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Interview: Wyatt Cenac

The comic and Daily Show correspondent plays Publiq House Aug. 20



Wyatt Cenac wants to blow up the world. In a hypothetical situation in which he is president of DC or Marvel comics, he would blow up the whole thing every 10 years and start over — and solve the nerd-world infighting and byzantine storylines in film and print. "Superman dies saving the world, the world is over, then you just restart it," he says.

  Cenac, a stand-up comic and actor who served as a correspondent and writer on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart from 2008 to 2012, jokes on one comedy special that his Spider-Man is about a spider bitten by a radioactive man and whose powers include playing Xbox, complaining that he's overqualified for his job and staying a step ahead of Black Spider-Man, "who's just an exterminator named Tyrone." Cenac performs at Freret Street Publiq House Aug. 20.

  "If someone does Shakespeare in the park and they're going to do King Lear and they go with an Asian-American actor to play the lead role, people don't lose their minds in the way they lose their minds about Spider-Man being black," Cenac says. "Then they're totally fine with a Christopher Nolan Batman movie where Batman is no longer a guy who moves in the shadows but a guy who appears to wear football pads and drive around in a giant tank that anyone would see coming. It's strange what liberties we're willing to see taken with comic book characters, whereas you can do an adaptation of Shakespeare and it can all be done in the present day and people can be like, 'That was an interesting take. Good for you!'"

  Cenac recently revealed on the popular podcast WTF with Marc Maron that his parting from The Daily Show stemmed from an argument with Stewart in which the host blew up. Cenac appeared on that show's finale on Aug. 6 and, as a nod to Maron often asking whether he's "good" with his guests after a falling out, Stewart asked, "You good?" (Cenac said yes, and his detached Daily Show persona went back to looking at his phone: "My social media's blowing up.")

  Cenac says the strength of The Daily Show's biting political humor was in keeping its eye on the target for the long run.

  "It was always about the content more than the character, in that there are a lot of weird and strange people in politics and the news media, but you have to wait for them to say or do something that evoked a response," Cenac says. "With a guy like Bobby Jindal, he didn't really take the stage as far as public awareness until he gave the State of the Union response some years back, that awkward speech and the walk out and everything about it. ... As much as it was about him, this was the guy that the Republican party was trotting out as the answer to Barack Obama. ... You continue to look at him over time, the body of evidence he has created for himself — and let's not forget This was the guy."

  Cenac's latest stand-up special is 2014's New York-centric Brooklyn, and he's currently working on TBS comedy pilot The Group. Then he might hit the campaign trail for comic book president. "Let's see you say that when I decide to make Plastic Man the face of the brand."

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