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Wyatt Cenac Interview for Friends of Nature Festival

November 6, 2013

People sometimes ask why I keep at this crazy juggling act of running two completely unrelated companies, one distributing perfumes and one following the arts (especially when the latter one rewards me with little to no pay). The answer is simple: some things you can’t put a price tag on. The perfect example is how I recently got the opportunity to interview a comedian who’s work I truly admire, Wyatt Cenac, because of his upcoming appearance at the Friends of Nature Festival at The Historic Virginia Key Beach Park.

YO: As someone who’s been to South Florida before (but maybe not often enough to have had the chance to explore the city beyond the stereotypical glitz and glamour), are you going to try and get off the beaten path while you’re here? Or when you’re doing shows do you have to pretty much stick to whatever’s closest and most convenient?

WC: I’m assuming by glitz and glamour that you mean old folks homes?  More often than not when I’ve come to South Florida it’s been to for work which usually meant me talking with a lot of old people who’d never heard of The Daily Show.

YO: I know a few local comics here in Miami so am peripherally aware of what that lifestyle is like (doing lots of free open mics, struggling to establish comedy nights at venues). Even though you started out in standup, were you nervous making the jump back out of the steady gig world into the more tenuous one? Or do you think you’ve gotten to the point where you’re established enough that you at least have a somewhat constant stream of jobs coming your way?

WCIt’s always a risk to venture out and leave a steady gig, but on some level the decision to move to LA to pursue comedy was a risk and keeping at it as your bank account dwindles is a risk and sticking with it after you bomb your Montreal Comedy Festival audition is a risk and even getting a dream job and having to perform on television where the audience is larger and more critical is a risk.  It’s a career path filled with risks– not the degree of risks of what say a firefighter goes through– but the risks and uncertainty hopefully become more of an exciting challenge than a frustrating obstacle.

YO: Do you think the Daily Show could be considered the new SNL? (a show who’s writers are able to use it as a platform to jump to bigger projects) If so, is it a mixed bag? (great exposure, but can lead to typecasting)

WC: SNL is still SNL.  It still produces amazingly talented people.  The Daily Show, due to its success has just created another place for talented people to create and get exposure and hopefully move on to great things.

As far as typecasting, I don’t think the show has really done that as far as TV or movies.  The people that have left the show have gone onto a variety of different things.  If anything, from a stand up perspective, there may be some sense of that when people come to a stand up show and maybe have an expectation that my stand up would be “just like the show.”

YO: How did you like working on Medicine For Melancholy as compared with some of the other roles you’ve played? (being in a starring role, film vs. tv, serious subject matter)

WCIt was fun to make that film.  So much of that though was because of the director Barry Jenkins.  He really allowed me to have fun and was a great person to work with.  And I’m not just saying that because he’s from Miami, but if that helps me while I am here I will take it.

YO: Do you have any projects more in that vein in the works?

WCI just finished filming a movie that was written and directed by David Cross called HITS, which was a lot of fun.  It was really cool to work with David because he’s somebody that I have a lot of respect for.

YO: I know you’re a big fan of TV, and also from what I read, you got the Medicine For Melancholy role after the director saw you on Youtube. What do you think the future holds for both those mediums? Will they start to drift apart or become totally fused?

WCI honestly don’t know.  People enjoy speculating about that stuff but ultimately it’s a business.  At the end of the day, the future of how we make and view content will be determined by those business interests more than anything else.

YO: I feel like Miami is developing a lot of scenes at once (art, comedy, music, food, etc.), trying to play catch up to its older siblings (NY and LA). Do you think there’s hope for the comics still trying to make it big down here, or do you think they need to be in one of those two other cities to really have a shot at becoming a household name?

WCThere are a lot of cities that have great comedy scenes and thanks to things like Twitter, Vine and YouTube, it is easier for those cities, artists and comedians to get exposure.  On some level, though depending on what you want to do, you still may have to make a move to a place like Los Angeles.  As a stand up, you can definitely build your name up and tour while never setting foot in LA, but if your goal is to one day star in a sitcom or be in movies then you probably need to go to LA because that’s where most of that stuff gets made.

Check out Wyatt and a ton more talented comedians and musicians at Friends of Nature Festival this weekend (November 9-10) at Virginia Key Beach Park.

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