Roy Wood Jr. made what I still believe was the best stand-up comedy special of 2017.
For his second hour on Comedy Central, No One Loves You, the comedian and correspondent on The Daily Show opens with a flair for the dramatic. The lights come up inside The Vic in Chicago, revealing the comedian already standing onstage, microphone in hand. No time to waste. Let’s get right to it. And Wood does with an opening routine assailing the national anthem.
“If you want more people to stand for the anthem, change the song!” Wood declares. “Patriotism is a feeling. patriotism ain’t one song.”
We Americans certainly could stand to benefit from a more modern American tune. Why not Bruno Mars? Wood makes the case for him, and against the merits of the Star Spangled Banner, in depth.
Dave Chappelle may be a natural comedic prodigy, but Wood remains the smartest comedian working today with his ability to make us laugh about our racial and societal divisions in America.
In his first seven minutes onstage here, Wood not only reframes the entire debate about athletes protesting the anthem in a way that gets everyone on the same side, but also manages to score rare points that nobody else is even putting on the board, recognizing the overlooked troops who we’re supposed to support via this song but not actually supporting in real life, all while comparing civil rights in America to fast-casual restaurant chains. From Applebee’s to Red Lobster, Chick-Fil-A to McDonald’s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the “sorry, sir, this is a Wendy’s” meme came straight from Wood or someone inspired by him.
No other comedian continually finds ways to incorporate America’s biggest franchise foods into the metaphorical mix to such great heights.
Wood also takes the time to point out an elderly man in the front row, one Ulysses “US” Floyd, with whom the comedian spent the day before his special walking around Chicago to see the grassroots campaigning against violence in that city.
Oh, and the comedian offers some novel solutions, too, to counter both police violence against unarmed black civilians, as well as improve the behaviors within police ranks. Of course, he’ll also join a mass protest. But he won’t condone radical acts. Even if he’ll applaud you for the effort. Especially more if you attend a protest that’s not even for you.
While other comedians may present their takes on Black Panther and its place in the superhero movie pantheon, only Wood takes the time to develop a well-thought-out theory about black superheroes that extends to Luke Cage.
And months before our culture became ready to take another look at R. Kelly’s sins, Wood was out here noting how willing we remain to defend musicians against scandals because of how their songs have inextricably tied themselves to our memories.
And only Wood can zero in on one mass shooting that many may have already forgotten about that sums up what’s wrong with mainstream media, politics and our attitudes toward women, and still find a way to tie it into fast food.
America may be a confusing melting pot at times, but Wood continues to prove why he’s perhaps the best American comedian and putting it all into perspective.