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Roy Wood Jr. of "The Daily Show" on political satire — "The Takeout"

Roy Wood Jr. prepares for career milestone
Comedian Roy Wood Jr. prepares for biggest career milestone while sharing laughs along the way 07:42
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Comedian Roy Wood Jr.'s ambition for his jokes is that they change the way his audience thinks about a given topic.   

Later this month, he'll be trying this approach with the audience at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, including the president of the United States — who will be sitting a few feet away from him during his set — members of Congress and other dignitaries across media and politics.  

"I have a rare opportunity that most voters don't have, and that's to be face to face with all of their elected officials and the officials have to shut up and listen," Wood said. "That's the beautiful thing. It's a bunch of politicians with no microphone." 

Wood, a cast member of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, joined CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout." 

The annual dinner, Wood said, is a difficult venue for comedy because his material has to be fresh and topical and there are only so many ways to rehearse jokes without the material leaking before the event. He said he may road test "decoy material" to guard against leaks. 

"You just have to figure out what you want to say. Is there a bigger point you want to make? Okay. And then now how do you make that point funny, right? Because at the end of the day, my job is to be funny, right?————" he said. 

His approach to political satire is simple: have "an opinion about issues or people that have an opinion." 

The dinner has featured high-wattage comedians over the years including Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Jay Leno. Author and historian Ron Chernow headlined in 2019. Wood said he's watched video of previous dinners to prepare for his April 29th set and thought deeply about the impact his performance could have.   

"I'm not going to act like there's some magic bullet joke that's going to change the state of democracy. I think any comedian who thinks they're in possession of that joke is a liar and they are delusional," he said. "At the end of the day, my comedy has been to try and change the way you look at something." 

Politics in 2023, Wood argues, has become far too concerned with the person holding or seeking office. 

"We've gotten to a place in politics where people support the person instead of the policy. And you start supporting people blindly because of the person and not looking at their policy and don't realize that a lot of that stuff you're spiting yourself. 

Wood also weighed in on comedy and cancel culture — which he thinks can be reduced to one thing: capitalism. 

"You can joke about whatever you want to joke about," he said. "I have to respect the fact that if I say something that ticks off a couple of people that are in charge of things that I want access to, those people may not give me access." 

He continued: "I believe that there are a lot of comedians who want freedom of speech without freedom of consequence….There's no morality from corporations, good or bad. It's all fiscal. I think that's something I wish more people understood about cancel culture." 

In early April, Wood filled in as guest host of "The Daily Show," a position most recently occupied by Trevor Noah. There has been speculation he could be Noah's permanent replacement. 

"If it's offered to me, I'm not going to turn down an opportunity to be a Black person talking about America for four nights a week," he said. 

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
Show email:
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast

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