Hogwarts is pretentious. Besides the fact that the students all go around wearing robes as if they are guaranteed to graduate, they call their cafeteria “the Great Hall” and the school is literally a castle. Absolute notions.
The new VRV show Live at WZRD brings magic back down to earth at East Gatewood Wizarding Community College, a two-year accredited wizarding school in La Crescenta, Calif. Being a wizarding community college, there’s still plenty of fantastical happenings afoot (by far the best recurring bit is about the dean-turned-dog named Doug), but as seven-year-student Open Mike Eagle (played by the rapper of the same name) says, being a wizard “ain’t no hero shit.” His curmudgeonly host of Live at WZRD is contrasted against comedian Dani Fernandez’s bright-eyed first year student, who imagines that some great destiny awaits her now that she’s discovered her magical abilities. Together, they host the college’s local access program and, as it’s hinted in the pilot, get into some of that “hero shit” along the way.
The show feels a bit like if Community had half the budget and 100 percent more magic. And the low-budget feel is a good thing—the better to distance East Gatewood from those elitists at Hogwarts. So far, the show definitely shines in the creative integration of magic into everyday life and its silly asides, while the interviews and plot-driven aspects aren’t quite as enchanting. It’s early days, though, and the comedic chemistry between Eagle and Fernandez provides a solid core to Live at WZRD.
It’s been an exciting couple years for Eagle, who garnered critical acclaim for his 2017 record Brick Body Kids Still Daydream and has a forthcoming half-hour show The New Negroes with Baron Vaughn and Open Mike Eagle premiering on Comedy Central and BET on April 19. The series is being adapted from their live show, which has been featured at various comedy festivals over the past few years.
Eagle’s New Negroes co-host Vaughn (Grace and Frankie) makes an appearance as one of the special guests on Live at WZRD, along with mere mortals Rhea Butcher, Yedoye Travis, Mamrie Hart and others. I had the chance to chat with Open Mike Eagle over email about Live at WZRD, and further down you can check out his 2017 Daytrotter session.
Paste: How did Live at WZRD come together?
Open Mike Eagle: Somehow, the good people at the popular streaming platform, VRV, found out I was a wizard and they offered me a fair amount of money toward my student loans if I would agree to broadcast the public access show I host on campus and here we are.
Paste: What’s your favorite book and/or movie about wizards? Why?
Eagle: I like Mr. Wizard, the ‘90s kid’s science show. It’s not a book or a movie and technically it’s not about wizards, but its [sic] better than the stuff you’re thinking of.
Paste: Were you ever involved in student broadcasting/radio during your time at Southern Illinois University Carbondale?
Eagle: Yes, I ran a radio show for a year or two. It mostly involved me scanning my CD collection for songs I like that didn’t have curse words. Also, our campus radio station was broadcast through a television channel, so literally no one was listening.
Paste: Do you rap much on the show, besides the occasional spell?
Eagle: I rap the theme song, which is actually a spell. I’m not going to tell you what it does, but you’ll feel it. Boy, will you feel it.
Paste: How did you pick the guests on the show?
Eagle: Random summonings. I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t want to lie to you. A lie is the worst kind of spell.
Paste: What was the best part about filming Live at WZRD?
Eagle: There’s a thing called the cookie club on set, but it was exclusive and I’ve already said too much.
Paste: What magical subject would you excel in?
Paste: Do you have plans for a second season of the series, or is the narrative arc pretty much wrapped up by the end of the first season?
Eagle: Oh, I have all sorts of plans. I haven’t talked to anyone involved in the show about them at all though.
Paste: About The New Negroes—how will the television series differ from the live show?
Eagle: There’s less comics on the live show, because of it being a half-hour show. Also, the music in the show are music video collaborations rather than live performances.
Paste: Anything else you want to let Paste readers know about Live at WZRD or The New Negroes?
Eagle: Watch them both a lot, please. I’ve gotten a taste of corporate show business and I don’t want to go back.
Live at WZRD is available on VRV here
Clare Martin is an intern at Paste.