As a student at Florida A&M University, Roy Wood Jr. worked as a server at Golden Corral.
He quickly learned the importance of engaging with customers — and making them laugh.
He learned something else: “No matter who you are — a 14-year-old Mexican, an old pastor, a family with White Power tattoos on their knuckles (true story) — there are 4 things everyone can talk about: food, entertainment, relationships and work.”
Wood came up with patter for all four. People — even the White Power folks — laughed along with the young Black server.
More than 20 years later, Wood still makes people laugh.
He did it as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah. Last spring he did it at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
On October 14 he’ll do it at Fairfield University’s Quick Center.
The event — “Stand Up For Homes with Hope” — is an annual benefit for Westport’s supportive housing and food pantry. Wood is the latest in a 15-year line of great comedians (think Paula Poundstone) to entertain audiences with timely, topical humor.
And to raise much needed funds, for a very important cause.
This is Wood’s second appearance here. His first was during the pandemic, when the show was virtual.
Then as now, he was honored to crack jokes so that people could crack open their wallets.
“There are problems like homelessness everywhere,” Wood says. “When you talk about charity and need, that’s an American issue. It may even be easier to do a show like this, because everyone there is united. Everyone there has a heart. Those shows are very energetic.”
His perceptive observations of America are in his genes: His father, Roy Wood Sr., was a radio broadcaster and journalist who covered the civil rights movement, racism encountered by Black soldiers in the Vietnam, and the Soweto uprising. His mother, Joyce Dugan Wood, is a college administrator.
As a youngster, Wood wanted to be like Stuart Scott: a sportscaster with humor. When he got older, he tackled a broader range of topics.
Stand-up comedy, he found, is “a rush. At the end of the day, it’s about connecting with strangers, over the things we have in common.”
Wood looks forward to visiting Homes with Hope’s Gillespie Center, before his show that night. He has not been here before (though he visited Norwalk, for his son’s robot fighting league competitions).
“I’ve learned about Connecticut: It’s extremely diverse,” Wood says.
“The perception is that it’s only white and rich. Nothing can be further from the truth. You can’t just assume something about a state.”
The comedian pauses. “I’m from Alabama. Trust me. I know.”