Matson on Music
Embattled comedian Katt Williams comes to Seattle UPDATED
During the recent campaign season, consider how often you heard about American grit. Some intangible quality that makes us harder workers. Bootstrappers. If you listen to politicians, we are amazing innovators, too. These are inborn qualities, we are led to believe, unique to Americans.
Skeptics may legitimately demur. But Katt Williams — aka the Snoop Dogg of comedy, after a famous "passing of the blunt" in one of Willliams' comedy specials — is the embodiment of grit. He is scheduled to perform stand-up Thursday and Friday at the Paramount Theatre, as part of a "GNC" tour, which stands for "Ghetto National Convention."
Williams' performances lately, especially in Denver and Oakland, have been meltdowns. He rambled and offered few punchlines. He showed up late. He verbally attacked hecklers. He was removed from the stage. He was (lovingly) parodied by comedian Jay Pharoahe on SNL, who intimated Williams was on drugs. One expects Seattle Theatre Group, the company behind the Paramount, just hopes he shows up.
Who knows what Seattle will see if he does? But one thing's for sure: it's already been a hell of a journey for Williams.
Rising through the low-/non-paying ranks of open mics and small gigs as a young comic in Oakland, Calif., Williams wore fancy clothes on stage but was homeless, and slept in his car. He was a workaholic, dedicated to his craft — having honed that ethic as a door-to-door salesman after he ran away from home in
Oklahoma Ohio*. (Writer Kelefa Senneh wrote about Williams' origins in "The Prickly Comedy of Katt Williams" in the New Yorker in 2009.)
Despite the tour title, Williams isn't political. He's a famous recreational marijuana enthusiast, but likely won't mention Washington's R-502 legalization in his act, if the show goes on. He doesn't do a lot of current-events jokes like Jon Stewart. And he doesn't do a lot of tough-talk moralizing like Chris Rock, either. He does jokes about hip-hop, does push-ups on stage for no reason, and acts outraged for the sake of outrageousness. More than most comedians, he's just funny.
Physically small but huge in presentation, Williams' look and sound are jokes themselves. A five-foot five dude in an oversized pimp suit delivering raging monologues about how he just can't take it anymore, whatever it is, is funny. And his nasal voice and prim diction wonderfully underline his crasser bits. He's a diva.
People of a certain age know Williams just because. He's part of Ice Cube's "Friday" movie franchise, and was on Nick Cannon's variety show "Wild 'n Out" on MTV. But he's here for a reason. He dragged himself into the spotlight. He didn't buy his way to fame, or have any special connections. He slowly got better at comedy, never lost sight of his goals, and eventually became his own archetype. And that, my friends — rare as it may be — is the American dream. Invent your job and become it.
Katt Williams performs at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 29 and 30, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $45-$55 (877-784-4849 or www.stgpresents.org).
*Updated for accuracy — error is mine