Roy Wood, Jr. is back on stage in his third comedy special, “Imperfect Messenger,” in which hilarious takes on the current human interpretation of “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
“The more I looked at what I wanted to talk about, the more I felt like I wanted to connect to the collective idea of happiness and what happiness looks like now,” the 42-year-old comedian told PageSix. “This is what I wanted to explore.
“Some people put filters on their faces to feel good,” he said. “Some people overdo it on documentaries, some people do public service, others do mass shootings, plastic surgery, that’s a lot.”
Wood’s remarks were crafted at a time when the happiness of survival has waned for many as COVID-19 changed the zeitgeist in such a way that material written before the pandemic felt “old, dated, and differently ideological” on the veteran stage.
“There might be 10-15 minutes of material on police reform that was already there, but that’s pretty much all,” Wood explains. “Covid was like, everybody went to war, and now we’re all back. It’s hard to match that to the old stuff.”
One of the problems with crafting a special medium epidemic was finding rooms to work in while making its parts cut. His usual New York location – The Comedy Cellar and Gotham Comedy Club – was closed down along with the rest of the city, Woods rented his own space and did a series of shows he considered “The Test Kitchen”.
“It was understood these were going to be new jokes, and we packed everyone’s phone,” Woods said. “It actually helped me improve my work faster than I would have done at a traditional comedy club.
“The great thing about being off-site is that my fans really understand how I’m thinking, so I can get to the center of the joke faster.”
The crowd inside comedy is irreplaceable, something many TV hosts learned once they had no choice but to throw their best at exhausted staff during the pandemic.
While some shows have reintroduced the audience inside the studio, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” where Wood is a senior reporter, has returned to the studio without the audience’s roar—not so good for a man accustomed to instant reactions to his material.
“The Daily Show: At Home” was one thing, because we everyone At home,” he explains. “You don’t expect laughter. In the setting now, Trevor wanted to do something a little more intimate than we had been doing previously, before COVID. Now, when the crew is laughing, it’s like, ‘Oh, well, somebody’s listening,’ but it’s hard to do comedy in a vacuum.”
“The numbers show that people support the new format, which is great, but as an artist, you always want to laugh now,” he stressed. “I don’t want to laugh in the comments section of the Internet.”
He definitely got the feedback he needed while filming his latest special, killing Denver audiences with a well-balanced mix of poignant notes about everything from Brazilian butt lifts to performing white “allies” who don’t know when they’re actually headed to STFU.
There is one ally, however, that the comedian believes deserves more recognition, though he’s not sure how to bring down the Oscar winner.
“I just hope Leo DiCaprio doesn’t get mad at me.”
“Imperfect Messenger” premieres tonight, October 29, at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.