Exit Interview: Last Comic Standing 7 finalist Roy Wood Jr.

RoyWoodJr He may have finished third on your programs for NBC's Last Comic Standing, season seven, but Roy Wood Jr. remains number one in the hearts and minds of his hometown in Birmingham, Ala., and perhaps in yours as well.

This is his official Exit Interview with The Comic's Comic.

Name: Roy Wood Jr.

Age: 31

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Current city of residence: Los Angeles, CA

Tell me about the first time you did stand-up: Nov. 1998. 19 years old. The first time I did stand up comedy was at an open mic night in Birmingham at the Comedy Club Stardome. Open Mic. It was only once a month so I’d ride the Greyhound up from Tallahassee. At the time I was still in school @ Florida A&M Univ. the bulk of my early years of comedy was doing open mics around B’ham, Atlanta, & most of the Florida Panhandle. There’s no real comedy ‘nucleus’ in the south like NYC or L.A. so there was a lot of driving back then to get stage time.

Did you audition for Last Comic Standing before, and if so, how did that/those experiences go? 2002 Atlanta – Didn‚Äôt get past the morning audition. I was out there at 8am didn‚Äôt get seen until 4pm. And when I got in the room I barely got my first joke out. In hindsight it was good that I didn‚Äôt go far. I wasn‚Äôt ready.

2007 San Antonio РGot to the nighttime audition. Didn’t get past that round that night though. Ralph Harris was in that crop of comics that moved on.

If you said yes, then what did you learn from your past experiences that helped you move further in the competition this year? I've always been of the belief that I need to have a quick first laugh, 10-20 seconds into the set. Even if it‚Äôs not a strong laugh. Just something. You don‚Äôt have a lot of time on stage in these shows. My approach to the show this year was to simply have as many laughs as possible. For me that meant not necessarily always picking my best joke, but the best joke for the time that I was allotted. Some of my best jokes are 3-5 minutes. But if I only have 90 seconds to fill then maybe that joke isn‚Äôt the best bet.

Case in Point: in 2003 I made it to the Semi-finals of CBS’ Star Search hosted by Arsenio Hall. I had this great 3-4 minute bit about wrestling that I wanted to do. But producers were only giving comics 2 minutes. Instead of doing another joke I attempted to cram 4 minutes into 2 and the joke went flat.

When did you think you had a serious chance of winning this thing? When I survived the first elimination. The first episode in which all of the final 10 performed was in my opionion my weakest set of the show. For whatever reason my jokes weren‚Äôt connecting like they did in later rounds. I remember being on stage for the first elimination feeling like ‚ÄòIf I make it through this round, I have a lot of decent material left.‚Äô Wasn‚Äôt sure if it‚Äôd be good enough to win, but I definitely felt more confident.

How did you feel about the format changes in the contest this season, and was there anything from the old formats that you missed? I enjoyed the new format. I‚Äôm not much of a drama queen, plus, when you‚Äôre casting a comedy show and you have to put people in a house, then I feel like you‚Äôre beginning to pick people on elements OTHER than their stand-up comedy skills. That‚Äôs fine if you want a show like that, but you can‚Äôt turn around and call it a straight up Stand-up Competition. I saw a lot of back and forth from people on Twitter talking about how they wanted comics all in a house. I spoke with a few comics from previous seasons who have ALL told me ‚Äúyou got it good.‚Äù I‚Äôll take their word for it. Comics being judged on nothing BUT jokes is a good deal to me.

Did you have previous experience with comedy competitions, and how did LCS compare to those? I did It's Showtime At The Apollo 2001. Back then they used to have something called ‚ÄòComedy TKO‚Äô Two comics would go out and do 3 mins then the audience would cheer loudest for who they thought should win that week. A little known fact about the Apollo Theatre is that the alcohol there is very cheap. And the black people there drink a lot of it. The tapings begin at 7pm but normally they do 4-5 music acts FIRST THEN the amateurs, THEN the Comedians. By this time it‚Äôs 11pm. And you‚Äôre going to do comedy to a room full of people who have been drinking for the past 4 hours. Black people. In Harlem. I went out on stage and laid a turd. I was 30 seconds from being booed but I cut my set early and shot off the stage.

2003 I did the CBS reboot of Star Search was a different experience because during that run they had 3 main judges & one guest judge. Naomi Judd, Ahmet Zappa, Ben Stein, & whatever non comedic shitbag CBS could dig up that week. One week it was some Carrie Underwood type chick and my next week on the show it was B2K. My first week on the show I got great reviews and got 20 out of 20 stars. The second week I made the mistake of trying to cram a 4 min bit into a 2 min set and it fell flat. I got 8 stars out of 20. In this particular round I was up against John Heffron & Alonzo Bodden. Zo ended up winning that round. What made that round so special is that half of the then hit pop group ‘B2K’ were the guest judges. Really? My comedy is going to be judged by 14 year olds who haven’t done shit in their life? They pissed on Me, Heff, & Zo. In hindsight Ben Stein was the only one out of the four that knew anything about comedy.

What are a few things about you that TV viewers might not already know? About me? Hmmm. Not much. I live in Los Angeles not Birmingham. A lot of people still think that I live in Alabama but I actually moved out here in 2007. I love the Cubs & Dolphins in sports. & I think Fox Sports Radio is far better than ESPN Radio.

Have people (civilians, comedians or industry) already started treating you differently? Industry? No not really. But then again in L.A. I‚Äôm not much of an industry type. When I said goodbye on stage I made a shot out to the comics working the road. Those are the guys I tend to identify with. I think it remains to be seen how the industry treats all of us. It‚Äôll be a few months before that dust settles. In terms of industry bites and inquires about me and my services? Nah. Nothing.

Comedians? I’m getting a lot more emails now from younger comics who for whatever reason look at me as some sort of guy that’s got all the answers. Comedy careers are like snowflakes you know. So it's hard for me to give them the recipe to my career. But If anyone thinks I have something positive to offer them then we can chat. That’s more than most comcis did for me coming up.

I‚Äôm not back in the clubs just yet, and wont be on a regular basis until the national tour ends but I‚Äôm sure there will be some comics that disregard me. Somewhere right now there‚Äôs a comic that does not think I‚Äôm funny. And It might not be anything disrespectful behind their opinion of me, but you best believe comics like that are going to be gunning to blow me off the stage when I come to their towns. It's engrained in the competitive DNA of all comics. We can‚Äôt help it. Every comic LIVES for the opportunity to work with someone that they think they‚Äôre funnier than, so that they can blow them off the stage. I was the same way…hell I STILL am that way. More often than not I end up getting taken to school by the older vet but nonetheless, more comics gunning for me I anticipate will be one thing that will change, in the long run, I could be wrong. After all, right now it‚Äôs just speculation.

Do you have any funny moments that happened behind the scenes of the show that you can share? Mike DeStefano‚Äôs F-Bomb during his goodbye speech was a spur of the moment bet instigated by myself and Tommy Johnagin. DeStefano says a lot of stuff when the cameras aren‚Äôt around so while we were side stage during a commercial break preparing for the next elimination. Mike D, goes ‚ÄúIf They eliminate me I‚Äôm going to say ‚ÄòFuck you America‚Äô. Tommy and I burst out laughing. I‚Äôm thinking he‚Äôs being silly, so I take to the next level and tell him that it‚Äôs a great idea and that he should do it. Tommy then makes the suggestion to Mike D, ‚ÄúYou should at least thank your fans first.‚Äù Five minutes later Mike D was eliminated and sure enough he delivered on his promise.

What are you most looking forward to about touring for the next several months with the other finalists? Myq & Tommy are the only two that I‚Äôve known before this show. And I‚Äôve only worked with Tommy before. I‚Äôm indifferent on spending time on a tour bus with four grown men. I‚Äôm more so looking forward to working a few regions that I haven‚Äôt worked before. I‚Äôm anxious to hurry up and get off stage and get out to watch local comedy. I am nervous in wondering if Mike DeStefano is gonna piss people off on tour. He seems like the type of guy that has jokes that bring people to the merch table to start a ‚Äúdiscussion‚Äù. I got his back no doubt, but I‚Äôm probably gonna have to stand close to the man after the show to make sure no one tries to cold cock him. Especially when he does that religion material down south. I think we have a few Alabama dates on the tour. That‚Äôs going to be interesting.

Did you make any side bets with anyone about LCS? No. But I did have a few of my friends accurately predict Felipe would win weeks ago.

What advice do you have for anyone considering to try out for LCS in the future, if there is another season? Audition for the show. Get an appointment to audition if you can. But remember, go into ANY comedy competition show with one thought. It’s not a competition, it’s an exhibition….PERIOD. It is an opportunity to show what you do to more people on a larger scale. That’s why you travel. That’s why you have a Facebook page & a fucking Twitter account. To reach more people. ALL Television is an opportunity for you to do just that. If you enter the auditions for this show thinking ANYTHING other than that, then that’s when all the “it’s rigged” bullshit will come pouring into your head.

Having a sustainable comedy career is about FINDING YOUR AUDIENCE. There isn’t a comic you can name that’s working on a regular basis that hasn’t found their audience. That’s how you become a draw. Finding your audience. No more begging for third show spots in NYC. No more working the door in L.A. clubs. No more doing Wednesday free ticket comedy night to a bunch of bachelorette parties in Arkansas. I’m not saying this show is the only way to exposure but it is an opportunity. TV gives you an opportunity to do just that. Comics ask me now “was it rigged?” Did you know who was gonna win? “They already knew Felipe was gonna win didn’t they?!” If that’s how you feel, fine. But don’t group ME into ‘They’. My participation on the show was 100% authentic. I found out about eliminations on stage as they happened. I wasn’t part of some sort of NBC Illuminiati that told me back in March that I would be assured a 3rd place finish on the show.

I can only speak for myself and my experiences on the show. It IS network television so I’m sure there are some elements in play as to who is or isn’t kept and for what reasons. But then again, these are the same people making the argument that “if you have so much as a local PBS Telethon credit then you shouldn’t be allowed to be a contestant on Last Comic Standing”. "That guy already has a BET Comic View Credit from 1982. HOW'D HE GET ON THE SHOW?"

Too many comics still believe in Santa Claus.

All shows have a set criteria for the kind of comic they want to book and they use it when evaluating talent, be it Letterman, BET, TBS, Jimmy Kimmel or whoever. Last year Comedy Central passed on me for a half-hour special. I submitted my tape for their considerations and got passed on. “Too many good comics, not enough slots” was the note I received. Was Comedy Central telling me the truth? Who knows. More importantly, who cares. It’s all in the game. Being told ‘No’ from time to time is part of the game. You can’t get mad about stuff like that. Quit comedy if you don’t like hearing the word ‘No.’ All these bookers get more tapes than they can watch and best they can, they sit in a back room of their office watching DVDs knowing that they have to whittle it down to a select 10-20 comics. The only difference between Last Comic Standing and any of the aforementioned shows is that their selection process is televised. If Comedy Central put cameras up and let us see who they selected & turned down for ‘Live at Gotham,’ someone would take issue with at least one comic that is kept and one comic that is not. In LCS 2007 I was in the same group w/ Ralph Harris performing in the night time showcase round. Ralph moved on. I did not. Maybe the network didn’t think I was funny, maybe they had enough black people who knows. Who cares. Because from that 74 seconds of my set that NBC showed that night I got booked in England & I’ve been working the UK ever since. THAT is the point of the show. To do something with the exposure.

Ask Ralphie May if he gives a shit now about losing to Dat Phan. I don’t know his rates but I’m pretty sure that dude is getting 5-digit checks every time he touches the microphone. Ralphie understood how to harness the power of that level of exposure. Even if you told Ralphie May back in 2002. “Hey, We have a rigged show we want you to be a part of. You’ll lose to a another comic but in exchange, you’ll make millions for the next 10 years or so." You telling me you wouldn’t sign up for that? What chair stacking, performing 32nd on a list of 40 comics, bringer show, ‘hey man let me feature for you’ comic would say ‘No’ to that shit? Whether or not the show is good or bad for comedy as a whole is a separate argument to have. But if you’re a comedian looking to expand, looking to do more, then you owe it to yourself to audition for the show. Enter ALL comedy competitions in a spirit of exhibition, not competition. Our art form is too subjective for there to EVER be a fair way to judge it. No Comedy Competition comes without its flaws, there is no Santa Claus and the tooth fairy is a lesbian.

Thank You, Go Cubs

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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