Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
September 21, 2014

This 11-Year-Old Perfectly Sums Up The Problems In Ferguson

Ferguson
CBS

Activists Killed In Spate Of Assassinations In Libya

Libya
ABDULLAH DOMA via Getty Images

How HBCUs Respond to a Call for Inclusion of LGBT Students

Black College Student
Jack Hollingsworth via Getty Images

What The Black Community Has To Say About Corporal Punishment

Adrian Peterson
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery via Getty Images

Tennis Coach Hopes New Center Will Become A Hub For Minority Players

Kamau
XS Tennis/Facebook

Huh? Jameis Winston Puts On Pads, Helmet Despite Being Suspended

Jameis Winston
ESPN

Mall Security Guards Who Killed Unarmed Black Man Won't Be Charged

Mckenzie Cochran
YouTube: RadioOne Vidoes

Life Just Got A Whole Lot Better For This Vet, Cancer Survivor

Home Depot Vet
Fox10

Queen Latifah: Domestic Violence Is A Problem In 'Every Part Of Society'

Queen Latifah
The Queen Latifah Show

REPORT: Ravens Knew Details Of Ray Rice Elevator All Along

Ray Rice
ASSOCIATED PRESS

In Georgia, Politics Moves Past Just Black And White

Atlanta Georgia
Comstock via Getty Images

As Ebola Outbreak Spreads, Here's How You Can Help

Ebola Aid
SIA KAMBOU via Getty Images

Archbishop Tutu Calls For 'End Of Fossil Fuels Era'

Desmond Tutu
Didier Baverel via Getty Images

Cory Booker Has A Great Take On NFL Firestorm

Goodell Booker
Getty

Liberian Boy Who Had Ebola Does Delightful Dance During Treatment, Has Since Recovered

Mamadee
YouTube/Doctors Without Borders

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Admits Failure 'Starts With Me'

Roger Goodell
Elsa via Getty Images

This Guy Is Running For The Senate Just To Make The World More Anti-Semitic, Racist

Ransdell
Ransdell campaign ad/YouTube

Cops Shoot And Kill Suspect 5 Miles From Ferguson Scene

Crime Scene
JaysonPhotography via Getty Images

Conflicted Congress Passes Obama's New War Funding

Capitol
Michael McAuliff

Former NFL Player Retires So He Could Donate Kidney To Brother

Kemoeatu
Jamie Squire via Getty Images

A Chance to Go From Hard Lives to Healing

Black Male Doctor Hands
Mark Edward Atkinson via Getty Images

Warrior in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS: Photographer Duane Cramer

Duanecramer
Nicholas Snow

Drinking Baileys In This Country Could Mean You're Gay -- And Going To Jail

Baileys Irish Cream
Jason Kempin via Getty Images

Bodies Found After Ebola Health Care Workers Go Missing

Ebola
Getty

Almost All Obamacare Enrollees Are Paying For Coverage

President Obama Smiling
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Adrian Peterson's Mom Speaks Out

Adrian Peterson
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chicago Won't Have A Barack Obama High After All

Obama Chicago
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

What It Means To Be A 'Real Mother' In 21 Gorgeous Photos

Real Mother
Alyson Aliano

Bloomberg: Detroit Is Just Like 1970s New York, And That's A Good Thing

Detroit Skyline
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even Supporters Of Spanking Think What Adrian Peterson Did Should Be Illegal

Adrian Peterson
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery via Getty Images

White Officer Kills Innocent Black Girl; Jury Told To Disregard Ferguson

Aiyana Stanleyjones
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ohio Business Groups Push Schools To Drug-Test Students

Marijuana
David Ramos via Getty Images

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    1. HuffPost
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. View all RSS feeds

15-Year-Old's Striking Photographs Are Pure Magic

Eyem
David Uzochukwu

Kim Kardashian Nude Photos Leaked?

Kim Kardashian Nude Photo
Lisa Maree Williams via Getty Images

Gospel Stars Go On Tour After Recent Operations

Fred Hammond Donnie Mcclurkin
AP

Orlando Jones Fights 'Apathy' On Race Issues With 'Bullet Bucket Challenge'

Actor Orlando Jones
Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images

R&B Star Keyshia Cole Arrested On Suspicion Of Battery

Keyshia Cole
ASSOCIATED PRESS

'Love & Basketball' Director Explains Hollywood's Excuse For Not Casting Black Actors

Gina Princebythewood
HuffPost Live

Listen To Michael Jackson And Freddie Mercury's Unearthed Duet

Freddie Michael
YouTube

Shonda Rhimes Takes Down NY Times Critic Over Offensive Article

Shonda Rhimes
Todd Wawrychuk via Getty Images

Trouble For Revolt TV?

Pdiddy
Manny Hernandez via Getty Images

Andre Leon Talley: 'There Are Ceilings That I Have Not Broken That I Should Have Broken'

Andre
Getty Images

Why Television Needs A New Cosby Show

The Cosby Show
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jon Stewart Sings Goodbye To New SNL 'Weekend Update' Anchor Michael Che On The Daily Show

Jon Stewart Michael Che
Comedy Central

Darling Nikki: The Most Revealing Look At Les Miserable's Tony Award Winning Starlet

Nikki M James
Bruce Glikas via Getty Images

WATCH
Key And Peele Are Back In Action, And Funnier Than Ever

Key And Peele Alien Impostors
YouTube/Comedy Central

'A Different World' Cast Reunite 20 Years Later

Own Oprah Where Are They Now A Different World
George Burns/Harpo Studios

Attorney: Patti LaBelle Had Bodyguard Beat Cadet

Patti Labelle
RW/MediaPunch/IPx

Mathew, You ARE The Father!

Mathew Knowles
Carlo Allegri via Getty Images

Directors Guild Finds TV Diversity Hiring Stalled

Shonda Rhimes
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

'Django Unchained' Actress 'Is Lying,' Says Cop

Daniele Watts
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Shinique Smith Is The Renaissance Woman Of Contemporary Art

Bright Matter

Apparently 'Blunt Roller' Is A Job And It Pays $50,000 A Year

Waka Flocka Flame
Chelsea Lauren via Getty Images

Wyatt Cenac on Being Alternatively Black and Funny

Comments (8)

Wyatt Cenac, Comedy Central, Wyatt Cenac: Comedy Person, The Daily Show

Comedian Wyatt Cenac is black. People who watch him on 'The Daily Show' know this. Those who have seen him in the movie 'Medicine For Melancholy' know this. And anyone who tunes in to watch his one-hour stand-up special 'Wyatt Cenac: Comedy Person' on Comedy Central tonight at 11 p.m. EST will certainly notice as well. But when he presents his work, whether as a stand-up or an on-air correspondent, Cenac tries to be simultaneously conscious and transcendent about race.

We talked with him about his views on the segregated world of stand-up comedy, 'The Daily Show' sketch that almost didn't air, and why he won't watch his stand-up special with friends.<
strong>Jozen Cummings: Do you get a lot of people who come up to you and say, "Hey, you're the black guy on 'The Daily Show'"?
Wyatt Cenac: It's always a little weird for me, because when they hired me they said, "Oh, we're not hiring you to play that role. We just want you to be a correspondent, so you can do stories that don't necessarily have anything to do with race." So when people say I'm the black correspondent, there's a part of me that's like, 'Nah, I'm just a regular correspondent. Open your minds, people! This is Dr. King's dream! He talked about 'The Daily Show' -- how one day there would be black correspondents and Muslim correspondents and white correspondents, all living together.'

JC: Is there any obligation to be that "black voice" -- as with your 2009 'Daily Show' bit about rappers who have been affected by the recession with real-life rapper Slim Thug (see below)? What's the voice you try to have among the other correspondents?
WC: That is part of my voice -- that's the stuff I find interesting. I don't know if I feel any pressure to pitch that [sort of material] as much as it just reflects my sense of humor. The way I see things is through that prism. I think the mistake a lot of people make is that they put it through a race prism, when it's not about that at all. I grew up as a kid in Dallas, Texas, where my friends listened to a lot of hip-hop, and I listened to a lot of hip-hop. That's as much my generation as it is a racial thing.



JC: In your stand-up and in the things you write, are you conscious of when your work is being put through that race prism or do you try to present work that transcends race?
WC: It definitely crosses my mind, because my race is a part of who I am. In one sense, it's very easy to get mired in that. At the same time, the reality is if you look at me, you see a black person, so in that way race will always be there no matter what. It's like, "Oh it's the black correspondent." Well, no, I'm just a correspondent, but regardless of how I present it, people will always attach a racial element to it. But this is my story: A kid who's black, who grew up in Texas, who is of West Indian descent. There are very specific aspects of my experience that are not the "black experience" and to me, that's what transcendent is.

JC: Anything behind the straight-to-the-point title of your stand-up special, "Wyatt Cenac: Comedy Person"?
WC: Yeah, I'm not great at titles -- they tend to be the most basic thing I can think of. Also, in stand-up it's really easy to categorize people. I remember going to clubs in L.A. where there might be a woman comedian doing the show, and a lot of times the host would introduce her like this: "Who's ready for a lady?" And, you know, to put that qualifier there, there's something very strange about that. Also, at that time, if you wanted diversity at the club level, it was Monday nights at the Improv -- that was black night. At the Laugh Factory it was 'Chocolate Sunday' and 'Refried Fridays' and 'Stir Fried Thursdays.' So I think [my decision surrounding the title] might have played into that a little bit.

JC: So you understand race is always going to be a part of the way people describe you, but you hate when people use it to describe you?
WC: I'm just somebody doing comedy like the next person. If you think it's funny, great. That was the point. But putting a qualifier on it -- that this is a black person doing comedy or this is a lady doing comedy, that always used to skiv me out. For a while, when I would do a club, a lot of times I would have the host intro me with "Who's ready for a lady?" just to call out how stupid it was.

JC: But in the 1990's black comedians kind of embraced that whole black comedian/comedy thing. There was BET's 'Comic View' and 'Def Comedy Jam.' Do you see having those stages as an advantage?
WC: I think it's great that those platforms were there, but there's an aspect that seems like Hollywood either doesn't look at a show like 'Comic View' or if they just think, "They're over there, they're taken care of." I don't know what that mindset is, but it seems [they think] they don't need to worry about booking black comedians on 'The Tonight Show' or whatever bigger shows there might be, because [we're] taken care of. That's a question worth asking Hollywood at large.

JC: How did you avoid being put in that 'black comedy' category? You're more associated with 'The Daily Show' and your stand-up televised debut is on Comedy Central, not BET.
WC: Well, there's also the alternative [comedy] world, and I very quickly got put into that world. There aren't a lot of minorities who get put in that world. Me, Craig Robinson, W. Kamau Bell -- there are comedians who got placed on that track, and it's a weird thing, because I remember in L.A. there were black shows that were like The Big Black show and it was always a struggle for me to get into that world, because I'd already been put on this other track. And on this other track I'm at X level, but then if I wanted to do the 'Mo Betta' Mondays" at the Improv, it didn't matter what level I was at in the alternative world. I had to start from ground zero and earn their trust and pay dues in that world.

JC: What has being on 'The Daily Show' done for you personally and professionally?
WC: Well, the first thing it did was allow me to pay my rent [laughs]. I wasn't really doing that before I got the gig. Right before I got the job, I had to move out of my apartment because I couldn't pay for it and my car got repossessed. But beyond that, it's definitely helped me with opportunities to do stand-up around the country.

JC: What about opportunities from your role in 'Medicine For Melancholy,' in which you played the male lead in a story about two people who hang out the day after a one night stand?
WC: There are people who know me solely from that movie who have no idea I work for 'The Daily Show,' and there are people who know me from 'The Daily Show' who have no idea about that movie. It's been very interesting trying to bridge those worlds a little bit more.

JC: Is having both projects on your resume an advantage?
WC: Right now, I use it to my advantage to meet ladies [laughs].


JC: That's what most men would do.

WC: No, sadly it doesn't help me. It helps producers and writers on 'The Daily Show' -- they're able to get dates, but being on-air talent on 'The Daily Show' seems to have the opposite effect.

JC: What's your relationship like with Jon Stewart, host of 'The Daily Show'?
WC: Pretty professional. Our job is one where we're constantly on the move, working on the next thing and outside of work he's a father of two and he's hanging out with his kids. I've avoided hanging out with my children [Ed note: Cenac doesn't have children.] I don't acknowledge their existence [laughs]. Outside of work, we don't hang out that often because if we did he'd say, "Shouldn't you be more responsible with your kids?" And I'd be like, 'Shut up, old man! You don't know me!'

JC: Has there ever been a bit you had trouble selling the 'Daily Show' team?
WC: The Slim Thug thing actually, that was something I had to push. It was a world where I felt there were a lot of jokes, but I remember we pitched it a couple of times and there were three different producers that had been on it at some point. I think around the third time, there was more to the story but it was one of those things initially they thought, 'Do people really want to see something about rappers dealing with the recession?' But eventually, it got through.

JC: Tomorrow night, when your special airs and you're on television as a stand-up comedian for the first time ever, where are you watching the show? Party at Wyatt's?
WC: I think I'm going to crawl under my bed. I've watched it so many times because I've been editing of it and honestly, what I think I'm going to wind up doing is going to see Donald Glover, who is a very funny comedian, he's on the show 'Community,' and he's taping his special tomorrow night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I don't know if I could do a party. If I did a party, I'd just be sitting there watching people watching me and saying, "You didn't laugh as loud as I thought you should!"

Comments: (8)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 1

Add a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed but they are required to confirm your comments. When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password."