Roy Wood Jr. on Trump-Era Comedy: Laughs Aside, There’s Always Truth
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Dr. Christina Greer invites The Daily Show comedian to The Counter for a chat about comic responsibilities in today’s political era.
Welcome to The Counter, a new video series hosted by Dr. Christina Greer, featuring the most pressing issues of the day and how they inform, reflect and affect African-Americans. To launch the series, Greer, a professor of American politics at Fordham University, sat down with The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. to look at the role of comedy in the Trump political era.
Sinbad and Eddie Murphy helped draw Wood into comedy at a young age; he can remember knowing he wanted to become a comedian at the tender age of 13. But as he matured, he found himself gravitating toward specific comedic styles. Namely? The comics who talked about the state of the world, rather than about themselves.
Every day for The Daily Show, Wood finds himself carving out fresh material that pokes fun at national news items while also striving to educate viewers and push them out of their bubbles. “It’s a comedian’s job to challenge what you believe,” he tells Greer. So does Wood feel any differently as a comedian in the era of President Trump? Yes, because he feels obliged to plant his feet more and brace for stronger reactions to his comedy. “We live in an era where people want to be offended.”
And as a Black man, Wood feels even more of a responsibility to highlight issues negatively affecting the community such as police shootings. “Even if there’s no jokes, there’s truth.”
So in an era in which we’re all being challenged to define what we believe, comedians are mulling the same questions. And Wood, for one, knows that he has no interest in padding anyone’s echo chamber. “Tolerance requires education,” he says, noting that “you have to actively want to be a better person.” And that’s no joke.