ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet comedian and actor Roy Wood, Jr.
Wood joins TBS comedy Sullivan & Son (season 2 premieres June 13) playing Roy, a close friend of Steve Byrne, a businessman who returns home to run his family's bar. When Wood is not serving up hearty laughs on the small screen he's traveling the nation doing stand up. The Alabama native got his start in comedy in 2001 shortly after graduating from Florida A&M. Since then he's appeared on numerous late night talk shows, comedy shows including Comic View and Def Comedy Jam, comedy festivals and even hosted his very own radio show, The Roy Wood Jr. Show: Good Morning.
ESSENCE.com caught up with the funny man to chat about his TBS debut, what he truly finds funny and what the future holds for Black comics.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about your character, Roy.
ROY WOOD JR.: Steve Byrne moves back home to Pittsburg to take over the family bar. My character runs a home video store. Now, who in the hell do you know still rents VHS tapes? [Laughs] In this age of Netflix, Red Box and iTunes, are you seriously telling me that anyone can make money selling VHS tapes?
ESSENCE.com: You have a pretty good body of work. You're on TV now, you've done lots of stand up and continue do so, and you've been on the radio doing prank calls. Have you always been funny?
WOOD: I was never a class clown. But I could hold my own. I got funny from riding the bench in high school, all those years playing baseball. You're sitting in the Alabama heat wearing an all wool uniform, you definitely have to do something to pass the time, because I wasn't playing. And I was very quiet [at home]. My mom was the comedian. My mom is 20 times funnier than me. But my mom is the type of person who would crack a joke but would do it when nobody's looking. It's that blink and you'll miss it kind of humor. My mom is funniest person I know.
ESSENCE.com: Who are you two of your comedic inspirations and why?
WOOD: I like Chris Rock for his craftsmanship—the way he works to perfect a joke. I saw Chris Rock perform yeas ago in Birmingham for two hours. That two hours was eventually whittled down to what was a one-hour special. The amount of work comedians put into building a television show is amazing. We're not even getting into the depth of his material, the opinionatedness of his material, but to see someone craft every word, every syllable is efficient. If it's not needed, it's cut out. There isn't a single word or mannerism Chris Rock gives to a joke that's not necessary. And I always enjoy George Carlyn. He had the ability to make you laugh even if you didn't agree with him. I think that's one of the most difficult things you can do as a comedian, especially if you're giving your opinion on things.
ESSENCE.com: What do you think about the current crop of comics?
WOOD: I'm excited about the return of BET's Comic View. It's only because, if BET does it right, then they'll take this reboot and give numerous new Black comedians a chance to shine and grow. My obsession has always been where comedy is headed. I have an affection for Black comics and the urban comedians. I'm not an urban comic per say, but I'm a Black comic who came up with the same set of circumstances most of these acts are going to be facing and there isn't a lot of stage time and television opportunities for comedians period—even fewer if you're black. With Comic View coming back I hope and pray that it's just a bunch of comics the world already knows. It's not a knock on any of those guys. My self included… I hope they stack it with new talent and all the new talent goes on to destroy. There's a rejuvenation that has to happen in Black comedy—a creative rejuvenation— and I hope Comic View can be a part of that.
ESSENCE.com: Where do you get your material from?
WOOD: A lot of my material comes from things that just frustrate me. I talk some about life on stage but honestly, it's little stuff that really gets me upset. I will reel for hours on things—like everyone talks about gas. Ill give you a perfect example. Everyone talks about gas prices—$4 a gallon, $5 a gallon. To me, I look at the whole gas price thing as a distraction. That's what the government keeping you from really looking at what's going on in the hood. A small soda at the movies is $10.50. If you're going to be mad about something, be mad about that 20 oz. Pepsi that you just paid $10 for. It'll be cheaper to drink a gallon of gas. laughs.
ESSENCE.com: How do you define funny?
WOOD: The more truth it contains the funnier it is, to me. I'm not detached to anyone going on stage and doing and saying whatever to make us all laugh. But when someone can take something that I saw and present it in a prism where you're exposing the ironies of life, that's funny.
Catch Roy Wood, Jr. on the season 2 of TBS' Sullivan & Son, premiering June 13 at 10p.m.