Katt Williams at the Barclays Center: Real Talk
Katt Williams posted bail again Thursday.
Once more, the comedian found himself in jail. Once more, a judge looked at the comedian in his handcuffs and his jail jumpsuit and wondered whether to let him out of her custody. "This was not a popular decision to have you released on bond," she told Williams in a Hall County courtroom near his Georgia home. "They're looking for any reason to put you back in that they can. Don't give them the reason to do that. So let's slow down a little bit."
Flashback one Friday ago.
Williams headlined the Brooklyn stop of his "Conspiracy Theory" tour, which included a handful of opening acts, plus almost a half-hour from Mark Curry at the Barclays Center arena. It was almost 10:30 p.m. by the time Williams took the stage, a gate and curtains opening to reveal a regal backdrop. The comedian striding front and center in a mask and cape, before flinging the former into the front rows.
He'd take his time over the course of the next 90 minutes to detail his driving misadventures with toll roads, his old walking misadventures in New York City looking for Central Park, and even stopping early on to take on a heckler in the second row (seated directly behind me) who, with his wife, kept shouting for any of the comedians to acknowledge "Philly!" even if the husband had dressed for the occasion as if the theme were Miami Vice. Williams tore into him, tore off his T-shirt, and then tore into him some more.
¿Quien es Mas Macho?
It was never a fair fight. The hecklers never wanted one. They just wanted to be heard. And Williams knew he had wasted more time and energy on them than they deserved.
After all, he told the Brooklyn arena audience he'd spent the past 12 hours in his car just to arrive when he did.
"I drove here all the way from GA, because I done gone to jail many days but I wasn't going to jail today," Williams said last Friday.
Flashback many Fridays ago.
I'd seen Katt Williams a few times in his prime (2006-2008). The first, in Boston in 2006, he made me promise after a phone interview for the Boston Herald that I'd come to the show, and I introduced myself to him afterward. A few months later, in Aspen at the final HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival there, Williams hilariously stood out from the white cold winter and people surrounding him. The third and last time I'd seen Williams before this past Friday was the November night in New York City when he played Carnegie Hall. But not before spending the entire day in jail on weapons charges, missing a scheduled appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and requiring Wil Sylvince to stall for what seemed like an hour onstage at Carnegie Hall until Williams could post bail and high-tail it there. After the show, Williams met up with me at Carolines on Broadway for the New York Comedy Festival party and encouraged me to hop on his bus the next morning so he could fill me in on everything. His publicist asked me later not to take Williams up on his offer.
In the intervening years, figuring out what's comedy for Williams and what's bordering on tragedy in his real life has sometimes been a guessing game. Heck, I even asked him to consider taking it easy for 2013.
But when Katt is on, he's on. After briefly considering retirement from comedy and show business, Williams came back in 2014 with a stellar stand-up special, Priceless, directed by Spike Lee for HBO. When he keeps it real onstage, it's more than 100.
Too often, though, keeping it 100 offstage lands Williams in legal trouble. Twice over the past month, altercations with people near his own home in Gainesville, Ga., ended up with police arresting Williams and bringing him before the judge. A store clerk said something (a white man calling him nigger, Williams alleges) that sparked a tussle in late February. In mid-March, a 17-year-old high-school wrestler exchanged words with Williams after the comedian had joined a group of kids in a playground soccer game, and video showed Williams punching the teen before the teen wrestled him to the ground.
Everything is on camera in Katt's world, it seems.
But Williams also is acutely aware, sometimes painfully so, that more than just all of the eyes in the room are on him.
When he decided to tell his side of the story about that fight, 55 minutes into his 90-minute set in Brooklyn, he knew multiple cameras would record it. He even saw a woman sitting front-row center with professional audio recording equipment, who claimed to be "with D.L." (as in Hughley, although his sources initially disputed to me after the show), and because of it, waved off security (his agent Chris Smith had yelled for bouncers to stop her). You can watch it here. Or here. Or rather, here. Williams claimed he noticed police cruising behind his Polaris Slingshot, so he pulled over preemptively, got out, and walked until kids swarmed him and scared off the cops. The kids were playing soccer so he joined in. Until he stopped playing, feeling he was being "set up." He further claimed that the teen, standing taller than him, was taunting him into a fight and eventually decided -- since no adults or police bothered to step in -- to teach him a lesson. "A nigger that can hit you is a nigger that can also pull out a gun and blow your motherfucking brains out, so why would you put yourself in that position just because you lost a soccer game?" Even in the video that captures most of the interaction between the 42-year-old teen-sized comedian and the actual teen, you see so many cell-phone cameras out to document it, and you hear Williams say he just got out of jail.
Flashback to last Friday.
After joking about getting lost in NYC, Williams told the Brooklyn crowd that he loved and hated this city. But about Rikers Island:
"The only reason I hate New York is the shit y'all hate, too. I went to Rikers Island. That is the worst jail in the history of jails. That -- yuck! Yuck! That is an awful place to be. That -- blech! I've been to jails all across this great country, and I will tell you. I don't behave myself in no city. I don't give a fuck about your jail. They involuntarily P.C.ing (psychiatric commitment) me any fucking where. They put a nigger in Rikers Island for one day and I reformed myself. I was in that dirty, nasty, pee, lice, flea-infested shit-stained...I was in there. I did not say I wasn't ever going to do nothing wrong, but I did tell myself, 'Nigger, we will never. Let's do our dirt in Jersey!' I'd rather live in Paterson, New Jersey, than visit Rikers Island for three hours. I'd rather take a vacation in Staten Island for 90 days, than spend 90 minutes at Rikers Island. It was so bad in there I felt bad for other niggers. I was just in there, like, ewwww you gonna live in that?"
Williams dedicated the majority of his show last Friday to New Yorkers, extolling the toughness of its residents and even its rats. He's seen rats large enough to expose he's not a New Yorker. And then there's "Pizza Rat," which he saw online like everyone else last year. "Man, fuck outta here. I'll never ride the subway in my life! Y'all seen I had problems with a strong 17-year-old. What the fuck am I going to do with an angry, rabies-infested rat?! I'm not fit to fight that motherfucker. He can have my pizza. I don't give a fuck."
Even after his recent troubles, though, he still knew Brooklyn wouldn't cancel on him if he didn't quit on them. As he joked, New Yorkers still root for the Knicks. "That's why I couldn't even really come out here like the old Katt Williams and fake it for y'all, 'cause y'all are too motherfucking real. Like, I have to tell you what the fuck shit is. Because I like New York. I just can't ever live here. Because I'm from Ohio. I'm not allowed to love New York enough to live here, because I can't get past the house prices."
Someone in the crowd shouted out Chris Rock's name, egging, begging Williams into a beef. "I mean, y'all acting like you didn't want me to hit Chris Rock with the ether," Williams said, before turning back to the man who shouted for it. "I'll give you five minutes, just for you sir!"
So what is his problem with Rock now, anyhow?
"I'm a Chris Rock fan. I don't want to say nothing, but when you're an actor, you are known by not what you say. You are known by your body of work. So it's not about what you do while you're alive, it's about when you die, and motherfuckers go back and look at your shit, what were you? New York, understand, this is a nigger whose resume says Pookie, and Pootie Tang. Death at a Funeral. And Top Five. I watched all of them stupid-ass movies. When was he supporting a nigger? I know the real Chris Rock and I don't like it. I don't hate on his success. How you going to be successful to me, motherfucker, as long as I got two bitches, fuck riches. And I got two bitches and riches, so what do I care about witches and snitches? I don't. I leave them in stitches. If I can. Or they can leave me in stitches. It doesn't matter. It's not about bitches or riches, and certainly not about witches, couldn't possibly be snitches, it's about having no reason to scratch, because nothing ever itches. But anyway.
"I'm mad at Chris Rock because he won't help black people. But he pretends that all he does is help black people. Motherfucker, you don't have to help a lot of black people. Why don't you put your brother on, fuckboy? How the fuck is Tony Rock your real motherfucking brother doing stand-up just like you, and you never put the nigger on tour with you? If we watch Everybody Hates Chris, that's supposed to be the life story of Chris Rock in New York. It stars his mother and his father and his older brother and his younger sister. Which one of them is supposed to be Tony? The younger sister? (Note: Tony played Uncle Ryan, appearing onscreen in the TV series)
"But God always lets you know what you're looking at, even if it's confusing. God blessed the chameleon with the power to change colors but he didn't bless him with the power to not be a fucking lizard. That's why no matter how much money Chris Rock got, he cannot escape them orangutan-ass hands. You got monkey hands, nigger..."
Williams continued digging in on Rock's hands, accused him of not really loving his wife (Chris Rock is getting a divorce) and "how you really going to be married to a black woman and be doing a motherfucking movie where you diss black women's hair at the same time?" Rock starred in and produced the 2009 documentary, Good Hair. "Get your filthy ass away from me, you old coonin' ass, Stepin Fetchit ass nigger. I don't give a fuck who you think you are, nigger. If you're Bigger and Blacker, then I'm smarter and brighter, and that's the end of that motherfucking conversation."
Williams said he has kept his hair natural since Donald Trump started running for president. "He got 10 billion dollars, and I got 10 million, but neither of us is doing his hair tomorrow, so how about that?"
His real issues, it seemed at least last week, was that Rock hosted the Academy Awards in a time when Hollywood is disrespecting and otherwise ignoring black performers. "Nobody wanted to talk about how it was two motherfucking answers. Number one: They didn't see no black movie that they thought should get an award, nigger. You niggers liked Straight Outta Compton. Not white people. White people have a higher expectation of a movie. They don't want a movie that show them everything they already fucking knew! White people want some exciting shit! You got to show Suge Knight killing somebody if you want white people to give it an award. Other than that, it was just a motherfucking daytime special with Ice Cube's son."
Williams then claimed the real reason there's yet another Barbershop movie coming out, but no new Friday movies, is because he hasn't said yes to one. He claimed he wrote his own script for Friday After Next and named Money Mike after his real first name, Micah. He claimed he had the top two specials on Comedy Central (perhaps truer when they first aired, than now) and the top two specials on HBO and Showtime both, "and I own 100 percent of all them bitches. I ain't got no boss but y'all. So they can kiss my motherfucking ass!"
Williams claimed a "very famous comedian" called him while he was driving to Brooklyn that his gig had been canceled, explained why he wanted to look after Beanie Sigel and what happened with him in that recent incident, as well as the store clerk in Georgia he punched. It was worth the $5,700 he had to pay for it, Williams shrugged.
"What I didn't want to do is go to New York, and sell New York a show that I had already given to other cities, other states. I'm not going to do that tonight. Even if you hated me tonight, it was a one-of-motherfucking-one. It was one man talking to one city, and leaving. That's how I try to do business, because if I never again get to come to New York City, I'll know in my head that when I started comedy, I was not qualified to sell out Carolines. I could not get my name on the sign at the Comedy Cellar. And if you started from the bottom, and then you're driving past a bridge and you see the Barclays sign and you understand that's for you, get the fuck outta here. You can call me a crackhead all day, nigger! Doesn't bother me. It only bother me when that's what I was. You couldn't get me to play Pookie. I would turn that down."
Of course, Katt Williams did sign up for Scary Movie 5 in 2013.
Times change. People can, too.
Williams claimed to talk Harvey not only into retirement from stand-up, but also from swapping his fade-top to a bald head; claimed that Jamie Foxx had to get a tattoo to cover up scars from his supposed hair-replacement surgery, and when the audience ooohed and ahhhed, told them that since they were likely recording him already, they could just share their favorite feud lines with their "favorite fuckboy."
"If y'all watching the news, you know I probably can't do comedy much longer," Williams told the crowd in Brooklyn.
Not if keeps going at this pace.
The good news is he doesn't have to. He could take the judge's suggestion yesterday down in Georgia and slow down. Reassess his priorities. Choose his battles. He doesn't have to play the feud with everyone in the comedy family, or anyone outside in the world who tries to get under his skin.
When Katt Williams is on onstage, he can get lost in the lyrical poetry and take us with him. There's no need for feuding.
How's this Friday for a start.
This is someone's edited video recording from Barclays Center of Katt Williams, covering roughly one-third of his set from Friday, March 25, 2016.