Roy Wood Jr. is one hell of a hustler. We learned this from sitting down with the comedian and current co-star of the TBS sitcom Sullivan & Son. Roy was at Gotham Comedy Club recently for the Sullivan & Son stand-up comedy tour which features him and his co-stars from the show – Steve Byrne, Owen Benjamin, Ahmed Ahmed. Prior to his set at we spoke with Wood about his beginnings as a touring comedian in the South, his thoughts on Last Comic Standing, and that work ethic he deployed to get to where he is today.
We are at Gotham Comedy Club for the Sullivan & Son show, thanks for taking the time before your set. Do you have any rituals before you perform?
Not really, I’m not really a ritual guy. I go over my set. If it’s new material I’m working on, then I’m in a corner working on the order of the jokes, but no, no real rituals. No pre-game music, quiet, in the zone like a boxer. It just really depends on what the situation is. If it’s television I’m somewhere, clammy handed,going over the set with some ear plugs in. Most of the preparation happens before I get here because once I’m at the club, nine million different things are happening and I never get a chance to prepare the way I need to.
I’ve been a fan of yours since Last Comic Standing. Did that help with your career? Would you tell other comedians to take advantage of something like that show?
I would tell any comic that has the chance to be on television and show the world what he can do to take the opportunity and quit worrying about it. I’ve been watching the new season of Last Comic Standing and it’s cool but comedians get caught up in it. This is just my opinion, but when it comes to competition comedy, I would consider myself an expert. I’ve had my guts ripped out on Showtime at the Apollo, I had my guts ripped out on that Star Search reboot they did with Arsenio (Hall) and I’ve had my guts ripped out three times on Last Comic Standing. The third time, you can argue, “You got to the finale, you got third place.” I still didn’t win, I got my guts ripped out.
[pullquote]Competition comedy, as a concept, is horrible. It’s flawed, it’s opinionated, and it’s subjective. But anything that puts comedy on television for people to see and discover new names, keeps the comedy club alive.[/pullquote]
However, what I gained from all of that was a fanbase and it gave people who haven’t heard of me, an opportunity to explore my comedy and a chance to work markets that I never would’ve gotten the chance to do before. I got a chance to work markets that, if you’ve never been on television, you’d have to berate them with emails, f*ckin DVDs, and links to your f*ckin clips for the two years before they maybe give you a guest spot while you’re in town to do a college four hours away. So, did it help my career? Yes, and I still think Last Comic Standing is good for stand-up comedy as a whole. Competition comedy, as a concept, is horrible. It’s flawed, it’s opinionated, and it’s subjective. But anything that puts comedy on television for people to see and discover new names, keeps the comedy club alive. Until you’re a star and until you can draw, the only way you’re going to get better is performing in the clubs. If something is feeding the clubs, new fans and people will go to them. It’s on the club to keep that new fan hooked and see all the other acts on the calendar. Last Comic Standing is great for comedy. Stand-up is barely on Comedy Central now, and when they do, they have to make it something whacky and put a hook with it. “It’s John Oliver’s stand up show,” “It’s Adam DeVine’s,” or “It’s Dave Attell, but it’s dirty, it’s filthy motherf*ckin comedy.” Those shows are all great and they serve the same purpose, but the days of just the generic, Premium Blend, Live at Gotham, those “trust us, it’s funny” shows are over.
It’s hard to find those shows on television anymore. They’re fading away I would guess because of ratings, that’s why most sh*t is cancelled. But with Last Comic Standing you have something on at prime time and it displays comedians for a f*cking hour, for 12 weeks straight. Applaud it. I think the only way the public will digest something is if it’s a competition and that’s why NBC has it that way, they can’t just market it as, “tune in at 8 and see a bunch of comedians you never heard of tell jokes!” The only way the general public is interested is, “I have to know that someone is going to die. Someone has to get their guts ripped out.” Every show is a competition these days. We want to see people’s dreams get crushed and Last Comic Standing is, in my opinion, a perfect marriage of the two.
Tommy Johnagin, who lost to Felipe Esparza, he’s on his second Comedy Central Half Hour right now and he has a pilot deal with NBC. He’s been cooking since appearing on the show. The confetti didn’t fall for him but did he lose? It would be hard to make a case that he lost by appearing on Last Comic Standing. I’m sure, if you asked Tommy Johnagin, he wanted that prize money but if you told me I would almost win and have that particular career arc, I would take it. I’d sign the paperwork right then.