By Alec Harvey
Alabama News Center
There are few more coveted jobs for a comedian than hosting a late-night show or being the featured entertainment at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
Roy Wood Jr., the comedian and radio host from Birmingham, is doing both – and he’s doing both of them this month. Add to that a live-streamed comedy show called “Tribulations,” and it’s surprising he was able to find the time to talk about it.
“It’s a busy time,” Wood says by telephone from New York. “But that’s why I do this.”
First up for Wood was a guest-hosting gig on “The Daily Show.” Trevor Noah ended a seven-year run as host in December 2022 and, since then, the Comedy Central show has filled the host seat with guests including Wanda Sykes, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, Hasan Minhaj and John Leguizamo.
Last week belonged to Wood, and he looked forward to being at the helm of the show. Since 2015, he has been a correspondent for the show that’s at the cross-section of comedy, politics and other news.
“It’s kind of two things,” Wood says. “It’s really a combination of stuff that people are already talking about and stuff we think you should be talking about.”
And that, of course, includes the indictment of a former president last week.
“I’m looking at the Trump stuff to see how it all unfolds, what the public reaction is to the news and how we can approach it,” he says.
Wood can only prepare so much for “The Daily Show,” which is dependent upon news of the day.
“It’s like football,” he says. “You have a game plan going in but on the day of the game, you may make changes to the game plan.”
One thing Wood planned for last were his guests, who included U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Robin Thede of HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” Cedric the Entertainer, author Jerry Craft, not to mention a surprise visit by Jon Stewart, the former “Daily Show” host and now star of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+. Donning a “Star Wars” Jedi robe, Stewart implored Wood to “use the Force.” He sat at the desk with Wood and noted, “I used to work here when the budget wasn’t as big.”
“They’ve given each guest host the ability to have people on to talk about the issues that are important to them,” Wood says. “For me, it’s a little bit of politics, a little bit of entertainment and representation.”
Light On Alabama
At the end of the show, the hosts are able to solicit donations for favorite nonprofits or charities, and one for Wood was Birmingham’s I See Me, which works to increase literacy rates in children of color.
“It’s nice to be able to do little things like that, to shine a light on folks and organizations in Alabama that are doing the right thing,” Wood says.
Wood is not shy about where he hopes the guest-hosting job will lead.
“I 1,000 percent want my name in the hat for permanent host,” he says. “But the opportunity to land somewhere else, that could be in the cards, too. I’m not as attached to outcome as I am maximizing opportunities.”
Wood likens this opportunity to the time in his life when a planned sitcom starring Whoopi Goldberg and him fell through.
“Two months later, though, ‘The Daily Show’ happened,” he says. “So, if I don’t get the (permanent hosting) job, there will be something else out there.”
There are already a couple of things out there – the correspondents’ dinner on April 29 and a special show in New York on April 10 that was also live-streamed.
“The correspondents’ dinner is different from hosting ‘The Daily Show,’ because ain’t nothing can prepare you for it,” Wood says of the event featuring political figures on both sides of the aisle (including, usually, the president). Wood follows in the footsteps of Seth Meyers, Cecily Strong, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Ray Romano, Paula Poundstone and other top comedians who have performed at the event.
“I take it as an honor to basically be a voice for the voters,” Wood says. “You have to come in and swing the big stick. The difference between the correspondents’ dinner and ‘The Daily Show’ is the studio audience is not interested in laughing in D.C. I can’t toss to a break if a joke bombs. I have to live with it.”
Wood was part of “Tribulations,” an April 10 show in New York that was live-streamed.
“It’s basically a live stand-up and weird group therapy show,” Wood says of the event he created during the pandemic. “Audience members anonymously submitted their problems, and I and other comedians break down the problem in a humorous way and then tossed it to a licensed therapist who gave actual advice.”
Wood, who honed his comedy skills at the StarDome in Hoover and on his morning radio show in Birmingham, comes back home often to visit his mother, siblings and other family and friends.
He also lends his talents and his name to several groups in the area, including Workshops Empowerment Inc., his alma mater Ramsay High School, STAIR of Birmingham and I See Me.
“I think I have an opportunity to be a bit of a spokesperson for the state,” says Wood, who is dad to 6-year-old Henry. “Sooner or later, no matter my journey, the road will lead back to Birmingham. I’m doing things now that hopefully better the state or try to assist the people who are assisting the state.”