How comedy helps us deal with hard truths (w/ Roy Wood Jr.) (Transcript)

How to Be a Better Human
How comedy helps us deal with hard truths (w/ Roy Wood Jr.)
October 16, 2023

[00:00:03] Chris Duffy:
You're listening to How to Be a Better Human. I am your host, Chris Duffy, and today's episode is a little bit of an experiment. This is a conversation that was recorded live with a remote audience of ten members asking questions and participating in the interview. So, I think you're going to hear that this is a lot like one of our regular episodes, but also has some surprising differences and twists and turns based on what the audience listening live wanted to know more about. I, I think that's all of the context that you need in order for this to make sense and for you to understand what's happening. And I hope you enjoy the episode. Here it is.

It is so great to be here with all of you for this live conversation. You know, for a lot of us, the world can feel like a really chaotic place. There are so many things happening all over the world, all at once. And with cable news and the Internet and social media, we have access to all of it. And while there are a lot of good things peppered in there, so much of the information we get can feel big and heavy and weighty, which is why, for many of us, the preferred way to consume information about the world is with a dose of humor. Well, our guest today specializes in just that. He is a comedian. He's an actor. He's a journalist, and he's an Emmy nominated producer. Please welcome Roy Wood Jr.

[00:01:12] Roy Wood Jr.:
Thank you, Chris.

[00:01:13] Chris Duffy:
Well, Roy, you know, a lot of people know you as a comedian who sometimes plays a journalist on TV, but you actually do have a background in journalism, both in terms of your lineage.

[00:01:22] Roy Wood Jr.

[00:01:22] Chris Duffy:
Your, your father was a legendary journalist and your own education. Can you, um, to start us off, maybe tell us more about that background and how it influences the way you define yourself as a comedian and also as a storyteller?

[00:01:34] Roy Wood Jr.:
You know, my father was a civil rights journalist. My father, if it was Black and it was strife, he was embedded there. So going all the way back to the Soweto riots, he got shot at by snipers. He was embedded in Vietnam, uh, with predominantly Black platoons. He was part of the civil rights movement. He was in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, covering that civil war. So, you know, my father has always been a person that is just always trying to find what's wrong and at least be a bullhorn for what was happening.

And, so I grew up watching the local news. My dad would yell at the news the way people yell at football. I'm not going to sit here. And I, like, this is the family business. I mean, I have a lot of journalists in my family, but I wanted to be a firefighter, man. And then I saw Stuart Scott, and I wanted to do sports. I wanted to be funny. I wanted to be Jenny Moos. I wanted to be Kenny Mayne. Those are the people that I looked up to. And then once somewhere, I got into my thirties, I caught myself yelling at the television. And I just like, ah, time to change my comedy.

[00:02:47] Chris Duffy:
Well, it is true, right? Like so much of comedy comes from some frustration with the things that are happening in the world, often in a really small, like, insignificant way. But it comes from that same, “Oh, why is it like this?” You know, question that other people don't seem to be paying attention to often?

[00:03:02] Roy Wood Jr.:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that was part of the shift to journalism. And, and then just what happened is that I started standup when I was 19, so I didn't really have a lot to say. All my jokes were about book buyback and your roommate eating your food. Uh, it’s just there. But once I turned that corner around my late twenties into my early thirties, I started taking a little bit of a more journalistic approach to like, what we were taught at Florida A&M was what is the thing you can say about this topic that hasn't been said yet or that you wish could be said? And so that became kind of the same North Star for me.

But I mean, honestly, to me, comedy is journalism. It's just you're just reporting on either what's happening to you personally or what's happening to all of us collectively. And I think once you’re, once you're in a truthful space, then you have an opportunity to, to truly connect with people. And that's just what it's been like. I wish I could tell you that this was some deliberate art from when I was… the first time I saw Sinbad on the HBO Free preview weekend in the nineties. And it like, No, I just I enjoy getting up in a room full of strangers and just trying to, accepting the challenge of trying to make them laugh. And the things that became of worth me became very important.

And then I had a child and then it became very serious about, “Okay, well, what am I trying to say? What the hell am I talking about? Let's actually try… let's structure something here.”

[00:04:40] Chris Duffy:
Father Figure and Imperfect Messenger, two of your comedy specials, which are two of my favorite comedy specials of all time, they, they both open with you talking to your son. How did having a kid change the way that you think about comedy and change maybe the responsibility of having a platform and, and people paying attention to you?

[00:04:56] Roy Wood Jr.:
A lot of it, if I'm being honest, it's just me leaving breadcrumbs of knowledge for him for when he's older, in case I'm not here. It's the general public getting to witness me leave messages to my child.

[00:05:12] Chris Duffy:

[00:05:13] Roy Wood Jr.:
That's kind of what my career’s starting to turn into, and I'm perfectly fine with that. And, it, my father died when I was 16. And I think that's also part of why I’m wired like this now, because there are certain lessons and things that I just wasn’t… It wasn't time for those conversations when I was a teenager. So the things that I really hope that he understands about himself in the world, let me start putting that stuff out there in the world now, comedically a little bit. And I just think infusing him just a little bit kind of creates that throughline of, you know, who it is I'm actually talking to without it being a nail on the head.

It's also part of why my standup I don't talk, at least I try not to talk about specific people. You know, for seven years on The Daily Show, that’s what we do. We talk about people, and I want to talk about issues and feelings, because the issues will tend to still be there as the people affecting or disaffecting those issues come and go. It's always a… The, the, the people trying to change the issues are a revolving door. But the issue remains the issue.

[00:06:25] Chris Duffy:
We're going to be back with more from Roy in just a moment. But first, we've got a few ads. Don't go anywhere.


[00:06:39] Chris Duffy:
On today's episode, we're talking with Roy Wood Jr. about comedy, politics and activism. And this is a special episode where listeners are getting to ask questions live.

So there's a question from one of the audience members, Susan: how can you use humor as a tool to bring up those difficult issues or, or questions?

[00:06:58] Roy Wood Jr.:
I think that it's about figuring out a way to find the common denominator between people. So, so when I started doing standup a-again as a teenager, if you tried to do comedy every week in the South, and I'm from Birmingham, I was in school in Tallahassee. So those are my two comedy bases. But if you're in Biloxi, you're at the casinos performing for retirees. If you're in Florida down on the Lower East Coast, it’s L—it’s Latino heavy, redneck heavy on the Gulf Coast side. You can be doing an urban night in Atlanta. You can be doing a mainstream night in Nashville. So, what I hated was always having to change up my jokes and change up everything. Whereas if I could figure out the things that connect us, then I'd never have to change, no matter where I am. Like, you can find certain topics that, and I don't mean that from a divisive versus non-divisive place, but I just mean it for the things that we're passionate about.

If you start in a general place, you know, it's food, it's love, it's entertainment and some sort of form of employment or provision, making money, the thing that emotionally fulfills you, right? What I started doing was trying to do material that was rooted in one of those things. We all love a food. We all desire emotion or have experienced heartbreak. We all desire… even if it's not employment. If you just want to go hike, what's the thing you want to do? So, if I share my emotion and my passion for something, then in theory, these people should be connected with me because they have a similar want.

So, if you find a way to connect people in the beginning of a conversation, then they are more open to receiving humor. You, you can't just joke joke joke joke joke. You have to come in from some level and degree of understanding. I, I guess maybe to a degree it's a little bit of sociology, but—

[00:08:56] Chris Duffy:

[00:08:56] Roy Wood Jr.:
You know, I think that for as long as people understand your intentions, then humor is not the tightrope that we think it to be.

[00:09:06] Chris Duffy:
You know, especially when people are starting out in comedy, they, they try and make these really general jokes that are, are often kind of overwritten or overthought. And I find that often the things that make people laugh the most are just the most honest, the, the truest thing you can say, the most vulnerable.

[00:09:22] Roy Wood Jr.:

[00:09:23] Chris Duffy:
The thing that you're so worried about sharing actually, is what other people want to hear and will connect with the most.

[00:09:28] Roy Wood Jr.:
Yeah, the best jokes land in one of two places. It's either the audience absorbs it as, “Wow, I didn't know that. I didn't look at it like that.” Or it’s, “That's what I've been trying to say.”

[00:09:41] Chris Duffy:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:09:42] Roy Wood Jr.:
You get up in front of a boring room and you acknowledge. “Hey, Yeah, I know this is boring. Let's go. Let's do it.” Like, if you acknowledge that I was… So I spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists Conference in Birmingham earlier this year, and it's an average 1 p.m. fluorescent light, stage circle. I call it circle table events, the circle table, banquet, whatever. Right?

[00:10:08] Chris Duffy:
Uh-huh. Uh-huh. A challenge.

[00:10:09] Roy Wood Jr.:
Yes. And it's gigs like that that prepare me for the White House Correspondents.

[00:10:13] Chris Duffy:
Yeah, which I want to talk about.

[00:10:15] Roy Wood Jr.:
You do, you do 20 years of circle tables. You're ready for the D.C. circle table, the Super Bowl of circle tables. But, at that event, the first thing I acknowledged was, “Yes. Thank you all for coming to Birmingham. I know it sucks because there's no Uber Black,” which is a true statement.

Birmingham, my hometown. I can say this. UberX is a 20 minute wait. And if you're coming from L.A. or Chi—if you're coming from a five minute Uber city, then that's a tough thing to, to stomach and deal with. So you acknowledge that and then you're able to get into things that are a little tougher and a little harder to digest. And often things that a lot of people don't want to laugh at or do not find funny.

[00:10:58] Chris Duffy:
Yeah, uh, Lourdes in Mexico saying that comedy is, is underrated around the world, but it's truly a tool for mental health, and something that I've always admired about your comedy from the first time that I saw you is that you are able to talk about really heavy, serious stuff in a way that's hilarious, but you're also not afraid to talk about the light, you know, just goofy, absurd stuff, too. You, you have a mix of both, and that's such a joy to watch on stage.

[00:11:21] Roy Wood Jr.:
Comedians, because we are of this craft. We are a little more… I don't know if encrusted is the word that's not salmon, but we're hardened, calcified. There you go. We're galvanized, emotionally so things don't hit us as hard. Right. It's just funny to me, and it's just… it's weird. And it’s observ—like I, I’ve been talking about on stage, to mixed reviews, that I know white people are going through stuff because they're showing up, you know, in full fatigues to protest at Disney World. Like it's 90 degrees, bro. There's better attire. Say what you want about the Klan. But at least the robe was nice and breathable.

And so that’s, it feels pro Klan, but it's not. It's stuff like that where you make that joke, now we can get into the deeper topic of white supremacy, and now we can get into something a little more weird because, oh, yeah, the Klan, yeah, they wore loose stuff because they didn't want to die of heat stroke. So it's fun to me. It's fun to find those lines and those edges.

[00:12:35] Chris Duffy:
There's a question from Gretchen that I think is, is a really important one, which is how do you create that understanding with the audience when you're making a joke that is on, on the line, or that could be kind of interpreted in different ways? Because it does seem like many times there's a risk of people kind of filling in the blanks and thinking, uh, you know, as Gretchen put it, that there could be a simplistic assumption about you as a person based on your gender, age, residence, political affiliation. So how do you, how do you get to the real understanding of what your actual intention is with the audience?

[00:13:07] Roy Wood Jr.:
Uh, I think that comes just in time within the duration of the performance. I used to watch this show on Nat Geo called Brain Games. It's more of a game show-y thing now with Keegan-Michael Key, but in the earliest iterations of the show, it just shows you how the human mind works. And so, I enjoyed the show because it talked about how something as simple as a smile before you say something versus a smile after you say something. And how those change two different… It literally changes the intention of it. If you smile first, then say it. It seems sinister, but if you say it to feel sinister, then smile at the back end, it’s like “Ah. C’mon, I’m being light.”

There's a way to kind of yo-yo a little bit. There are ways to sometimes just flat out be bold and just say what it is you're thinking, and it might be a smile on the back end. It might be something a little more. Yeah. Like the, like there was we were talking about Mike Pence, and it was a joke we were thinking about doing for my guest hosting week where and essentially the argument I was trying to make was that of all of the current presidential candidates, Mike Pence is the most confident because he has to get people who tried to kill him to vote for him. And so that could work on stage. But in the context of television, in the context of structure, there are people who legitimately believe that what I'm saying is serious, and there are people who would pull that little bite and put that up on whatever website and go, “Roy Wood Jr. endorses Mike Pence.” And then on the Liberal side, there's people who will see that link or see that headline, not click it, and then assume the worst of me. So, a lot of it also comes down to understanding the medium through which you're communicating the thing.

[00:15:08] Chris Duffy:
You know, I also think that some of this feels like because you are, are very much not an, and overnight success rate. It wasn't like one day you were at an open mic and the next day you were on The Daily Show. Instead, you had worked your way up through clubs, you had been on radio, you had been on, uh, television shows, and then you had this big, huge platform. You, you have, to me, felt like someone who has a really clear sense of himself and his voice and what he's willing to say or not say. And I think that really comes across to an audience as well. Does it feel like that to you internally?

[00:15:42] Roy Wood Jr.:
It does now, but it didn't for like 15 years. Like, you can go back and watch my old Conan O'Brien set from 2011 through 2014. There was a stretch in my career where Conan O'Brien was the only person who would put me on TV. Every other show said no. Any other show that I'd already done would not have me back. For whatever reason, I'm not talking trash, but facts. Conan O'Brien was the only person who would book me and put me on television.

And you can see the evolution over those three or four, those four or five years of Conan sets during that time. Like if you watch the one from 2011 versus watching the one from 2014 and the 2014 one, and, and that was kind of where I started turning the corner on talking about race relations in this country and that being a little bit more of an integral part of what I wanted to talk about on stage.

And now it's definitely pronounced, it's clear I know what I want to do. The next hour special I want it's about all of the men other than my father who influenced me after his death, this idea of manhood and fatherhood and masculinity, and then realizing I have a plethora of stories, some funny, some moving, some, you know, I'm a comedian. I have been very close to comics that have killed themselves. Many of them I know, I knew. So this idea of all of these different life lessons. Where did I get those from?

[00:17:15] Chris Duffy:
Well, I want to actually talk about some of my favorite jokes that sound like they're kind of more in the past from, from you. But the highest compliments that I can give to a, a comedian is that they have a joke that I think about for the rest of my life. You've changed the way that I will think about seeing an object or being in a situation. And you have a, a bunch of these. You have some of my most just second hand described jokes where we're in a situation and I say, “Oh, you have to watch this Roy Wood Jr. joke about this.” And one of them is I, forever now, any time I see an oversize American flag, I always think about your incredible joke about the math of American flags. And I don't want—

[00:18:00] Roy Wood Jr.:
How many American flags equal the Confederate flag? There’s too many flags in one place. I don't feel comfortable.

[00:18:07] Chris Duffy:
It's so funny. And I just constantly think about you describing it as like there's the residue of racism that too many American flags you can feel that it has. It has a different message.

[00:18:18] Roy Wood Jr.:
It's not blatantly racist, but I'm watching you.

[00:18:21] Chris Duffy:

[00:18:21] Roy Wood Jr.:
It says a lot. It’s too many effing flags. Yeah, but I mean, like, like a joke like that. That just comes from driving in the South for half a million miles.

[00:18:31] Chris Duffy:

[00:18:31] Roy Wood Jr.:
I, I’ve driven every freeway in State Road. I've seen the big garrison flags when you come into town, and there's something really good and prideful about it. And then I've also been in, you know, some corner store where there's a bunch of “Don’t tread on me” and all. You know, it's it's interesting. And that's a joke in a way, if you love the flag and you're not racist, how can I thread this so you'll laugh at it, too?

Because this isn't about your love of the flag. This is how when there's too many flags on the same street, how it makes me feel. And I'm not saying it is racist. I'm just saying this… Hm. Hm. Like even the thing that I talked in Father Figure—

[00:19:20] Chris Duffy:

[00:19:20] Roy Wood Jr.:
—about how I like the Confederate flag. I would rather know where you stand in your racism than for you to be covert with it.

[00:19:29] Chris Duffy:

[00:19:29] Roy Wood Jr.:
And it's just a broader statement about society. It's like the, the, the discussion just about, you know, down-south racism versus up-north racism. You know, Northerners are very prejudiced, but it's not in your face where in the South, it's just straight up, “No, stay over there. Don't even. This is a sundown town. And I want you to know that.” Like, there’s no northern sundown towns.

[00:19:57] Chris Duffy:
That joke from Father Figure is such a perfect way of getting at something that is really nuanced about this conversation around history and symbols, right, of like that, that you’re, you’re pro Confederate flag, not because of the memory of the Confederacy, but because it lets you know who feels that way. Uh, you were an executive producer on a documentary called The Neutral Ground, and, and that is made by this incredible filmmaker, C.J. Hunt.

[00:20:23] Roy Wood Jr.:

[00:20:23] Chris Duffy:
And it's about the fight to remove Confederate monuments. And it looks at a really serious, very sobering issue, but in a hilarious way. So, I'd love to, to kind of get into that idea of how humor can be a way to confront history and why it might actually be a powerful way to do that.

[00:20:41] Roy Wood Jr.:
I think we are past yelling at each other to get anybody to understand where you're coming from. If the last eight years of politics have proven nothing more, it has proven that two people screaming at each other is not going to get anything done. You know, we live in our own information bubbles as well. But, you know, I think one of the things that made George Carlin so amazing was that he could get you to laugh at something even if you didn't agree with him.

You know, C.J. and I met at The Daily Show. You know, he was a field director, and before that, he was working under Robin Thede. So he was already in that groove of looking at humor from The Rundown with Robin Thede, which was also like a political satire vehicle over at BET. And so this idea of if I can get you to laugh at it, then I can get you to listen.

And so you want to find jokes, even if they're on yourself or at the, if even if the jokes are at the expense of yourself. And I think the thing that was very, what I respected about C.J.’s approach to The Neutral Ground was that it didn't come, necessarily, from a place of attacking the people who believed in, defended the monuments. It was simply an exploration into why. What is it that makes you feel this? Now, what if I told you this, this and this about history and that everything that you've been, everything you've been sold since Reconstruction was propaganda and a lie? The mothers of the Confederacy spun half of this stuff and got these monuments up. Like it wasn't even supposed to be…

Like, so exploring it from that place, instead of chastising people who want to defend all of that, you know, and there were still parts of that documentary that got very real for C.J., You know, he went to Charlottesville, and I don't think anyone predicted that Charlottesville would have become, you know, such a lightning rod point because there have been so many Charlottesvilles. Before you, just so many other “We're going to show up and protests and yell at each other from across the street” incidents, and Charlottesville was one that went off the rails.

And even in that, you sit in the real feelings and the horror of that and you're still able to use humor to come out on the other side. And, you know, I think that, you know, for the people that are looking at this, uh, especially like in the professional sector, where you're trying to use humor and you're trying to use something lighthearted to go into issues that are serious within your companies, within your personal life, you don't have to joke on the issue. The issue itself is not funny. But how did we get here? That's funny. The causation. Who were the people responsible for the causation? Or, who are the people that are fighting to change this? There's humor in that. Who are the people fighting against change? Who are the people fighting for change? And I think if you, if you look in those areas around an issue, you're always going to find fertile ground. You're always going to find something on the outer rings that is worthy of satire or observation. And even if it has to wait a day, you wait a day.

But, you know, I look back, you know, you know, Trevor Noah had the unfortunate task of hosting The Daily Show pretty much every time an unarmed cop killing footage got released. It was a show week. This idea of figuring out where the humor is in that and the humor is not in the tragedy. It's in the bureaucracy around it. So I just think when you look at it that way, then you're able to find pockets where you can, you can jab a joke real quick and get in and get out. It doesn't have to be hilarious all the way through, but you definitely want as best you can to try and use humor. I just think it’s, I think it's a better way, you know, of doing things.

[00:24:39] Chris Duffy:
We're going to take a quick break and then we will be right back with more from Roy.


[00:24:52] Chris Duffy:
And we are back. For people who are listening who, you know, they see the power of humor, they see the power of comedy, but they're not professional comedians. They don't necessarily think of themselves that way. What tips would you give them for trying to successfully land a joke without offending people?

[00:25:13] Roy Wood Jr.:
Ooh, oof. I think if it's about trying to find humor without offending, I, I, I don't think that that place truly exists. I think that you can try to make it as offensive-proof as possible. So the first thing you have to do is let go of the fact that someone is, is or isn't going to be offended. Or you delve in the four, as I call it, the four safety corners. Like, food is never offending any—not to the point of war. But maybe on Twitter, if I, if I go on Twitter and go, “I hate this food,” then a bunch of people… But you can still show up to work the next day. You're not going to get sent to H.R. because you said you didn't like macaroni with bread crumbs, which, by the way, is not the way to do macaroni. Please stop with the bread crumbs in macaroni, and stop truffling everything.

[00:25:58] Chris Duffy:
The comments are going off right now. Uh, people are furious talking about truffles.

[00:26:00] Roy Wood Jr.:
All these emojis floating up. Stop truffling everything. I said it. There’s, there’s no reason everything got to have to taste like a fart. Only pasta. So, if you're not attacking a person or an ideology or a group of people, you're generally in a safe place. Um, if you are not attacking a particular reason why something happened. Um, also, don't make jokes based on assumptions of the truth of why you think someone did something. Because what we also live in is a correction culture, and so people are quick to go, “Well, you know the reason why that actually happened is duh duh duh duh duh duh duh.”

So if you go, “He did that because this,” and joke. Well, someone who doesn't believe that premise, you know, Mike Birbiglia said it best. Everybody has to agree on the premise before we agree on to laugh at the punchline. And I think that's what we’ve, we’ve lost as of late. But food, entertainment, love, and money. Like job employment. If you stay in those four pocket, it's going to be hard to offend someone. But if you’re, if you're determined to make the edgier joke, just know that somebody might not like it, especially if it's at the expense of another group.

[00:27:24] Chris Duffy:
Well, a lot of people in the audience here are asking some version of this question. This is one of the most common things that people want to know about comedy these days. Aren't you afraid of being canceled? Aren't you afraid of what, what will happen if people take it the wrong way? So how do you, how do you think about it?

[00:27:38] Roy Wood Jr.:
I don’t. I don’t think about jokes being taken the wrong way. I can't concern myself with that. My job is to write the joke that I think is funny and perform it for the people who want to laugh. Now, I exist in a different space because I'm not at a company where I could be written up. I can't go… I can't be sent to H.R. at a comedy club. All that happens is that people either show up or they don't show up. And at the end of the day, I think that people vote with their wallets and their remote controls.

And so if there's people that still love you, they're going to come see you. And so, those are the people that you do it for, and you ultimately cannot, if you’re constantly performing, to not piss off a group of people, then who are you? Because now you're constantly altering yourself to public ideologies. And to me, that's a very dangerous, uncreative place to be. Because now you're trying to be creatively a la carte for whatever the moods are at that particular time. And if you’re that, then at what point are you ever yourself?

[00:28:40] Chris Duffy:
The thing, though, that I wonder about is how do you balance the authenticity and the courage to say something that you believe in regardless of consequences with the ability to stay open to valid critiques about places where you're getting it wrong or you haven't thought it through all the way? Because it seems like a lot of times people take any criticism as an attack and shutting it down rather than an opportunity to grow.

[00:29:04] Roy Wood Jr.:

[00:29:04] Chris Duffy:
So how do you balance those?

[00:29:06] Roy Wood Jr.:
Nuance has removed from the from the conversation. You know, I've always welcomed, you know, critique and criticism, but then critique and criticism also has to come from a place of not trying to completely chop somebody's head off. I’m one of the few comedians that reads their YouTube comments. I know you shouldn't, but YouTube and Reddit are by far the most comprehensive and fair critiques of any forms of entertainment, in my opinion. Like Twitter and Facebook, that's all engagement and arguing in the comments, like it's performative. I consider that outrage performative.

Whereas if you type in a Reddit thread, you don't know who's going to see this. It may only four people might see this or, or millions. Like that's from the heart. I don't think that you can truly say you’re evolving as a performer if you're not looking at how some of the material is making people feel, whether you adjust to it or not is up to you. But what I do not like is the retroactive cancellation of “Oh, here’s something that you said from 15 years ago at a time where society was different, and I will judge it now based on current societal standards and attack you as if you just said it yesterday.” That I'm not cool with, and I think that's a little bit of a, if you want to acknowledge the past, you're apologizing, you’re past it. Cool.

[00:30:43] Chris Duffy:
Totally. And also, you know, any good performer, any person that you want to spend time with, hopefully they've grown and changed and improved, you know?

[00:30:51] Roy Wood Jr.:
And I think that's part of, that should be part of that assessment when you find the old clip on person. Let's also take a look at their arc from that time until now. I do think that jokes have real effects. Like I, I think it's naive to think that you can make a joke and speak truth to power and, and the establishment and the, the government will change with this joke. And then also not think that you can write a joke that could destroy somebody and make them feel inhumane.

[00:31:21] Chris Duffy:
We've been talking about how it's important to have a thick skin to be a comic, and yet many artists and many creative people are really sensitive. And that's that's key to tapping into their creativity. So, what advice do you have for people who are artists or creative people who want to be more comfortable getting that feedback, who want to get to the place where maybe they could read their Reddit comments or their YouTube comments, but they feel like they, they aren’t there yet.

[00:31:43] Roy Wood Jr.:
Find a person you love and read their YouTube comments and see the hate. What's a movie you love? Go read some reviews. It's all got haters. And once you see that, it'll help normalize it a little bit for you. And you'll know that what you're doing is not that different. And that's just all part of the path. And it's also very different for women, which is something that I learned from talking with a lot of, you know, with a lot of, uh, women comics in the industry.

What I've benefited from is that most any insult that I fielded has been a critique of my art. It wasn't a death threat. It wasn't my looks. It was, you know, things of that nature. So, you know, by all means, I wouldn't say immerse yourself into anything that's triggering or, or your own traumas, but if you can, as best you can, look and assess the things that you love and just see that none of it isn't infallible, it all gets insulted. It all gets critiqued by people who can't do it, who don't know what they're doing. And once you understand that that's part of the process, then you're able to trust what you're doing and just find your audience, Find the people who like you. That's all you got to do.

[00:32:58] Chris Duffy:
Let's go and talk about the, the White House Correspondents Dinner for a second because you hosted it this year. And you know, this is you're directly talking to the most powerful people in the country. And I'm curious what jokes you were proudest of that you got to say in that setting.

[00:33:20] Roy Wood Jr.:
I had like, you know, six or seven writers working with me on this. Um. Former Daily Show, former Nightly show, you know, all, all worked their way in the political satire sphere. And we were constantly changing everything like we, I mean, I had a whole five minute spy balloon shot. And by the time we got to the dinner, no one cared about spy balloons anymore. Like, it was just such a, we made, so we made it a throwaway joke and it worked. But the Clarence Thomas NFT joke still makes me laugh and saying that we can see him, but he's owned by someone else. And that's what an NFT is. Uh, which, you know, considering that people call Clarence Thomas a token Black guy and NFT also means token. And they thought that I was also… uh, that was like a happy accident where people were like, “Oh yeah, you called him a token, you know, NFT a token!” I was like, “Yes, yes, yes, I did. Absolutely.”

[00:34:17] Chris Duffy:

[00:34:17] Roy Wood Jr.
That was the intention, mm-hm. You caught that.

[00:34:20] Chris Duffy:
Well, Roy, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.

[00:34:24] Roy Wood Jr.:
Thank you, Chris.

[00:34:25] Chris Duffy:
And thank you, TED members, for being here and for your involvement as a nonprofit organization. All of TED's work is made possible in part by you, the TED membership community. Goodbye. Thank you so much to Roy, and thanks so much to all of you for being here.

That is it for today's episode of How to Be a Better Human. Thank you so much to today's guest, Roy Wood Jr. Check out his website for tour dates and information on where you can find his hilarious comedy specials.

I am your host, Chris Duffy, and you can find more for me, including my weekly newsletter and upcoming live shows at How to Be a Better Human is brought to you on the TED side by Daniella Balarezo, Cloe Shasha Brooks, and Joseph DeBrine, who are currently at war over the correct way to make macaroni and cheese.

Every episode of our show is professionally fact-checked. This episode was fact checked by Julia Dickerson and Matheus Salles who are still debating whether truffles do indeed, as Roy asserted, make things taste like a fart.

On the PRX side, we've got an audio team that always finds the joke and never botches the punchline: Morgan Flannery, Noor Gill, Patrick Grant and Jocelyn Gonzales.

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