Wyatt Cenac: From “Brooklyn” To Houston
Photo: Eric Michael Pearson
When most people hear the name Wyatt Cenac, they usually think about The Daily Show. The comic, writer, and actor is one of those people who seems to shine no matter where he’s at. He has a great role in David Cross’ new film, “Hits” that covers the instant celebrity that the internet can give to anyone. It’s not only the directorial debut from Cross, but it’s also the first feature film to be released via BitTorrent. Last year, his second comedy special, “Brooklyn” was released on Netflix, where he tackles everything from gentrification and the death of his father with impeccable comedic timing and grace. Somewhere between touring, working, and film promotions; Cenac found a moment to talk to FPH, prior to his March 7th appearance here in Houston.
FPH: You were born in NYC, but you went to school in Dallas. Are people shocked to find out that you went to a Jesuit High School, or do they just attribute it to something that happens in the South?
WC: I think people are more shocked that the Catholic school was also an art museum.
FPH: I love the fact that you were in the second to last episode of the Channel 101 classic web series, “Yacht Rock,” where you played James Ingram. Does it shock you that both yourself and Jason Lee, who appeared in that episode as Kevin Bacon, both have the credit listed in your bios?
WC: Yacht Rock has a following. When I moved back to New York, JD Ryznar (one of the creators) invited me to a screening they were doing and the place was packed. It was impressive as it was probably the first thing that I was involved with that had such a big and loyal online following.
FPH: I know you spent some time as a writer for “King of The Hill,” and I was curious if it was true that the writers would take field trips here to come up with storylines?
WC: There would be writers’ retreats to Austin. The idea was to show the writers some of the world that influenced Mike Judge to create the show.
FPH: You’re touring in support of your second comedy special, “Brooklyn” that’s streaming on Netflix, where you cover some serious topics like gentrification through the use of a mayonnaise only shop in Brooklyn, as well as the death of your father who was murdered when you were young. Is comedy your best avenue to cover serious topics and does the shop just carry mayonnaise, or is it a myriad of mayo based products like mayonaisa and Miracle Whip?
WC: When done properly, comedy can definitely be a good way to explore tough subjects. There is a long history of comedy being used to tackle difficult issues from African trickster stories like Anansi the Spider and Br’er Rabbit to comedians like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Moms Mabley all the way to shows like The Daily Show. My hope is that I was able to accomplish that feat to some degree when talking about my father and also about mayonnaise… the most divisive of all the condiments.
FPH: You shot the special at Union Hall, which is a pretty intimate venue; is that more the size space you prefer to perform in?
WC: To me, comedy has always been an intimate experience. Television specials are great but they’re rare occurrences often shot in large theaters in front of thousands of people, many of whom are people who got free tickets to see a TV taping. It’s stand up made for television but it’s not the day to day experience of doing stand up which is often in smaller rooms like comedy clubs and music venues like Union Hall. For me, it was important to capture the feeling of being at a comedy show.
FPH: You’re in David Cross’ new film, “Hits,” a satire about viral videos. Do you think that the film, in a good way; imitates life because it was released via bittorrent?
WC: The movie’s online presence sort of speaks to the power of the Internet in society today. Things get uploaded to the Internet sometimes without people’s consent. Studios and record labels have worked very hard to make sure people consume things in the traditional ways. David seems to be trying to engage the Internet commercially where some others have not.
FPH: What do you have planned for Houston? Will we see a good amount of new material or will it be a mix of older stuff mixed with newer things?
WC: It’s all new stuff. That’s the problem when you put out a stand up special: people expect new shit.
You can catch Cenac when he performs some of his “new stuff,” over in the ballroom at Warehouse Live on Saturday March 7th. Alongside Cenac, will be two of Houston’s better comics going, the hilarious antics of Dale Cheesman as well as the award winning humor of Ashton Womack. The doors are at 9:30, and the all ages show has tickets between $20.00 & $25.00.