Arts and Entertainment

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. has no more hang ups

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. will perform at Parlor Live from Thursday, Jan. 9, to Saturday, Jan. 11. - Courtesy Photo
Comedian Roy Wood Jr. will perform at Parlor Live from Thursday, Jan. 9, to Saturday, Jan. 11.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Roy Wood, Jr. will perform at Parlor Live Jan. 9-11.

Roy Wood, Jr. is perhaps best known for his radio prank calls. They’ve been syndicated across the country on both broadcast and satellite shows and appeared on the mixtapes of artists like Chamillionaire. If you search Roy Wood, Jr. on YouTube and sort by popularity, you would go more than two pages before you saw the first result with views below six figures. He’s filled three albums with his calls.

But Wood, 35, is quick to downplay their significance in his comedy career. He said such calls were a morning zoo staple; his just aired at the tipping point of the viral Internet. Not that he isn’t grateful: At the height of their popularity, his website went from 500 hits per week to 80,000 a day.

“That was kind of a gift and a curse at the same time,” Wood said, speaking over the phone Dec. 19. “The thing about those prank calls was that probably as many people know me from those as they do my stand-up. But the people who know me from the pranks don’t know I do stand-up.”

The popularity of the calls has brought more people to his shows, but they don’t always know what to expect.

“I had a lady in Denver who walked out on me because I didn’t do prank calls during my show,” he said. “I mean… what did she expect? That I was going to call people up while I was on stage? Even the Jerky Boys — they were the most famous prank callers — and even they didn’t do live shows. Who would want to see that?”

For Wood, it all comes down to the different muscles exercised in his chosen mediums. He worked his way up the radio circuit, first as a news reporter in Tallahassee, Fla. After college he took a job in his native Birmingham, Ala., writing for The Buck Wilde Morning Show.

Wood had begun as a standup at age 19 and continued to perform on stage. But his responsibility to his day job meant he would remain a local performer.

“For me, (radio and stand-up comedy are) kind of completely different muscles,” Wood said. “Radio is about what’s going on in the world and talking about what’s going on in the world. Comedy is more introspective, and it’s kind of the opposite of radio, especially urban radio … Radio became less and less useful to me creatively.”

Wood left the station for Los Angeles in 2007. In 2010, he competed on the seventh season of “Last Comic Standing.” He was a fan favorite who was voted through to the final five, his third-place finish causing host Craig Robinson to remark he “just lost $400.” Still, making it to the season finale put him on the post-show “Last Comic Standing Tour.” He also returned to 95.7 JAMZ to host the “Roy Wood Jr. Show with Nu York and B Money,” splitting his time between Los Angeles, Birmingham and tour stops.

He left radio again in 2012, after being cast in the TBS sitcom “Sullivan & Son” (incidentally set in Birmingham) as a childhood friend of series star and fellow standup Steve Byrne.

The break following the show’s first season gave Wood the freedom to focus on touring and recording his debut concert album, “Things I Think I Think,” released in November. He had previously sprinkled standalone bits into his prank call albums, thinking he didn’t have the chops for a contiguous hour.

Recent years have helped him find his sweet spot harping on life’s smallest injustices, from outrageous theater concession prices to his uncle’s habit of using his Christmas presents… before passing them on to family.

“I’m a frustrated guy,” Wood said of his sense of humor. “I’ve always tried to put me in a box. I’m definitely out to overanalyze and challenge things.”

 

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