It has been a good year for Roy Wood Jr. In February, he released his first one-hour special, “Father Figure,” on Comedy Central. He’s also been tapped as the new host for the network’s storytelling show, “This Is Not Happening,” whose season premiere is set for early 2018. And he continued his most high-profile gig, as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” a job he says has been transformational.
Wood, who comes to Boston Friday to perform as part of the National Braille Press’s A Million Laughs for Literacy Gala, had decided several years ago to change up his act to address more socially and politically relevant topics. Getting “The Daily Show” gig in 2015 was exactly what he needed. “I didn’t tape my first one-hour special until I was on ‘The Daily Show,’ and it’s probably the best thing that could have happened to my comedy.”
His evolution is evident when you compare his 2010 appearances on “Last Comic Standing” to his performance on “Father Figure.” “I look back at those jokes and go, ‘Oh, that was a premise I disguised as a punchline. That wasn’t a joke yet.’
“It got a laugh and it was fine,” Wood says, but he could have gone deeper. “Something changed, stylistically, in me where I wanted to be more opinionated and talk a little more about some edgier stuff.”
The crowd is roaring when he takes the stage for “Father Figure,” but he waits for the last cheer to stop. He pauses, looks contemplative, and then delivers a haymaker. “But if we get rid of the Confederate flag . . .” He gives it another beat. “How am I going to know who the dangerous white people are?”
He opened his special with that joke, he says, to establish that “this is different than anything you’ve seen me do onstage.” Working with the Emmy-winning writers on “The Daily Show” has sharpened his technique and increased his willingness to explore bigger ideas. It “changed the way I thought about my own material,” he says.
Not that Wood has purged everyday topics like weight loss or marriage from his act. That kind of common-denominator material can help bring people together, too. And if other comics prefer silly or observational humor, fine by him. “I don’t think a comedian has to be socially relevant,” he says. “I think everybody has a right as an entertainer to do the type of comedy that they think they can do best. (Jimmy) Fallon could never be (Stephen) Colbert, and Colbert could never be Fallon. And that’s perfectly fine.”
In an increasingly divided political environment, Wood knows some might take issue with what he has to say, but it’s part of his job to say it anyway. “If comedians buckled under the influence of only saying what people want to hear,” he says, “then half these people that you love wouldn’t exist.”
Roy Wood Jr.: A Million Laughs for Literacy
At the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets: $200-$350, 617-266-6160,firstname.lastname@example.org.