Photo-Illustration: Selman Hoşgör; Photo Courtesy of Subject
This week, we’re highlighting 22 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, comedy during the pandemic, and more. Last but definitely not least is Jeff Wright.
When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
I felt like I was funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy in high school when I could make grown people laugh. For me, making my peers laugh was cool, but when I could make adults laugh too while being a kid myself, I knew I could communicate funny to anyone and that was it. Plus grown people had the money anyways.
Describe your comedy in five words.
Bright, charming, truthful, charismatic, wamboo.
What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I don’t have a favorite, I’m proud of all of it.
If I had to pick what of my work I’m most proud of, I would say all simply because I did it. I feel like putting art out to be consumed and judged separates it. So having a vision in my head, making it, then putting it out into the world makes me proud.
If there were a ’90s-style sitcom built around you and your material, in which you had to have a different job than comedian, what would be the title and logline?
It would be called Is This Thing On? and it would be “Jeff Wright checks if this thing is on while he unknowingly speaks to the masses,” and I would be MC or radio host by accident because I worked at a recording studio.
What have you done for comedy during COVID that you thought you would never do?
I haven’t really done any comedy different from how I always have been doing it. Because I’d play most of the characters in my videos, I didn’t have to adjust. And stand-up-wise, I just wrote and waited.
Who are some of your favorite comedians right now? Who is putting out work that excites and inspires you?
Seth Meyers, Amber Ruffin, Kevin Hart, myself, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan. Issa Rae, Ryan Reynolds. These are all comics or creatives who inspire me.
What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The best advice I’ve gotten is “Keep doing you,” and the worst advice I’ve gotten is “Keep doing you.” It’s the best because the truth is no one knows the answers; all you can do is be yourself and shoot your shot when it presents itself. But it’s the worst because it doesn’t really give you an answer.
Tell us one story from your childhood that is a good representation of your life.
My second stand-up gig. My mentor at the time gets me a spot, tells me nothing but “I got you a spot. Here’s the address. Don’t be late.” I show up and all I see is juvie kids with ankle monitors, probation officers, and sheriff officers. It was at that moment I knew I f’d up. I didn’t get booed, but I didn’t not get booed. The host of the show was wearing a clown wig, went up after me, and said, “Comedy is hard.” The lesson from that story that I took and represents my life now is to ask questions, and most importantly even if I’m overwhelmed I’m still going to shoot my shot.
What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
To be what Ryan Reynolds and Eddie Murphy was to me to other kids out there. I want people growing up to want to be great versions of themselves.
If you had the power to remove anything from the comedy world right now, from trends with material to how the industry operates, what would it be?
IDK, I hope IDK is an okay answer because IDK. The industry is what it is.