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Theater & art

‘Daily Show’ correspondent is grounded in stand-up

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Wyatt Cenac plays an aloof Senior Black Correspondent named Wyatt Cenac. The real Cenac, 36, comments on the world around him not through TV journalism but through comedy, including stand-up — an act he brings to Johnny D’s in Somerville on
Friday.

Q. It seems you have your choice of where you can play these days.

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A. I think you always have the choice. I think anyone could probably get Madison Square Garden. The big question is, could you fill Madison Square Garden? If not, you might be on the hook for some tickets.

WYATT CENAC

Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant & Music Club, Somerville 617-776-2004. http://www.johnnyds.com

Date of concert:
Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Ticket price:
$25

Q. I was going to ask if you care to soften your stance about hating the Red Sox before you come to Boston, but considering how the season went this year . . .

A. Probably Boston hates the Boston Red Sox right now. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest baseball fan. My grandmother was actually the big baseball fan in the family. She was a fan of both the Mets and the Yankees, so I grew up with that, which I think kind of gave me two avenues to dislike the Red Sox.

Q. You were born in New York City and then moved to Dallas and then North Carolina. Do you think that traveling affected your comic sensibility?

A. Maybe in some ways, because I spent a fair amount of time in a lot of different places. You spend enough time in a place and you start to see the world through the eyes of the people who grew up there and who spend most [of] their time there. It probably was good, probably just good for me in general to realize there’s more to the world than just my block of it.

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Q. Where did you first start to latch on to comedy?

A. When I was a kid. A lot of things go back to my grandmother. She really loved Bill Cosby and Lucille Ball. She gave me a Bill Cosby book to read when I was 12. Or we’d watch “The Cosby Show,” or we’d watch “Barney Miller,” or “I Love Lucy.”

Q. Cosby comes out every so often in your cadence, when you go from your normal voice to an exaggerated voice.

A. Probably. There are a lot of comedians I look at as influences, and he definitely was a big one for me. And I cannot do impressions to save my life. The only impression I can do is a bad Bill Cosby impression. That kind of becomes my impression for anything.

Q. Who else did you admire as a stand-up?

A. As a kid, it was Cosby, it was Richard Pryor. Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres were people I watched a lot of before I started really doing things. And then once I started, when I was in California, there were tons of people that I would get to see on a regular basis. I would hang out at the Improv, and I would always see Sarah Silverman. I learned a ton watching her. Colin Quinn is somebody that I think is probably a much bigger influence [on] me. As a joke writer, there were a lot of things when I was first writing, I was thinking about, how would Colin say it? And then eventually it became, how would I say it?

Q. There’s a certain calmness in your delivery, and all the animation is in the idea. Is there someplace specific where that comes from?

A. I don’t know. My father is West Indian, and so I think perhaps that just might be some of the sort of West Indian demeanor, a lineage that probably has a lot of pot resin in its blood. That’s my guess. But yeah, every now and again I’ll get excited. But I’ve always been sort of [he pauses] this, I think. I have moments of excitement, but it generally sort of gets back to this place. The weird thing is, as a kid, I was hyper. I think I’m still a hyper adult. I think it’s all just on the inside.

Q. You had John Hodgman open your Comedy Central special. Is that crew at “The Daily Show” pretty close?

A. Yeah. I think it’s not a job where there’s any sort of contentious stuff that goes on between folks. There’s a lot of love between everybody here. And that, to me, that’s the lasting thing for me about the show that I’ll always love and appreciate. Just that sense that everybody here, among the correspondents and contributors, there’s just a great deal of love and appreciation and support for each other. We hang out and spend free time together. It’s fun. It’s a fun place.

Q. How do you balance the silly and the satirical at “The Daily Show” and in your stand-up?

A. I don’t know. I think for me, my brain is always looking for a way to understand it. And I think it’s probably tried to do that through humor more often than not. I’m putting it through that filter, for better or worse.

Interview has been condensed and edited. Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at nick@nickzaino.com.

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