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Roy Wood Jr. explains why he chose Atlanta for his first Comedy Central special 2/19

This was posted Thursday, February 16, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Stand-up comic, radio host and "Daily Show" correspondent Roy Wood Jr., at Center Stage in Midtown two weeks before Election Day, taped a Comedy Central special airing Sunday.

He didn't mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump by name. He wanted to ensure the jokes would not feel dated four months later.

But this didn't mean he was going to skirt political issues. Before even saying hi to the crowd, he jumped right into topics such as the Confederate flag, gang colors and Black Lives Matter protests. Race issues were very much top of mind.

"These issues tend to live on a lot longer than the people trying to solve them," Wood said in a recent phone interview from New York where he shoots "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah.  "No single president is going to solve race relations in one term."

Then again, he would love a calmer, more equitable world even at the cost of comedic subject matter. "Then I could complain about McDonald's charging extra for more sauce with their nuggets!" he said. "I would welcome any opportunity for my special to become topically irrelevant."

About halfway through, he does an amusing bit comparing happier African music to African-American blues. "Our music tells you everything about the black psyche. Nowhere in black music is there a hit patriotic song," he said. "We have a conflicted relationship with America... Whites had a good time in America." Then he sang a bit of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." to prove his point.

"Closest is 'Georgia on My Mind,' " he said. "Maybe that... Good song. But the key words are 'on my mind.' Ray Charles was just thinking about Georgia. He didn't tell you to go there!" He then added, "If you asked Ray Charles to be more specific, he would have said, 'You go to Atlanta where the playas play. And we ride on them things like every day." (He was quoting Jermaine Dupri's 2002 hit 'Welcome to Atlanta.")

How about Georgia's own James Brown and his seemingly upbeat patriotic 1985 hit "Living In America'? Wood said that doesn't work: "James Brown wrote that song for 'Rocky 4,' and after he finished singing it, Apollo Creed died in the ring. It's sad song!"

Wood chose Atlanta for his first Comedy Central special because it's a major Southern city with a similar sensibility to his hometown of Birmingham.

"I was very happy with the taping in Atlanta," said Wood, who can be heard early afternoons on Kiss 104.1 with Art Terrell. "I was amongst friends and people who understand where I'm coming from, where a lot of my thoughts originate." His mom, his girlfriend and his infant son were all there in the audience.

He said following Trump's administration's first month for "The Daily Show" is "insane. Every day there's something new to be in awe at. It's shock and awe. He's the king of that. It can be mentally draining. It's women's rights! It's funding the wall! It's the Muslim ban! It's never a dull moment."

To him, Trump is a problem but what's worse are the people he's surrounding himself with such as Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway. He had no problems with Steve Harvey meeting with Trump before Inauguration Day. "Maybe Steve should hang around and talk some sense into Trump. The people around him aren't doing it!"

For now, he said this is something he and every other American has to get through. "The Trump administration is this huge alien ship that just arrived on the world. We have to come together to survive this. Then we can go back to arguing about celebrities!"

And he's an optimist: "You gotta take your hits. We'll wobble as a society. I don't think we'll fall."

One of his recent pieces was going to Houston for the Super Bowl to get away from politics. The joke was: he couldn't...


"Roy Wood Jr.: Father Figure," 11 p.m. Sunday, February 19, Comedy Central

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.