“People either want to laugh to escape, or they want to laugh to not feel alone in feeling the way they feel,” Roy Wood Jr. told Yale students and professors on Wednesday.

The comedian, best known as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show — a late-night comedy talk show — was invited to campus as part of the Democracy in America initiative. Democracy in America is a two-year programming series funded by the 320 York St. Humanities Grant aimed at “conven[ing] the community for important intellectual and civic exchanges.”

The conversation with Wood, the third event of the series, was poorly attended. Less than 30 students came to Sudler Hall, where the event was held. The hall’s capacity is 200 people. Minutes before Wood entered, African-American studies professor Daphne Brooks urged the audience members to advertise the event on social media and invite their friends to come.

Wood began the event by delivering a 20-minute stand-up set. He opened with a story about getting 7 percent of answers correct on an exam in a class called Black Psychology. But Wood quickly transitioned to the style of comedy for which he is known — political commentary. When talking about the #MeToo movement, Wood said sarcastically, “the only one who escaped ‘Me Too’ was Hugh Hefner. And he died.”

He then moved on to the subject of police reform, commenting seriously, “I feel like we should pay cops more.” Wood spoke about the dangers associated with being black in America, especially given police bias and brutality. He said that he is particularly nervous about these issues, since he has a two-year-old son. As usual, however, Wood was able to make a serious issue funny.

“I’m just gonna start wearing a graduation robe everywhere I go,” he said.

Wood’s set was very topical, even referencing yesterday’s student rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90. He took humorous issue, however, with the word “rally.”

“The Klan’s got that one,” he said, laughing.

Wood then sat down with Matthew Jacobson, chair of the American Studies department, for a discussion about Wood’s career. The audience learned that his parents were both active participants in the civil rights movement. His father was a broadcast journalist for the movement, and his mother was a member of the first class of African American students at Delta State University in Mississippi.

Wood himself started doing stand-up comedy at 19. He was at first uncomfortable speaking about himself to audiences of all ages, interests and backgrounds, so he focused his routines on politics to find common ground with all of those groups.

Jacobson clearly revered Wood and his work as a comedian.

“Comedians have been doing God’s work for the last few years,” Jacobson said.

Wood was quick to disagree, claiming that the role of comedians has not changed significantly under the Trump administration. He added, however, that his comedy is meant to make a point. He said that during his writing process, he often first thinks about the message, and only then moves on to making it humorous.

Yale students laughed and cheered during his stand-up set. Many were there as part of their Race and Comedy class.

Amanda Thomas ’21 said that she watched Wood’s work in class and that his work was “really interesting” because of how he intertwined serious news with comedy.

Wood has worked at The Daily Show since 2015.

Lindsay Daughtery | .