Three weeks ago, Wyatt Cenac debuted as the newest regular correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And, turns out, the hilarious 32-year-old New Yorker grew up in Dallas and went to high school at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
Cenac joins the, ahem, news team just in time for Indecision 2008, the cable network’s extensive coverage of this year's presidential election. He’s already appeared sitting across the desk from Stewart in a few segments, but his first “field piece” as a full-fledged member of "The Best F*ing News Team Ever!" airs tonight. After the jump, video highlights (also, plenty here) -- and Cenac grants his first interview. Ever.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been interviewed, unless someone asked me a question when I was, like, 6," he tells Unfair Park. "I don’t think ... well, maybe my college paper asked me a question. Congratulations, you are the first.”
“I grew up in Dallas and went to Jesuit,” he says. “But once I graduated high school, I left Dallas and moved to North Carolina for college. Right after college, I moved to Los Angeles, and I’d been in Los Angeles up until I got this job.”
Before getting the correspondent position, Cenac worked for three years as a writer and story editor on King of the Hill (growing up in Dallas didn't hurt there), and, since 2005, he’d been performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles.
Cenac said the stand-up circuit never brought him through Dallas; the closest he came was during an appearance at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival. He was there for the premiere of a dramatic film in which he appeared, Medicine for Melancholy, but he also did some stand-up routines.
He first auditioned for the Stewart's show in Los Angeles. During the audition, Cenac had to write a desk piece he could perform with the host. He was then flown to New York for a call back.
“So, in one week," he says, "I had the audition, got the job and then had a weekend to pack up all my stuff and move from L.A. to New York.”
He is, understandably, excited about the job -- and the timing, as Cenac will garner considerable face time in the months leading up to the election.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” he says. “Because there is so much not just to poke fun at and to skewer, but also just to have access to these things. The other day, I got to interview the state senator of Florida. I don’t know if I ever would have had the opportunity to talk to a politician face-to-face, even though I am asking nitwit questions.
“At the end of the summer; we’ll head off to the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. And it’ll be really amazing to be there and see that end of the political process. Again, it’ll be weird there, because we’re there as kind of the class clown. It’s exciting to be able to see it and experience it. So, as far as a perfect time to have joined the show, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. To see all of that -- and to get to be the asshole that gets to ruin the conventions.”
It's perfect, though: Cenac won't enter hallowed hallways as a familiar face -- unless you count his Barack Obama impersonation. Cenac was featured on CNN about Saturday Night Live’s search for an impersonator who could play Obama -- but, of course, he and everyone else who auditioned was passed over in honor of cast member Fred Armisen.
Which means he's still an unknown, familiar only to the Stewart faithful who've seen him a handful of times while wondering, "Who's the new guy?"
Barack Obama: Campaign Posters
“Yeah, I try to stay out of the press," Cenac says . I very rarely make it into news reports. My picture’s been in the paper. And there was an article, I think last year, on what they call the alternative comedy scene in Los Angeles, and my picture was the front page picture for the story, but they didn’t actually interview me. So there was a giant picture of me, but at no point in the article am I mentioned. So, congratulations, this is my first interview.”
Won't be the last. --Daniel Rodrigue
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.