Armed with a journalism degree from Florida A&M University, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Roy Wood, Jr. handles his role as one of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” news correspondents with skillful ease. At first glance, you quickly notice that he engages audiences with delivery, poise and demeanor that rival any serious television broadcaster; and this skill-set, combined with just the right amount of humor and personality, means he could have easily chosen a career in “real” news, if he wanted to.
But serious journalism wasn’t exactly Wood’s calling—comedy was.
Before joining “The Daily Show,” for years, Wood worked comedy clubs all across the country, was a popular radio personality and made several appearances on the late-night television circuit and was a contestant on the popular NBC comedy competition series “Last Comic Standing.” Before long, in 2012, he landed a role on the TBS sitcom “Sullivan and Son,” a show that ran for three seasons.
Wood is truly one of the hardest-working comedians in the game today; in addition to “The Daily Show,” this fall, he’ll be adding to his Comedy Central résumé when he assumes host duties of the storytelling series, “This Is Not Happening.”
For Wood, however, something more personal is happening away from the mics and stages of stand-up comedy and the small screen: daddy to his young son, Henry. In honor of Father’s Day, Comedy Hype spoke with the Birmingham, Alabama native about how fatherhood has altered his career trajectory, the unnecessariness of birthday parties for one-year-olds, and what the perfect Father’s Day looks like.
CH: “Father Figure,” your stand-up special that was released earlier this year, has been described as a love letter to your son. Within the humor, it had a serious undertone about race and society that you wanted him to hear directly from you, when he’s old enough to understand, of course. Take us back to when you came up with the concept for the special.
RW: About forty percent of the act was already in motion before my child was born and once he arrived, it was a matter of figuring out how to shape the material. I got hit with an overwhelming feeling of responsibility that I wasn’t anticipating. Granted, when you have a child, of course you should anticipate responsibility, but he just instilled that. I said to myself, “Wait—I’m literally the first line of defense to protect him from stuff.” Then, the world was a really ugly place by the time my son arrived—we had Trump running [for President]—so things were just a little different. I constantly came back to “How am I going to prepare him to understand the horrors of the world? Be it racism or even fast food companies that overcharge for chicken nugget sauces?” You know, both are horrific in their own way… It really became an issue of figuring out how to answer those questions and I just decided I’ll make this special about a lot of the things I hope he can understand when he’s older.
CH: You named your son “Henry”—why not Roy Wood, III? You didn’t want to keep that going?
RW: Nah, no more “Roy Woods” if I can help it. There are enough Roys in my family as it is, plus, I don’t want him coming up in my Google results!
CH: Has your comedic frame of mind changed any now that you have become a dad; i.e., do you approach writing your material differently or are there projects you won’t do now?
RW: Thankfully, my kid is still at an age where he can’t comprehend TV yet so if I wanted to ease off and do a porn real quick I could—it’s “last call” for that, you know! But truthfully, if anything it has made me more honest as a comic. There’s more on the line now so I’m trying my best to just make sure I do stuff that speaks to my comedic truths. There are some projects that I’ve said “yes” to in the past that I definitely wouldn’t now because it wouldn’t necessarily help to maximize my growth as a comedian or my ability to provide as a father. There was a time where I could take certain gigs just for the sake of getting a check but now, money ain’t enough. There’s gotta be some growth attached to it, too.
CH: For parents-to-be, when it comes to conversations about raising children, you always hear “they don’t hand out parenting manuals at the hospital.” If you were to write that manual, what might the first chapter look like?
RW: I would say that the thing you can’t prepare for is that there is never enough time. You just have to accept that every day, you’re going to run out of time or you’re not going to be able to do all of the chores or run all of the errands that you want to. The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be.
CH: What is the first thing you recall your son doing that simply cracked you up?
RW: He has a knack for pulling at things on the television—his thing is to take stuff (books, PlayStation, etc.) off shelves. If it’s not bolted down, please believe that he’s taking it off the shelf and then dragging it across the floor. And when I tell him, “No!” he will pause and look at me as if he’s assessing my gangsta! It’s like he’s trying to decide if I’m worthy of him obeying! I got this little bitty kid that every day, for whatever reason, has decided to test my gangsta. And I don’t really appreciate that. I don’t appreciate it in the least.
CH: Your son is just over a year old now; as you know, these days, birthday parties for one-year-olds have gotten very elaborate. Did you go all out for your son’s first birthday?
RW: My kid had a regular ass birthday party with just me and my girlfriend. We didn’t do anything special. I think one-year-old birthday parties are an excuse for alcoholics to drink. If you want to be an alcoholic, just be an alcoholic—don’t drag your kid, photos, a fucking clown, and all that into it. I assure you most of those people at the party don’t care that your kid turned one; if you think people care about your kid’s birthday, tell them it’s an alcohol-free event. See how many people still show up to celebrate the life of “Little Whoever-the-Fuck.”
CH: Speaking of elaborate, baby products are really something to see these days. Have you gone overboard with toys and other items for your son?
RW: My kid ain’t getting toys until he’s seven. Okay—I’m not giving him a single toy until he’s maybe around twelve. There are just too many good toys right now. He doesn’t need those good toys.
CH: Perhaps…that’s why he’s at home pulling stuff off the shelves then?
CH: Your son is still a little guy, however; later on, at some point, you’ll inevitably have to have the “Donald Trump chat.” What do you think that first conversation might sound like?
RW: No, I won’t. I don’t have to have the Donald Trump conversation. He’ll only be four years old when Trump either is elected out or dies in office. That’s the beauty of having a kid this young. I don’t have to explain politics to him. At best, my son will say, “Daddy what is that?” And I’ll say, “That’s an orange dinosaur, son. And it’s very scary.”
CH: You are very early in your fatherhood journey; so far, what have you learned about yourself since becoming a dad?
RW: I didn’t know that I’d die for somebody. There have been a couple of situations where I felt like there was an imminent threat to my child’s safety and I saw how quickly I sprung into action to defend him. Once, a housekeeper entered my hotel room without any announcement and I literally went from the bed to the door in under two seconds. Accepting the fact that you’ll die for somebody is a lot but you pretty much have to die for your kid. You don’t want to be the parent that lives and your kid dies and folks say, “But you were right there! You could’ve jumped in!” And I really can’t say, “Yeah, but I had a gig, man.” You can’t do that. But all jokes aside, the concept of selflessness for another human being is really overwhelming.
CH: So is it safe to say that had it been your son, you would’ve also sprung into action like that man did when that sea lion snatched the little girl into the water?
RW: [If that was my son] I would’ve been on the curb selling sea lion steaks that night and yelling, “Come on and get some of these good ass sea lion sandwiches for $3.99! They come with two sides!”
CH: Father’s Day is coming up and while it looks like it gets a little more recognition, it still doesn’t get the same reverence as Mother’s Day. Do men really care, though?
RW: I don’t really care. Right now, any gift my son would “give” me would just be his mama putting his name on it, so that shit is lame.
CH: If your comedy calendar is free, how will you spend this Father’s Day with your son?
RW: I’m a very simple person. For me, I’m cool if I’m just sitting on the couch with him, teaching him how to count or teaching him some colors. I mean, since I can’t teach him [how to play] PlayStation yet…
CH: Sounds perfect! Thanks for spending time with Comedy Hype and Happy Father’s Day!
RW: Thanks. I love everything you all do at Comedy Hype.
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance.