Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
October 20, 2014

Joanne Borgella Dies At 32

Joanne Borgella
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images

Michael Dunn Sentenced To Life In Prison

Michael Dunn
ASSOCIATED PRESS

I Am a Liberian. I Am Not a Virus.

I Am Liberia
Let Girls Lead

Why Vonderrit Myers Matters

Vonderrit Myers Family
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Darren Wilson Says He Feared For His Life: Report

Michael Brown
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law

Supremes
Getty

Stacey Dash: Minorities Feel 'Worthless,' 'Uneducated' Under Obama

Stacey Dash
YouTube

Greatest Magazine Cover Of 2014?

Lupita
Courtesy

Cliven Bundy Challenges Eric Holder In Video Endorsing Black Congressional Candidate

Cliven Bundy
David Becker via Getty Images

Nigerian Girls' Hometown Cautiously Hopeful For Their Release

Chibok
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

Kobe Bryant Calls ESPN 'A Bunch Of Idiots'

Kobe Bryant
Jeff Gross via Getty Images

Stop And Frisk Linked To Trauma And Anxiety In Young Men

Stop And Frisk
ASSOCIATED PRESS

From Civil War In Sudan To The Silver Screen

Ger Duany Emmanuel Jal
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

Still No Charges 3 Months After Eric Garner's Chokehold Death

Eric Garner
STAN HONDA via Getty Images

Facebook Fight Allegedly Led To 3-Year-Old's Fatal Shooting

Amiracle Williams
WDIV-TV

GOP Congressman Gets Boost From Racially Charged Ad

Ashford
NRCC

Ebola Panic Reaches College Campuses

Ebola University
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Do 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Benefit Black Defendants?

Todd Rutherford South Carolina
ASSOCIATED PRESS

These 5 Scary Obamacare Predictions Were Dead Wrong

Obamcare Fact Check
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Walmart Yanks Ammo From Shelves Of Stores Near Ferguson

Walmart Ferguson
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Ebola Outbreak In Senegal Is Officially Over

Ebola Sierra Leone
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona Same-Sex Marriage Ban Declared Unconstitutional

Gay Marriage
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Report: Nigeria And Boko Haram Reach Cease-Fire

Shekau
AP

Blake Griffin: 'Donald Sterling Didn't Care If We Won'

Blake Griffin
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Exonerated Man David McCallum On How The World's Changed Since He Went To Prison In 1985

David Mccallum
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

Ebola Epidemic Could Lead To 'Hunger Crisis Of Epic Proportions' For West Africa

Liberia Ebola
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Laverne Cox Weighs In On Trans Writer Debate

Laverne Cox
Brad Barket via Getty Images

These Are The Celebrities Stepping Up To Fight Ebola

Celebs Take On Ebola
Ebola Survival Fund

He's A Veteran, A College Student And Homeless

Military Veteran College
DON EMMERT via Getty Images

Meet One Of The Thousands Of Drug Offenders Hoping Obama Will Shorten Their Prison Terms

Donel Clark
c/o Donel Clark

The Worst Thing About Racialized Voter ID Laws

Black Voter
Graeme Williams via Getty Images

EBOLA NIGHTMARE: 'The Entire City Is Covered With Bodies'

Liberia
New York Times

'You Can’t Say You’re Not A Racist If You Accept And Support Systems That Clearly Are'

Reverend Jim Wallis
Graeme Robertson via Getty Images

Ebola Death Toll Rises

Ebola
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Early Voting Restrictions Have Little Support Among Americans

Supreme Court Voting
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WATCH
Shep Smith Absolutely DESTROYS The Media's Ebola Hysteria

Shepard Smith
Fox News

Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable About Ferguson

Ferguson
JOSHUA LOTT via Getty Images

Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly Battle Over White Privilege

Oreilly Stewart
Comedy Central

Who We Talk About When Athletes Are Accused Of Sexual Assault

Ray Rice
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Columbus Day Is Done. Can We Talk?

Christopher Columbus
Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

Liberians Living In U.S. Fear Ebola Stigma

Ebola
ASSOCIATED PRESS

City Leaders Say Police Unions Have Obstructed Stop-And-Frisk Reform

Stop And Frisk
Mario Tama via Getty Images

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

Voting Booth
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Why Blackface Parties Keep Happening At Colleges Across America

Uf Frat Black Face

FLOTUS: 'Turnip For What?!'

Turnip
Vine: The White House

Obama Also Pushed For CDC Cuts In Years Before Ebola Outbreak

Obama
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Follow HuffPost

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

Jordin Sparks Wants You To See Her Without Makeup

Jordin Sparks
Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images

Here Are The Most Progressive 2 Minutes Of TV This Season

Viola Davis How To Get Away With Murder
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

How One Artist Is Single-Handedly Changing The Way We See Death Row

Elkins

WATCH
Chris Rock's New Movie Gets A Really Funny Trailer

Top Five Trailer
Paramount

Sheryl Lee Ralph Breaks Down Her 24th Annual 'DIVAS Simply Singing!'

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Paul Archuleta via Getty Images

Iggy Finally Gets An Apology From Snoop Dogg

Iggy Azalea
Gary Miller via Getty Images

PHOTOS
Fly Rudeboys Remind Us What Cool Looks Like

Bevan Agyeman
Dean Chalkley

Nick Cannon Responds To Amber Rose Relationship Rumors

Nick Cannon
Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images

Let Kerry Washington Be Your Guide To 'No Makeup' Makeup

Kerry Washington
Instagram

The Best Worst Answer Ever On 'Family Feud'

Penis
Family Feud

'Real Housewives Of Atlanta' Star Confirms Pending Divorce To Husband

Phaedra Parks
ELLEN

Afroman Updates 'Because I Got High' For Legalization

Afroman
YouTube

LOOK
Pharrell Channels Michael Jackson On 'Dear Girl' Tour

Pharrell Williams
Courtesy of Swarovski

Erykah Badu Made This Much Singing On NYC Sidewalk

Erykah Badu Singing
Karl Walter via Getty Images

Harlem Globetrotters Ride The Subway; Passengers Have A Ball

Globetrotters
AOL/Huffington Post Video

Major Decision Made In Teddy Pendergrass Estate Battle

Teddy Pendergrass
Ebet Roberts via Getty Images

Quvenzhané Wallis Has Her Fingers Crossed For Another Oscar Nod

Quvenzhane Wallis
Evan Agostini /Invision/AP

Rappers with Cameras

Thig Nat
Thig Nat

North West Is Even Cuter With Little Cat Ears On

North West Kardashian
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff via Getty Images

'The Book Of Negroes' Adapted Into Miniseries For BET Debut

The Book Of Negroes
BET/eOne

Painting the Desert: Urban Artists In The Navajo Nation

Desert

How To Spot A Black TV Character Written By White People

Saved By The Bell Tv Show
NBC via Getty Images

Alicia Keys Holds Protest For Lost Nigerian Schoolgirls

Alicia Keys
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

David Oyelowo On Playing MLK And Race In Hollywood

David Oyelowo
Vallery Jean via Getty Images

You Definitely Don't Want To Miss This

Chris Rock
George Pimentel via Getty Images

Kenya Moore Makes Big Donation

Kenya Moore
American Media via Getty Images

NBA Stars Show Off Sensitive Sides In New Book Club

Book Club
Jimmy Kimmel Live

Danai Gurira Finds Elegance In The Season's Bright Color Palette

Danai Gurira
Justin Holt for Byrdie.com

Jon Stewart Finds Sanity-Resistant Strain Of Ebola Fear In Congress

Daily Show
Comedy Central

This Is The State Of American Art

Van

LOOK
Amber Rose's Swimsuit Is Giving Us Kim K Vibes

Amber
Instagram

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."