Katt Williams is one n—– a roll. Wait. Hold on, hold on, just hold on one second. What’s with that "n-word"?! Oh, right. That. Avert your eyes now if you don’t want to know what it is, even though you know all too perfectly well what the word is, and as Louis CK will tell you, just saying n-word puts the actual word in your head.
That word has been in the news and in comedy debates in the two weeks since Michael Richards (not Kramer) went off on a rage-filled rant at the Laugh Factory in L.A. And considering what’s happened since, with club owner Jamie Masada saying he’d ban and fine comics who utter the word, the Rev. Jesse Jackson calling for a boycott of the word in entertainment circles, and veteran comic Paul Mooney saying he’d stop saying the word that has made him so much, I just had to ask Katt Williams about it.
Especially since his HBO special, Katt Williams, The Pimp Chronicles pt. 1 (now out on DVD), was, to quote Williams, the biggest hit "in the history of niggerdom." Suffice it to say, Williams isn’t afraid of Masada’s edict.
"No, they shouldn’t have done that," he told me. "They were as wrong as (Michael Richards) was. As a comic, you’re allowed to say whatever. A comic can do 30 minutes on the intricacies of the vagina, or doing bowel movement. Thta’s the comic’s right. But if you get to the point where that’s offensive, what’s next? You can’t talk about fat people or slow people or offensive people or retarded people? I think if you can get in front of black people and say something bad like nigger and get away with it without something bad happening to you, you’ve done something right."
Note: On Saturday night at the Orpheum, Williams told the sold-out crowd that he would’ve had to punch out Richards if he had seen him that night, just on principle.
But about Paul Mooney…Williams was incredulous. "What? A white man said it? Now I’m not going to say it again?! It’s so retarded…It was a light-bulb experience for him?" Williams is quoting Mooney’s description in recent interviews there. "What? Because a white man said it?" Williams said he could understand why Jackson and others would want to take back the word nigger. "I understand that. That part I can understand. The other part I can’t understand is Paul Mooney said he’d never say it again because he heard a white guy say it." Williams pauses to laugh about that some more. Why the laughter? "Because I know Paul Mooney. You’d have to know Paul Mooney to get this joke. It’s one of the most hilarious things ever."
"This is what we do. If it wasn’t offensive to somebody, it would just be a guy onstage saying pleasantries. (Adopting a dorky voice) ‘Hey everybody, life is wonderful!’ It’s not…You have to really go out of your way to make life wonderful."
Williams certainly has gotten himself on the right track. He has his first CD coming out over the next couple of months. Actually, another CD, "Live: Let a Playa Play" is out Dec. 5, but Williams said that’s not really his thing. "Old managers of mine put that out, trying to cash in," he said. "I try not to say anything because it’s not my thing." His thing, "It’s Pimpin’, Pimpin’," is due out in early 2007. Well, January, according to his MySpace music page. "That would be first quarter 2007," he said. "MySpace also says I’m one of the sexiest men in the country. You can’t believe everything you read on there."
Williams also has a MySpace comedy page. So is he big on MySpace then? "No. Not like Dane Cook," he said. Although Cook appears in Williams’ top friends list. "I actually, you know, do it myself. I don’t have someone else doing it. Considering I have 250,000 friends on there, it takes so much time (to respond to messages)…But I appreciate how you get instantaneous feedback on things. It keeps you current."
And it’s hard not to notice that a lot of his fans taking the pimpin’ philosophy to heart, leaving all sorts of comments on his page to pimp their own sites, CDs and projects. "I think 80 percent of everybody is pimping something," Williams said. "It’s free enterprise. So people feel like, the kind of people who tune in to see me, they feel they can do that."
His stand-up tour is billed as "Katt Williams and Friends." The friends include host Red Grant, Lunelle and Melanie Camacho. And a special guest, Williams said. "So I can’t tell you that." Pause. "It’s Michael Richards. That’d freak people out! Even I might not be able to fully protect him." Williams recently filmed a part in an Eddie Murphy movie, Norbit. What’d he learn from Murphy about comedy, music and success in general? "Comedically, you have to understand we have very few people you can look at and say, these are the bullet points. If you want to pick out the bullet points of how your career can go on the right path…Richard Pryor, of course, is the icon, the legend, but in our age range, who did it more completely than Eddie Murphy? If you asked people who is the biggest black movie star, they’d say Denzel Washington." But Williams said if you look at Denzel’s box-office figures, it doesn’t come close to Martin’s (Lawrence’s), and that doesn’t even come close to approaching how much money Eddie Murphy’s movies have earned over the decades. What about musically? Murphy had a couple of hit records. "I think the lesson is not just the music," Williams said. "He did whatever he wanted to do. Regardless of how anything worked out, he did what he wanted to do."
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you want to try? "Yeah, plenty of stuff. You don’t want to get to the point where there’s nothing left for me to try. That’s the scary part, when you’ve exhausted all your hopes and dreams."
Are there any words you’d never say onstage? "Yes, yes. There are lots of words I’d never use onstage. Most of them are in other languages. I can almost unequivocally say you’ll never see me go onstage and talk in Russian." What about that n-word? "Cursing is something I do mostly because people expect me to," he said. "I’m not going to say the word honkey. Oh, I don’t say that word anyhow. And I’m not going to say the words diplomatic immunity, either." Williams laughed and circled back around Michael Richards and Paul Mooney and the thought that you’re not supposed to say certain words anymore. "Now you’re going to make us want to hear you just to see if you’re going to use the word!" Very sneaky, eh? But Williams isn’t having any of it. And he’s certainly not happy about club owners fining comics for using words. "It becomes martial law. What? You’re going to fine comics for what they say onstage? Well, then it becomes a little less fun."
Excerpts of this interview appeared in the Boston Herald. Katt Willliams made me promise to come see his show that Saturday night. So I did. And glad I did. While his actual stand-up on his HBO special barely clocked in at more than a half-hour, his set at the Orpheum was more like 1:10, with an encore that had Williams hilariously playing and rapping over samples of the songs on his upcoming CD. And most of his material was new. Williams opened with an extended riff off the Rick Ross song, Hustlin’, that got the crowd (and himself) into an appropriately energetic mood. In a tuxedo with black sneakers and blingy ballcap, Williams wondered aloud about death by spinach and or death by chicken, the Crocodile Hunter, Michael Richards and Paul Mooney, his own arrest last month for having a gun at the airport, the war in Iraq, and tips for men about sex, ending with some special messages for the "bitchniggers" out there. The show started an hour late at 8:30 p.m. but lasted past 11 p.m., with Williams graciously stepping up to the front of the stage to sign autographs and pose for pictures with his fans.