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May 11, 2017 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Theatre: Interview with Tony Woods

I caught up with American comedian Tony Woods on the phone for around ten minutes between his connecting flight from Auckland to Wellington. Naturally, for a comedian with followings across the globe who fly out regularly, he sounded as exhausted as I was nervous. He’s had an insane career taking him from Def Comedy Jam to Comedy Central to new audiences in Sydney. He’s performing in the NZ International Comedy festival at the Wellington Rowers Club from the May 9-13.


I was looking at your bio: you’ve been in Montreal, across the US, and travel seems to come up as a theme in your comedy. Do you have a favourite audience to perform for?

I guess it’s funny performing for different audiences all the time; I like the ones that laugh and get all that I’m saying.


Do you have places you still have to go that you haven’t been yet?

Well I haven’t been to Africa yet. I hope to go, I’ve only been to like the islands around it, I haven’t been to the continent yet.


It’s evident that you’re a veteran, starting out with Def Comedy Jam and sharing bills with Kevin Hart, to now becoming such a globetrotter. Has your approach to comedy changed, or have you kept with the same formula?

Well my theme is still the same: I get myself into misadventures and I’m the last to know, you know? So like when you watch a TV show and you know what the guy’s about to get into and you’re like don’t do that but he does it anyway.


In terms of new routines, do you add that stuff straightaway or—

I add it straightaway. Straightaway.


Watching how each bit develops, is it helpful to work it through onstage?

Well sometimes I forget and sometimes I remember, it keeps it fresh, you know I could be scripted, but it’s hard to train yourself to say the same things.


So do you have to adapt your content for different audiences? Like have you seen audience reception in different countries change over time?

Of course yeah, you have to do that. I’ll still be the same ballplayer but, you know, in a different gym. Not only does it change from country to country but city to city, venue to venue… Just cause you’re in New York don’t think you’re gonna get the same audience in Manhattan that you’re gonna have over in Brooklyn or in the Bronx or in Queens or in Jersey. Same when you go to London — I’ve been all over London and you know the audience you get in Bow definitely differs from the one you get in Camden Yards.


Do you still get nervous?

Yeah I get nervous man, you gotta stay nervous. Cause you know nervous is productive. Just ‘cause you’re nervous that don’t mean you’re scared. When you see guys go up — they’re nervous but they’re not scared, they’re not afraid. They know what they gonna do.


You just gotta keep going.

You gotta keep going son. Imagine if I was a high-diver. I’m nervous about it but I can’t be afraid. When you go up you’ve already jumped off, you’re like “I better go through with it.”


But you’ve had rough audiences right?

You mean people trying to kill you and stuff?


I guess so!

Yeah well usually if something happens, you don’t let them see you sweat. But you know, somebody shot at me in the parking lot after a show. One time there was a melee in the audience, that was in Canada! They tore up the whole place because I said something to somebody. But he started it. He didn’t finish it.


What sort of things do people have the biggest reaction to?

It depends. Nobody really ever gets upset. Well I shouldn’t say that, I’m sure people have been upset with me about something at some point or another [laughs]… Yeah. I’m on my way to the plane now.


Oh jeez. Well it’s crazy people got so riled up in Canada, I assumed they were polite…

Well I was doing a show for Jamaican people. It was a dancehall, they were doing comedy in it. They caused a little bit of ruckus, but we made it through.


How do you relax after that, and on the road?

I take a nap! It’s easy to obsess… oh we’re walking down the jetway. I’m about to get on a plane man… wait is this being recorded?


Yeah man it’s all good.

Oh! You shoulda told me man I would’ve been bouncing around, y’know “hahaha,” “hohoho,” I would have been cracking jokes and all! Oh man, I woulda been saying “Wellington, be there or be square!” [laughs]


I’m sure I can add that in, I’ve just been recording on the phone.

Oh man, you caught me half-asleep…


It’s fine dude, you’ve been travelling—

It was all a dream… I used to read word up magazine…

[At this point we briefly sing The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 smash hit “Juicy” together. It’s no biggie].


Good luck with the show man, you’ve had a good time in New Zealand?

As a matter of fact, every show has been excellent. We hit Christchurch, we hit Auckland, but we can’t wait to get back to Wellington. You can’t control me, I’m busting at the seams. [laughing)] I just wet myself I’m so excited.


Maybe I’ll leave that out—

No no don’t leave that out, that’s what I’m saying.


So I left it in. You can grab tickets for Tony’s Wellington shows at and follow him at


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