Tony Woods is a one-of-a-kind comedic legend who is always in control of his audience, recognised not only by fans but by his peers as one of the best and most engaging comedians in the business. Born in North Carolina and raised in the D.C. area, Woods’ career began as an original member of Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam on HBO and P. Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy. His playful and cool demeanour, combined with sharp and mischievous subject matter, create a show that is unmistakably entertaining at every level.
Woods has appeared on Last Comic Standing, Just for Laughs, NYPD Blue, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, HBO Comedy Spot and The Footy Show. His festival appearances include triumphs at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, the Melbourne Comedy Festival and more recently featuring at the Sydney Comedy Festival. This weekend we have the chance to catch him performing in Perth for one night only at the Sydney Comedy Festival Showcase Tour alongside a host of other draw-cards like Tommy Dean, John Cruckshank, Matt Storer and more. When BRAYDEN EDWARDS calls Tony Woods he is folding his clothes ready to pack his bags for the trip over to WA.
You’re heading all over the country for this tour. What’s been memorable about your travels so far?
All the shows have been great but my favourite so far has been at the Comedy Store in Sydney. But then heading up to Tweed Heads and Toowoomba was great as well.
The only strange thing was seeing these two guys from Atlanta and they treated me the same way that my son does. They looked up and they looked back down at their telephones as if I wasn’t there. I just thought “you little fuckers”. Just like my youngest son when I say “did you take the trash out? Did you do your homework? Is the house on fire?” What’s wrong with you? The youth of today I guess.
And then I went onto the elevator and there was that old guy with the cane you see in all the Outkast video clips, I forget his name but I asked him about the two guys and he was like “yeah, they’re over with Lil Yachty”. It wasn’t Lil Yachty just his hype men or whatever. I mean when you’re Frenchman and you’re out of France surely you say hello to other Frenchmen. The same should apply to someone from the US as well.
You’ve been over to WA before but it was a while ago now. What was your impression of coming over here or just travelling across Australia in general?
My first time I did the Melbourne Roadshow we did a six week tour. Me and Mickey D and Tom Gleeson and Lawrence Mooney and Tripod. We went everywhere. Kalgoorlie, Perth, Broome, that place where the man from Snowy River was from…all over the place.
I went everywhere in Australia that I’d heard about except Alice Springs. When you watch film and television and they talk about Australia they’ll talk about Broome, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide but they always mention Alice Springs so it’s a shame I’ve never been there.
As a comedian that likes to play things off the cuff as it were, what issues or ideas are playing in your head at the moment that are likely to become the focus in your upcoming shows?
That’s the thing about my shows. I don’t report on anything. My thing is me walking through life and commenting on things that affect me. I don’t go out and search for things to talk about like the political climate or global warming, it’s not what I’m about. If I happen to be in a place like Bangladesh, where global warming is going to affect them I’m sure I’ll have tons of material about that.
The closest thing I would have about those kinds of issues was this time I did a show in Canada. Way, way, way up top. And the polar bears were more aggressive, like where they used to stay 20 miles away but in this place they were coming in because of the change in their environment. And so far from the equator the air is really thin and it affects the way you think. Like you see someone a little while away with a fur coat on and think “oh shit, that’s a polar bear”.
I’m not going out there doing Trump jokes for example. It’s not fun for me because he reminds me of my ex-wife. He says the most ridiculous shit but with confidence. Like when she walked out she said “you’re going to be nothing without me”. So I don’t make jokes like that it’s just about me, walking through life. Is that selfish?
Maybe, but if it’s your style then just go with it surely. You talked about how you might approach an audience differently if they were from Bangladesh or arctic Canada, but what particularly do you have in store for the audiences here in WA?
I guess when I come down here I’m like a white buffalo. For most Australians the only time they have exposure to someone like me is in the movies, or international sports, or on films with Denzel Washington or Eddie Murphy or something like that. So folks in Australia see me and they’re like “whoa, this guy’s different, he’s a special treat.”
Maybe that’s why they like me but I don’t know.
It’s a good thing man. I’m like Rudolph, you know? At first you’re like “what’s that?” But then you’re like “wow, look at what this guy can do”.
How do you hope people will feel after seeing your set? Is part of your performance just making your problems everyone’s problems?
I want to make people feel good. I want to make people laugh. I’m not coming here with any social message or anything. You’re not going to walk out with some kind of relationship advice with which you could fix your marriage. But you are going to be able to laugh about the fucked up parts about life. I make people laugh at the stuff they’re not supposed to laugh about.
You’ve featured as an actor in a number of films and TV shows such a NYPD Blue. What’s the strangest role you’ve ever been cast in?
I’ve done a little bit of acting here and there. Some independent films. There was this one a while ago they put all grey stuff on me and I was supposed to be the funny older uncle. They wouldn’t have to put grey on me now. There was another time I was cast as someone’s dad. My oldest son is 31, then one is 28 and 17. And those little rapper guys reminded me of the 17-year-old. These guys completely loaded their van and never looked up once. All the while just texting and Snapchatting and shit. And I’m like “dude you’re in another foreign country. Look around from time to time”.
I went to Disneyland last summer and all of the kids between 12 and 17, were just on their phones. I’m like “you are in Disneyland! What’s wrong with you?”
When I was younger, like the age my sons are now I thought 55 was old. I remember when someone died and they were in their fifties people would go “oh no, he was only 55 years old, it’s so young” and didn’t think it was young at all. But when I hear that kind of thing now I’m like “Oh shit! 55?”
But then if you were to watch my humour, when I was in my twenties it was twenty-year-old humour. When I was in my forties it was forty-year-old humour. Back in the day it was about dick jokes and fart jokes. These days it’s the same thing really but a little different. Now it’s about what your dick doesn’t do. It’s the same shit but just changed over to a new stage in life.