(AllHipHop Features) At one time Saturday Night Live was the number one TV show at spawning the most successful mainstream comedic talent in the country, but The Daily Show has claimed that title over the last two decades.
The Comedy Central late night program served as a launching pad for showbiz heavyweights such as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Ed Helms, Samantha Bee, Olivia Munn, and Rob Corddry. It was also the outlet where many people around the world first became familiar with New York comedian Wyatt Cenac.
After helping pen scripts for King Of The Hill, Cenac joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as both an on-screen performer and member of the writing team. The gig earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series in 2012.
Since parting ways with the satirical news series, Cenac’s star continued to rise thanks to his own stand-up comedy productions Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn and Furry Dumb Fighter. He recently transformed his live weekly series Night Train to a digital program on Seeso as well.
In the second part of my conversation with Wyatt Cenac, I asked the performer/producer if he has ever hit the stage while under the influence of marijuana, what other comedians he studies, and why The Daily Show has become the premiere incubator for comedians.
[ALSO READ: A Conversation With Wyatt Cenac On ‘Night Train’ Series, Media Conglomerates & Women Having Babies By Aliens]
There was a bit on your Furry Dumb Fighter special about how people always think that you’re high just by looking at you. First off, do you smoke?
Every now and again. But I’m not the cat who’s gonna wake up every morning and get high. It’s one of those things where if I have access, I’ll smoke every now and again. But I don’t go out of my way to do it everyday.
I heard your story about the first time you got high at a baseball game. Have you ever had any experiences being high while performing?
Not really. I’ve performed a couple of times stoned. I know people who will perform stoned and they enjoy it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. It was just that I always wind up feeling a little guilty if I have too much to drink or I am a little too out of it. I feel guilty that I’m not giving the audience enough.
As it is, I’m a low energy dude. I’m not running around on stage or doing too many animated things. So I feel like if I’m inebriated and even more sluggish than I already am, I start to feel bad.
[I feel like,] “These people didn’t want to see me this out of it. Now I just seem like a DJ doing the ‘Quiet Storm’ on the radio, just ready to put them to sleep.” [laughs]
You said you’re a low energy performer. Is that just your natural personality?
To a certain degree. I’ve never really been a super-animated person. I think sometimes I’ll get there if I’m with friends and we’re having fun. I’ve been a person that lays in the cut a little bit.
I see people that are animated, and I’m always very awed by it. When you look at somebody like Kevin Hart on stage, see how much energy that dude expends, and how physical he is as a performer, there’s something about it where I’m just like, “Wow, that’s amazing.”
That physicality is another joke telling method that he has at his disposal. It’s watching somebody do something that I feel like I don’t know if I could pull that off.
I saw an interview with Kevin Hart where he talked about how he studies other comedians. Are there certain comedians that you study?
Sure. I also have the benefit of having my weekly show Night Train. With that show, every Monday six different comedians are presented to the audience. But I also get to sit in the wings and watch.
Whether it’s a more established comedian or a comedian doing the show for the first time, I get to see how they perform and what they draw out of the audience. For me, that’s been my biggest thing as far as being able to see other comedians.
If a comedian has a special out – like Ali Wong’s [Baby Cobra] special just came out – I’ll sit down and watch that. But having a show every week is a nice way to see a bunch of other comedians.
You’ve won awards as a writer for The Daily Show. Looking back at all the people that came from that show, you’re talking about a “who’s who” of comedians and actors in the business. Was there anything that you feel like was happening there that led it to be this incubator of all these amazing talents?
I think part of that is a credit that goes to Jon [Stewart] and the producers of the show for recognizing and giving a platform to talented people. I think a lot of that credit goes to those talented people for seeing that platform, taking advantage of it, and being hungry to want to not just do that job, but also want to do something after that job.
TV jobs are rare, especially in late night and especially jobs where you get to perform under your own name. You get the opportunity to create a character for yourself and develop your voice. It’s different from a sitcom where you’re playing someone else.
[On The Daily Show] you’re actually playing a version of yourself. Night after night, you get the opportunity to put that out there. If I play Joey on Friends and I told a joke that wasn’t funny, I could be like, “That wasn’t me. That was Joey.”
But if I tell a joke as me, Wyatt Cenac, and it’s not funny, that falls on me. Whether I wrote it or not, people are going to be like, “That joke you told wasn’t funny. That field piece you did was stupid.” So I think there’s a certain amount of investment – because your name is attached to it – that you want it to do well.
Do you have any interest in hosting your own late night show? You have a lot of experience with that.
It’s definitely something that’s crossed my mind, because I do enjoy the world of late night. As far as a place to do things on television, it’s one of the more freeing places because you don’t have the same oversight that you do as a drama or sitcom.
I’ve thought about it, but at the same time I feel like I don’t know what I would necessarily want to bring to it. I haven’t sat down and thought what that would be. We’re at a nice time right now where there are so many late night shows, but also if you’re going to enter that field you need to have something to say.
[ALSO READ: Kevin Hart Set To Launch ‘Laugh Out Loud’ Video-On-Demand Service & Mobile Adventure Game]
Night Train with Wyatt Cenac is available for streaming on Seeso.
Read part 1 of AllHipHop.com’s conversation with Wyatt Cenac here.
Watch episode 1 of Night Train with Wyatt Cenac below.