Roy Wood Jr. On ‘The Daily Show,’ His Career, And The Show’s Future

There’s a lot to discuss with Roy Wood Jr. The Daily Show is heading to Atlanta to cover the midterms and Confess, Fletch just hit Showtime, offering people a chance to see Roy shine opposite Jon Hamm in the weirdly under-marketed film. But we can’t avoid the obvious: Trevor Noah is leaving The Daily Show and there has been wide speculation that Roy might be a candidate to replace him.

Does he want it? Is he getting it?

These aren’t likely questions anyone would answer in this situation, but credit to Roy for being upfront about the broader realities of the situation as they pertain to matters of career growth, work-life balance, and this crossroads moment in a career that could capitalize on any number of wins from the last few years as an actor, podcaster, producer (The Neutral Ground), comedian, and Daily Show correspondent. This in addition to talking about the ways Confess, Fletch challenged him as a performer and his thoughts on the state of politics heading into the midterms.

How are you doing?

I’m alright. How you been, bro? It’s been a minute.

Good, man. You’re the rumor mill du jour now.


I got to watch what I say. I don’t want Comedy Central lawyers to come swoop in and knock me out.

Yeah. I don’t know what they expect. I mean, we got to talk Atlanta, I know, but it’s like, the show is going to change. Into what? I don’t know. I know I just want to be a part of it.

I saw people talking about you for the Corden slot a few months ago. And I know from the last conversation we had, you’ve got a lot of things going on. And so I think about Trevor’s announcement and I wonder if these jobs are a bit of a gilded cage. Because, to me, having to host these shows seems to take away a lot of other opportunities. And so that’s where my mind goes. Trevor’s done well with still doing stand-up, but I think back to Jon when he was on it and he had to stop to do the movie (Rosewater).

Yeah. He had to literally stop to finally go and direct. I spoke with a former late night host, I can’t say who, but I spoke with a former late night host and they basically said that if you’re going to do late night, then you have to commit to that and that becomes your day-in, day-out. You can try to executive produce other stuff, but you can forget about acting, you can forget about movies, regular television-type stuff. Because a late night show, be it weekly or nightly, is time-consuming. It’s rewarding, but it’s time-consuming and it sucks all the air out of your life and the only thing you’re going to have left time to do is be a parent. And if you’re lucky you’ll figure out how to be a good spouse during that same time. (Laughs)

I feel like maybe it’s a little easier to have kids and actually do that stuff now. But I feel like traditionally, it hasn’t been.

I think every career in entertainment though, regardless of if it’s scripted or late night, a lot of that boils down to what kind of person do you want to be off camera. I’ve heard stories of TV actors who have adjusted rehearsal times so that they could go pick up their children from school every day. Now you got to have a little bit of clout to be able to do something like that, but there are definitely people that care about parenting more than anything else.

I just think that late night, regardless of how things play out with The Daily Show, it’s still a grind. Even as a correspondent to a degree. But at least as a correspondent I get the freedom to sneak off. I can go get a month off to go do Confess, Fletch or, “Hey, can I go to Long Island on Tuesday to shoot Only Murders In The Building?” “Sure, Roy. We have five more people who do your job. One of them can cover your shift.” And that’s the other thing about late night, ain’t no backup host. Jimmy Kimmel’s figured out a way to create a two-quarterback system [with guest hosts]. He’s the only one who has kinda hacked that code.

I’m trying to ask this without putting you on the spot too much.

No, man. Fire off, bro.

You like your life, right? You like that balance, the work-life balance where it is right now, right? How important is that for you to push that if you were to get an opportunity?

I think with growth comes sacrifice. So if I’m asked to grow in any capacity, there’s also still the option of being able to maybe try and create something of my own. I’ve given that some thought as well too. I don’t know which avenue is the best to remain a part of. I don’t know which plant to try and water, but I’m in a good position to have a couple of plants here. I do think that you have to figure out how to reconfigure your life if there is growth. So when I say growth, I could be offered a hosting slot somewhere, I could be offered a chance to do my own thing, I could get one of my scripts green-lit and have that go to series, and now I’m making a television show, and that too is a slog. And low key, that’s even worse because now I might be out of town depending on the script.

Through the pandemic, you launched the podcasts, multiple podcasts. You’ve done the doc project, and you’ve done the acting thing that’s blowing up, You’re used to having multiple projects running at this point, right?

Yeah, I’ve watered a couple other plants, but now we’re talking about really taking an opportunity after seven years and going, “Okay. Well, what do I want to do?” What I know is that I want to remain a part of The Daily Show. So that can happen in a lot of different capacities, bro. That could be host, that could be as a correspondent for whoever the new host is. I’m open to that too. But there still has to be other things happening for me in addition to that. If I’m still a correspondent then, yeah, I want to try and do as many other projects as I fucking can. But at the end of the day, it’s about making sure that I still make time for my child and try and be some sort of a present father. But TV has a way of taking that from you in any capacity, be it scripted or late night.

If you’re making a television show, you’re at it 12 hours a day for three months writing it and then you’re at it for 12 hours a day shooting it, then you got to edit, then you got to go out and promote. So you’re going to have long days one way or another once you’ve committed to this, otherwise, you just got to do like Leo DiCaprio and just come down every three years and bless everybody with something and get the hell on. (Laughs)

What is it that has kept you wanting to be a part of The Daily Show this long? What’s kept it fresh for you?

The thing I’m most thankful for is the ability to be able to make points using different joke vehicles. The biggest difference from Trevor to Jon, and I’m not sure if a lot of people have even noticed this, but we do a lot of sketches. There might be quick short sketches, but we do a lot of sketches on The Daily Show. We do a lot of web content. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not right for the show or doesn’t fit the timetable. And then that weird no man’s land from Friday to Monday when the show is dark, we can still pop stuff out over the weekend for expansion.

I hope that Trevor’s legacy gets the full appreciation for exactly what you just said. Writing the legacy of Trevor’s show, Jon shouldn’t be in the first four paragraphs of that and I feel like it’s in the first paragraph every time. And that’s weird because Trevor has made it his own show.

Trevor really did make it his own show and Trevor figured out new ways to deliver new satire and vehicles and platforms that didn’t exist when Jon held the chair. And to be able to address deeper issues to a society that has a shorter attention span as well is very key. It’s very, very difficult to do. And to be able to change, not just with the news, but to change with the viewing habits of people, I think that’s been the biggest thing and I think that’s going to be the interesting iteration as late night creatively evolves. I’m talking bigger than The Daily Show now because if you look at whatever CNN and MSNBC are slowly morphing into, I think there’s something to that. I think there’s something to the way Fox News evolved from Red Eye and to Gutfeld. There is an evolution in the style and way that we are going to start having these conversations on either side, left or right.

Oh yeah, for sure.

Everything evolves. And so I’m curious to see what the next evolution is going to be. And that’s part of why I want to be a part of it in any capacity is because you’re getting to reinvent something. The Daily Show with a new host, this is basically when the comedian is done with their hour set and they’ve put it on TV, and those jokes are done. You just shot your hour special and then the next morning you wake up with a blank sheet of paper and you got to do it all over again. And it’s horrifying, but you know it could be done. I’ve done it three times now, so to have a chance to have a front-row seat at a blank sheet of paper, oh fuck yeah. It’s horrifying, but also fuck yeah. And I’m saying the same thing about Corden too.

When I went back and reread the Confess, Fletch, I got more excited to see you in the role. I wanted more of you, I’ll be honest. I wanted more of you in the film.

A little more Flynn. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do an Irish accent, be like a true Boston Irish cop.

That was one knock on the film that I had. The other knock being it was like a secret for some reason that the film happened.

Yeah. Wasn’t a lot of marketing money.

Yeah. That would’ve been nice. But can you talk a little about the excitement of just trying to reconfigure a character and make that into a sort of a blank sheet of paper?

The thing that was cool for me was to be in scenes with Jon Ham and not have to carry the comedy or be expected to be big. When you look at Space Force and I’m in there with Steve Carell, Steve Carell’s going to bring energy out of you whether you like it or not. Steve Martin and Martin Short in Only Murders In The Building, they brought energy out of us whether we wanted to. Jacob Ming-Trent who’s in the scene with me, they’re up, so you’re up. But for this, it worked more if I was laid back and just let Jon do Fletch and let the Fletchiness of the character, the quirkiness of that character, let that drive the comedy. I don’t have to add an eyebrow or a weird scowl. Didn’t have to do none of that. You just sit there and chill and just let everything come to you. That was scary because I’ve never been asked to do that before performatively, so wondering, “Is this funny?” You know what I mean?

So The Daily Show is going to Atlanta for the midterms. What’s the mood going in for that?

Well, we’ll be in Georgia the week before and then we’ll be live election night. And that part of it, that’s where it’s a balloon drop or is it break out the whiskey? I just feel like they’re isn’t a problem in Georgia that ain’t happening anywhere else in the country. So it’s the perfect place to go and see what some of the issues are, talk to people, stuff like that, and really get to the bottom of some things.

I don’t know that Herschel Walker’s happening anywhere else though.

Well, you could believe that, but then Marjorie Taylor Greene already got elected. That was the Herschel of two years ago. So it’s like there’s these baffling people that have walked their way into the halls of our Congress and it’s like, oh, another person who’s never done this before and keeps running on, “I’m not a politician, I’m not a politician, I’m not a politician.” And then people are like, “Cool, perfect. You’re exactly who we want.”

I think I’ve stopped trying to pretend that I understand voters. I guess that’s not something you can really do on a thing like The Daily Show. I watch Jordan’s specials and am always baffled. I would scream back at people. I don’t have the restraint.

My thing is that as a correspondent, our job is to simply meet people where they are. Just tell me your truth. It might be interesting, it might be a little different, but just tell me your truth.

Is it hard to hold back judgment though?

Yeah, a little bit. But if you want to be journalistically sound, I think you have to just give them space. And Klepper will throw a jab. Klepper’s the best because he’ll snipe you, but not until you say what you said and then counter and create a conversation. At the beginning of the conversations that Klepper has with all those people at these rallies and shit, he’s not attacking, “Tell me why you’re stupid.” He’s just, “Hey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Tell me what you’re feeling.” And even then, Klepper is beautiful with it because he never really attacks the person, he just attacks their point of view. It’s not you’re dumb, you are deplorable or whatever the fuck. It’s just, “Well, if that makes sense then shouldn’t A=B? But A doesn’t equal B, but I forgot you don’t believe in letters. Anyway. Da, da, da, da.”

At this point, people’s point of view is their everything, it’s their soul. That’s the thing that I never understand. The allegiance to a point of view I get, but the allegiance to politicians I don’t understand on either side, frankly. Do you find that to be a little creepy on either side when people worship any politician?

Yeah, I think it’s dangerous. I think it’s dangerous to fully invest in any one party and just vote down party lines. I think it’s dangerous. I think it makes you more ignorant. Not paying attention to all of the issues and to not seeing some of the nuance in some of the subjects. And then from that, you can be better able to put together what you feel and then vote for people that better match your now more educated viewpoint. I can’t remember what special I said it in, but people love to not know. We enjoy not knowing. No one wants to read, no one wants to do the extra thing that gets them a little bit smarter.

They feel like they know. Just the feel is enough. I go by my gut, shoot from the hip. That’s so appealing to people.

Ding, ding, ding.

‘The Daily Show’ will be broadcasting from Atlanta at 11PM ET Monday through Thursday and through Election Day.