What’s So Special About Wyatt Cenac’s Night Train?


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Night Train, hosted by (of former Daily Show Correspondent fame), has occupied the Monday night slot at Littlefield in Brooklyn for about four years now, but manages to feel like it’s just always been there. I hesitate to use the word “institution” as there’s nothing stodgy or routine about the weekly show, that regularly includes stand-up, conversations, musical performances, and the best of a wide range of comedic performances that go well beyond the standard setup & punchline. Beginning June 30, Wyatt + company capture the experience for Seeso, so everyone can get a peek at the magic they’re making on DeGraw Street. We spoke with Wyatt about the history of the show and what it means to get to share it with America.

The Interrobang: Night Train has been one of the coolest shows in New York City for years. Did you ever have that time when the show was struggling and you were wondering if anybody was going to show up or if it was just going to be terrible?

Wyatt Cenac: It definitely had its peaks and valleys. That venue is such a large venue that if you don’t fill it up it can feel like an airplane hangar. But at some point – I don’t even remember when – you wound up doing a thing long enough and you start to realize “Oh wait a minute, we have a full house again!” And at this point it has created enough momentum for itself that it seems to draw most weeks.

Going into it, since we were taking over the time slot from Hot Tub [ & ’s long running show, which moved west with its hosts and now has a weekly home at The Virgil in Los Angeles], we thought we would just keep all those people and that wasn’t the case. There were definitely people who were loyal to Hot Tub and the venue that came along with us, but there’s new audiences that are really loyal to us. And a lot of that credit goes to [Producer] and the work she’s done for both Hot Tub and Night Train. It’s always surprising interacting with someone after the show who says, “It was my first time, but I’m definitely coming back!” that’s always a nice thing to hear. The fact that it still happens after almost four years is a good sign.

The Interrobang: Do you have any magic moments from the last four years that warm your heart on a cold day?

…and Chris came back and said that his car was stuck in the snow and he asked if somebody could help him push the car and so what we did was took the whole audience,

Wyatt Cenac: The first thing that comes to mind is we did this show in the dead of winter and it was snowing. was on the show, and it’s always fun when Chris is on the show because he’ll do his set, but he’s one of the people I’ll usually wind up goofing off with onstage for a while too. So he does the show, we goof off and wound up having fun and being silly and then he has to leave. But he came back and I think I was onstage with , who is another one I like having because we just end up having a weird conversation like a podcast that’s not really a podcast where we just talk about things for 30 minutes and Marianne is waving a light at us to wrap it up. So Michael and I are onstage and Chris came back and said that his car was stuck in the snow and he asked if somebody could help him push the car and so what we did was took the whole audience, as many as were willing to go, which wound up being about 50 people. And it felt like a very Chris style thing that what we really just needed two people to do turned into this weird little thing.

Another time was when was at the show and had come onstage with me and we were talking about songs, so she was going to sing a song, but didn’t have the music with her, so we just had the audience make the music for her. It was really cool, she sang a jazz standard that enough people know, so we got most of the audience to hum the tune.

Those to me are the fun moments, where we do stuff that gets the audience involved.

The Interrobang: Who are some of the people you’re excited to be able to present in this series, whether it’s someone America already knows or someone who this is their first credit?

Wyatt Cenac: I don’t wanna be like “Oh, I’M the one that’s doing this for you” but there are a lot of people I was very happy got to do the show and I hope they had fun. The episode that Sasheer [Zamata] was on was a lot of fun, the lineup had a lot of people like and and just a lot of really fun people, plus Sasheer co-hosted so it was fun to goof around with her. It’s always fun getting to do that sort of two person, improvised set where we’re trying to do our best in our own way.

and are both on a show together that also has and , and I think for Clark and Natasha it’s their first sets on TV and I think they’re great, they’re two people I’m excited for other people to see. And Seaton [Smith] is great… from top to bottom, what’s fun for me is to get to interact with all the comedians.

The final episode has Kurt Braunohler in it, which was important to me since Night Train used to be Hot Tub. Like if we were trying to capture a moment in time with this, then that was a little bit of a history lesson and a way to let people into what this space is and what’s going on in comedy in this little section of Brooklyn. In the same way, having Eugene Mirman on, he was one of those first people I associated with comedy in this neighborhood when I moved here. He is somebody that, if you’re talking about the comedy scene that has grown in Brooklyn, he’s a big reason why it exists.

 

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