When comedian Roy Wood Jr. stepped on the Star Search stage, he shined brighter than the lights that lit it.
His smile, poise, enthusiasm and humor tickled the audience and the judges.
By the end of the show, Wood left the stage with 33 stars, advancing to the semifinals, which will air Friday on CBS.
Wood has come a long way since the start of his career, which got off to a very unusual start.
In the fall of his junior year, he received a call with life changing news.
“Being a fool, I got arrested trying to get cheap clothes,” said the 24-year-old Birmingham, Ala., native.
“I got charged with petite theft and credit card fraud … my lawyer was like you’re going to go to jail in June.”
Wood never made it to jail. After his run-in with the law, Wood realized the need to appreciate life and his dreams.
“That was a very humbling experience,” said Wood, who received his broadcast journalism degree from FAMU in 2001. “I wanted to do everything I wanted to do. I figured my life was over.”
“I went sky diving, bungee jumping , snorkeling and every vacation you can think of I did it.”
Wood broke into comedy with a performance at a comedy club in his hometown.
When the world of comedy beckoned him, he quickly answered. As the school year came to an end Wood was attracted to an opportunity to open for comedian Tommy Davidson in Charlotte, N.C.
Wood decided to take a chance and do what he loved. Although he had a successful night opening for Davidson he found that he would have to spend another year in school to redeem his educational sins.
While working hard to finish school and miracously avoiding jail time for his prior offenses, Wood worked to perfect his comedic talents. He often tried out jokes on customers while working at Golden Corral.
“I figured if the same joke was working for nine different people then it must be a good thing. That’s when I thought OK I’ll give it a shot,” he said.
Wood’s career as a comedian moved from performing jokes in front of hungry patrons to performing at venues such as The Comedy Zone and Star Dome in Birmingham, Ala.
With every appearance, Wood improved his act. He left the crowd with laughter and a lasting impression.
“When I first met him he was very classy, very professional in his approach,” said Bruce Aires, owner of Star Dome comedy club. “He was really serious about his comedy. I think he’s going to be very successful.”
Not only did Wood leave an impression in comedy, but as he completed school he impressed the professors as well.
“He had an awesome since of humor ,” said broadcast journalism professor Kenneth Jones. “What I admire about Roy is he always knew he wanted to pursue entertainment but he honed his journalism skills, he put just as much effort into that as he did in the comedy circuit
After graduation, Wood went on to perform on “Showtime at the Apollo” and on “Comedy Central’s Laugh Riots.”
Wood is currently awaiting another appearance on Star Search Friday. If he becomes a finalist he has the opportunity to win $100,000, a CBS development deal and a guest-starring role on a CBS show.
Reflecting on his career he remembers the struggles that he has overcome. For those who wonder what it’s like to travel down the road
of success, Wood offers a realistic point of view.
“Expect to be broke for a while, expect rejection, expect frustration,” he said. “But if you keep writing and get back on stage it will all come together.”
Kanya Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.