” Wood said. “If you can still find a way to emotionally deal with it, then you still have an opportunity to get through it.”
Since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Wood said he hasn’t done many college shows. While he hasn’t had any major issues on college campuses since then, he said that’s when the line between a good joke and decency started to become blurred.
“It’s a comedian’s job to give what they believe is their unfiltered truth about the world,” he said. “It is not a comedian’s job to tell people solely what they want to hear. If you performed solely for the sake of telling people exactly what they want to hear, then you would be a different performer every night. At that point, you’re no longer your own self; you’re a puppet of the audience that you’ve chosen to perform in front of.”
Even though times have changed since Trump won the 2016 election, Wood said that the world of comedy has remained the same. The only difference is that now, people want more.
“Trump being in office didn’t make anyone funnier, didn’t make comedians better,” Wood said. “Just increased the demand. There’s more pain, so the comedy’s more meaningful. Water tastes better when you’re thirsty, and people are thirsty right now for comedy.”
With streaming services and comedy networks releasing , Wood said there are two sides to the increase. Although streaming and on-demand services allow for greater accessibility and give stand-up comics an audience, he said he’s worried that having all these comedy shows at viewers’ fingertips may discourage them from going out and watching live shows.
“A thing I have to keep in mind is that when I perform at a college … for a lot of people in the room, I’m the first comedian they have ever seen, and their decision on whether or not to continue looking into this as a viable form of entertainment rests upon my performance,” Wood said. “I’m onstage for myself as I am as a spokesperson for the art of stand-up comedy.”
For some students in the crowd, Wood made a solid impression.
“From what I’ve encountered, I don’t think we’re the biggest stand-up fans,” said Casey Culhane, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, referring to AU students.
Culhane was familiar with Wood from watching clips of “The Daily Show” online during breakfast. She was excited when she found out that he was coming to campus, and the experience made her feel more motivated to go out and watch more local comedy shows.
Sofia Hinojosa, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, was another student in the crowd who is a big fan of stand-up comedy and “The Daily Show” specifically, snagging a seat when comedian Hasan Minhaj visited AU in 2016.
“I’ve been a fan of comedy since middle school,” she said, laughing at the thought of her childhood dream of being an SNL cast member. Although she gave up on that dream, she said that she could still appreciate the art. “D.C. is one of those places where there’s a huge comedy scene and a huge comedy hub,” she said.
Hinojosa, who is of Mexican descent, was impressed by the variety of talent showcased that evening, praising Madrigal for being unapologetically Latino during his set and Clayton for her conversational style. Even though some of the jokes of the evening were “borderline [offensive],” she said that was the “beautiful genius behind comedy.”
“You’re supposed to find these topics that are taboo, make them un-taboo and make people think,” she said. “Socially we’ve been designed to not talk about it, but once you change the tone and the framework, you get people to think in a more complex matter. Once you get people laughing, you get people’s attention.”