In the world of comedy, Roy Wood Jr., is a rising star. You have probably seen Roy on “The Late Show with David Letterman”, HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam”, TV One’s “The Funny Spot” with Tony Rock, BBC’s “The World Stand-Up London”, NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”, or E! Network’s “Chelsea Lately”. Recently, Roy began his second season on “Sullivan & Son”, a TBS sitcom.
If you haven’t seen Roy on television before, then you might have heard some of his prank phone calls on the Internet. Roy’s Youtube page has over six million views because of prank phone calls such as “Wallet on The Slave Ship”, “Operation Hoes Over The Ocean”, “Barbara’s Check”, and “Bible at The Strip Club”. Roy’s prank calls have been compiled into three nationally released CD’s entitled “My Momma Made Me Wear This”, “Confessions of a High School Bench Warmer”, and “I’ll Slap You to Sleep”.
Phillips: When did you realize that you were funny?
Woods: I was about eight or nine years old when I figured out that I was funny. Growing up, I was the only child so I was always in my head. Since I didn’t have siblings, I had to keep myself entertained. In high school, I played sports but I rode the bench. As a bench warmer, I felt that it was my job to demoralize the opposing team. So I came up with jokes and chants about the other team. Since I wasn’t in the game, I had to make myself useful somehow. During my time in high school, I learned that my sense of humor was my biggest social asset.
I attended college at Florida A&M University and I took a public speaking course. Our professor required us to give a five- minute presentation and I free-styled my presentation on the history of the toilet bowl. My presentation got lots of laughs and afterward I knew that I was ready to give stand-up comedy a shot. After my Sophomore year, I was a student by day and an idiot joke teller by night. My passion for stand up helped me to improve my grades from a C average to the Dean’s list. I scheduled my classes from Tuesday through Thursday leaving me with a three day weekend for stand-up comedy gigs.
Phillips: Do you think being funny is natural talent or a skill that one develops?
Woods: You can develop the ability to be funny. The process of making someone laugh is scientific; it’s all about mastering the art of timing and rhythm. Comedy is not much different from basketball. You can hire a coach or a trainer to teach you how to play basketball but all the lessons in the world won’t make you into Lebron James or Michael Jordan. There is an old saying in comedy, “It’s a difference between a comic and a comedian. A comic says funny things but a comedian can make anything funny.” The true gift that a comedian possesses is the ability to mine something from very dark place and find the humor from uncomfortable places. Great comedians go to very dangerous and dark places to separate themselves from the masses. That’s what made comedians like Richard Pryor and George Carline great. Both had the ability to take their fans to dark places with them and get lots of laughs from their experiences.
Phillips: When and why did you start recording your prank calls?
Woods: After I graduated from Florida A&M University, I returned to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. During that time, Ricky Smiley announced that he was leaving his Birmingham-based morning radio show to host BET’s Comic View. Ricky Smiley had legendary prank calls and I didn’t feel like I could follow in his footsteps. I wanted an opportunity to do fake commercials and parody songs, both of which Ricky hadn’t done on his show. But the only way that I could get the job hosting the morning radio show was to agree to do four prank calls per week. I’ve developed some notoriety because of my prank calls but it wasn’t something that I was really passionate about. Initially, I was concerned about stepping into Ricky’s shoes and now Ricky plays my prank calls on his show. Ricky’s prank calls opened the door for me and allowed me to get onto a morning radio show. The irony is that my prank calls were what led to me leaving the morning show.
Phillips: Which prank call is your favorite?
Woods: That’s a tough one! I’m going to have to pick “Wallet on the Slave Ship”. Ten years ago, I did that prank call and it still makes me laugh today. During that call, I was in character as Dr. Azibo, a proud Nigerian doctor who sometimes has difficulty understanding American culture. Dr. Azibo called a national cruise ship line demanding that they check the lost and found for a wallet that his great-grandfather left on a slave ship. What was so hilarious about the call was the customer services rep was really looking for the ship. Dr. Azibo said his great-grandfather lost his wallet on “The Big Brown Slave Ship” and she continued to look for the ship. After she was unable to locate the ship, she transferred Dr. Azibo to an AfricanAmerican customer service rep that caught on to the prank immediately.
For the record, my favorite prank resulted in a 2-week suspension from the morning show. The national cruise ship line was a station sponsor and I didn’t get approval to make a live on-air prank call. If your readers want a laugh, check out Wallet on The Slave Ship on my YouTube page.
Phillips: Tell me about your role on Sullivan & Son?
Woods: Sullivan & Son is a modern racially diverse version of Cheers which airs on Thursday nights at 10pm on TBS. The name of my character on the show is Roy and he is friends with Steve Sullivan, a new bar owner. Roy runs a video store that still rents and sells VHS tapes. As you can imagine, Roy’s video business is quite slow. So, Roy has the freedom to hang out and drink at his friend’s bar. Roy is one of the regular drunks that helps Steve get into, and sometimes out of, trouble. We’re in our second season and I ask that your readers tune in to our show on Thursday at 10PM on TBS.