Wyatt Cenac: from UNC to a career in comedy

AN EDUCATION: "Stand-up is most impactful when experienced live," says UNC Chapel Hill alum Wyatt Cenac. He's fine with virtual comedy, too, having recently released the special, Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn. Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

“College forced me to be self-reliant,” Wyatt Cenac says of his days at UNC Chapel Hill. “I had to figure out how to pursue comedy and how to cook a chicken.” The performer, best-known as a correspondent and writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” unveils a brand-new stand-up act at The Millroom on Friday, Nov. 14.

Some of Cenac’s earliest comedy experiences were as an undergrad. “I did a few open mics at Charlie Goodnights in Raleigh,” he says. “It was exhilarating and terrifying.” He parlayed those first tenuous forays into a career that includes writing for “King of the Hill” and acting in films like Sleepwalk With Me and Medicine for Melancholy.

His latest comedy special, Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn, premiered last month on Netflix. With his insightful wit, the performer lambasts that borough’s specialty mayonnaise shops as “racist against white people” and recalls the awkward moment when he first realized his good friend was not a lesbian. But the real topper is the puppets. “Stand-up is most impactful when experienced live,” Cenac says. “I was looking for how to add another layer that was dynamic and forces the eyes to be engaged. I like puppets as a storytelling medium.”

Although he rarely makes it back to North Carolina, the state holds special memories: “I got roped into performing for The Golden Key Society,” Cenac says of the academic organization. “I was the only person not in the Golden Key Society, telling jokes to a bunch of students who just wanted to go and drink. It was a soul-crushing experience.”

That comedic flop aside, Cenac is looking forward to revisiting the state. “I miss all the greenery and walking around,” he says. “I miss having lived there.”

WHAT: Wyatt Cenac Comedy Show
WHERE: The Mill Room, ashevillemillroom.com
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m. $17.50 advance/$20 at the door

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About Toni Sherwood
Toni Sherwood is an award-winning filmmaker who enjoys writing articles, screenplays, and fiction. She appreciates the dog-friendly, artistic community of Asheville.

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