Roy Wood's world: serious satire and strip-club tales


If you see Roy Wood's stand-up special ("Father Figure") or his best "Daily Show" bits, you'll realize this is a sharp comedy mind, able to make dead-serious issues seem funny. Now Wood is also hosting the loose-spirited "This Is Not Happening." Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

The funny-serious
world of Roy Wood Jr. is filled with opposites.

It involves
presidential politics and baby business, state-of-the-world issues
and beer buddies.

“The serious side
usually comes to me first,” he said. “Then I have to figure out
how to make it funny.”

That's his “Daily
Show” job. Now comes extra duty as the new host of “This is Not
Happening.”

The show has
comedians simply recount real-life moments. Some are quite adult,
which explains the odd time (Friday nights at midnight) and setting.
“We filmed (the season) in two or three weeks, in this wonderful
strip club .... It feels right to be doing it in a dark place.”

Wood adds his own
stories. He has plenty, he said, as do most traveling comics. “When
you spend your life drinking with strangers, a lot of things happen.”

By comparison, his
“Daily Show” job can be sobering. Just two days before his “Not
Happening” debut, Wood was presenting his State of the Union
variation – the State of Black (Bleep).

His own life
prepared him for the serious side. He talks fondly of his home state
(Alabama), his mother (who worked in college administration) and his
father, a “pretty dope guy who was a radio personality and a civil
rights activist (and) had about 15 different careers.”

Both parents went to
historically black colleges and his mom worked at one. It was no
surprise that he went to Florida A&M; “it was a very good
environment ..., with a sort of village concern for you.”

A bigger surprise
was that his first success was in his dad's field, radio. “That
just happened. I wasn't planning it; I went there to study
journalism.”

But he started doing
comedy on a Tallahassee station, then back home in Birmingham; he
continued until he was cast as one of the bar flies in “Sullivan &
Son.” It was an undemanding job -- “just fake drinking” -- but
things got much better when he joined “The Daily Show” in
September of 2015. “I got to have a one-year start, before it all
broke loose.”

That was the
presidential election. “Nobody thought Trump was going to win;
Trump didn't think he was going to win ... I didn't really process
the comedy part for a few days.”

Then came the comedy
explosion. “The show definitely ratcheted up the satire. (Viewers')
appetite for satire got a lot stronger.”

All of this happened
alongside fatherhood. His son is now 20 months old and, Wood said,
has altered his comedy outlook. “It's more now about the future and
not just about me.”

-- “This Is Not
Happening,” Friday nights at midnight, Comedy Central;
season-opener follows a rerun of the “Roy Wood Jr. Father Figure”
stand-up special, at 11 p.m. Feb. 2.

-- “The Daily
Show,” 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, Comedy Central, rerunning
at 1:35 a.m.