GIGGLE CITY: Harland Williams comes from a happy place
He does it to pay the bills, to maintain the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, but that’s not all. “I love it,” he says. “I still consider it an art form. It’s what I would be doing anyway even if I was living in a one bedroom apartment.”
Williams does not live in a one bedroom apartment. He was in Edmonton recently to perform at the Comic Strip.
Q: Who is your greatest comic influence?
A: That would have to be Phyllis Diller. She wears her dress upside down and that’s the way you gotta roll.
Q: What’s your best heckler story?
A: It was unreal. This beautiful girl, this model, was heckling me in South Carolina about two months ago. She was gorgeous, unbelievably stunning. It was one of these random, out of nowhere heckles: “Hey! Big Ears!” Before I could even answer, she started making fun of the fact that I have no chin. “You have a lanky posture! Why don’t you straighten your spine?!” Well, you know me, I wasn’t going to put up with it. And so I said back to her, “Those are some pretty mean words. How would you like to go to a Fijian resort and sit in the sunset naked on the beach with me and make love for two weeks?” And she said yeah – so after the show we went and did it! It was a resort, all you can eat crab claws.
A: I was eating scallops off her abdomen. It was unbelievable.
Q: So it was it your wife, right?
A: No, it was a heckler! You wanted a heckler story. I don’t think they get any better than this.
Q: Do you have a favourite bit you don’t do anymore?
A: I’ve got material that destroys that I don’t do anymore. It kind of feels good to let them go. It’s like raising some good children and it’s time to leave the nest and you wave goodbye to them and you know they’re going to be OK.
Q: What’s a new joke that’s going over well these days?
A: I have a new bit about first dates, how awkward it is and how hard it is to get the conversation going to get to know the person. I ask the girl, “Tell me something I don’t know about you.” And she says, “Well, my middle name is Clarice.” And not knowing what to say, I answer with (imitates Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs): “Do you still hear the sheep screaming in the middle of the night, Clarice?” The date just gets off to a weird start.
Q: Do you have to be a pessimist to be a good comedian?
A: In my opinion it’s better to be optimistic, because optimism is a happy place, a more fun place. You can always get laughs from negativity, but I don’t think you should ignore the other side. Most laughter comes from good times.
Q: Another comic we interviewed said that people like George Carlin and Bill Hicks were actually optimists. They genuinely wanted humanity to be better, and that’s why they were so mad.
A: Maybe they were just angry and they dumped it on the rest of the world. Who the hell needs that? I’m a fan of their ability, just not a fan of them being angry at everything. I don’t want to sit in the room with someone who’s angry.
Q: Do you have a joke that’s close to being over the line?
A: I have a couple where people are kind of shocked, but they laugh: Did you know people with tracheotomies are just land dolphins? And the other is: Did you know you can see your astrological sign in the speckles on Morgan Freeman’s face? People are a little shocked by them, but when you think about them, they’re just kind of innocent.
Q: You’ve worked in the comedy trenches – or did you take a different path to Hollywood?
A: I was never really a starving guy. I was smart about it. I had a full time job and didn’t leave that until I was sure I was making headway in stand up and making money. The only time I took a big chance is when I put it all on the line to move to L.A. I didn’t know anybody. I took every cent out of Canada and went to Hollywood to go until my money runs out. I was down to my last few thousand dollars when finally things started to hit. But yeah, I’ve played all the little mining towns and lumber towns.
Q: So this is your opportunity to give us a real heckler story.
A: Believe me, if you want to see my rashes, you’ll know that the first one is true.