This month we are celebrating feminist comedy with our ‘April Fools’ series, featuring kickass Kiwi comedians. Today, Guy Williams steps up to the plate.
At a party, are you the person dancing on the table tops or the one sitting in the corner wishing you were at home watching Netflix?
Oh Netflix all the way! For the past three years at the Edge I’ve had to dance on the tables and that has been a fun change of scenery but my natural instinct is to not even go to the party. If the music is too loud to even talk then what’s the point? I always try and get a dance floor going but Kiwis don’t normally join me until they’re so hammered that they’re flailing around smacking me in the face!
In your opinion, what makes a great comedian?
Someone who makes you laugh a lot. That’s the great thing about comedy, there’s really only one rule: be funny.
Obviously we all have different styles that we like and personally I prefer comedy that has some sort of message or bite, but I like a lot of comedians who have no message or point and are just really funny.
What’s your favourite joke? Could you tell it for us?
This is a common question that you’d think I’d figure out an answer too!
I have a document on my computer called “great one liners” from when I used to write down a lot of funny lines I heard on comedy albums.
My favourite from that 2 page doc is probably Mitch Hedberg:
‘‘The thing that is depressing about tennis is no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.’’
If you don’t know who Mitch Hedberg is, Google him, he’s one of the best comedians who is not well known as he died from a drug overdose just as he was really becoming famous in America.
I’m embarrassed to admit that there are no female comedians on my list of “great one liners”. In my defence I haven’t updated the list in years – and comedy has been and is still a very sexist industry.
What does ‘feminist comedy’ look like to you?
Oh snap I have never thought about this before. I didn’t even know it was a sub genre? If I was to take a guess I would say that anyone who’s promoting women as equal and trying not to prey on negative stereotypes is feminist comedy? But I haven’t thought about feminism in terms of comedy before?
Maybe I should? It’s quite weird (not that that’s a bad thing) to mix a political movement with a genre of comedy, but I definitely think that it’s great to use comedy to help get your message across or help change people’s perceptions of feminism.
What would you say to a comedian who had just made a rape joke?
I’ve never really been in that position so I don’t really know? They’re not common in my experience but if I’ve seen an open mic comedian do a rape joke it normally bombs so badly that nothing needs to be said. If you do a joke that is bad it gets no reaction, it’s silent but if you do a joke that is offensive and bombs the silence is so deafening that it is painful. Comedy is about learning the hard way sometimes hahaha.
If a comedian was constantly doing material that offended me like a rape joke I’d probably tell them I didn’t like it.
I haven’t thought a lot about rape jokes. One of my favourite comedians Dave Chappelle has done a lot in his stand up specials and I find them very hard to listen to. Normally comedians who do that sort of material are struggling anyway so it’s weird that someone like him is doing it. My rule is to try and think about how someone in the audience who is a victim would feel if they heard that material and while I’m fine with occasionally offending people I think rape is too far for me.
I also think it’s important not to normalise rape culture so I guess maybe more subtle material about roofies or keeping a women in line is just as damaging. A really good comedian did a what I thought was fairly innocuous joke that referenced domestic violence and I think some other comedians confronted him, and he kept doing it and maybe this is overstating it but I feel like it possibly negatively effected his career in terms of becoming a little bit of an outsider.
It’s a shame, because it’s such a throw away line. I don’t know why some people fight so hard [to defend bad jokes]. If it’s got a great message, sure, but normally rape jokes are just cheap shock comedy.
Is it ever OK to make a sexist or racist joke?
Ahhhhhh shit these are tough questions! I personally try and stay away from them. I try and think about the meaning and message of jokes before I say them, but not always.
I think racist and sexist jokes can be funny but, more often than not, [they get a laugh] because they’re wrongly interpreted by idiots who use them to confirm their negative stereotypes. Dave Chappelle has hinted that this was one of the reasons that he stopped doing his famous Comedy Central show.
Thinking back on jokes I’ve done I’ve had a few jokes that could be perceived as racist or sexist but I like to think that they were ironic.
Ages ago someone hit me up saying my joke was racist:
“It’s weird David Tua finished his career on a three fight contract with Māori TV… Because he’s Samoan… It’s like Māori TV was like… (shrugs)… Close enough!”
I started to point out that I thought it was just a slightly funny observation and the guy who said it was racist backtracked with, “nah mate I’m from Christchurch. We like a little bit of racist humour down there,” and I was like oh god I can never do that joke again.
What would you say to people who say women aren’t funny?
You’re off you face and you probably haven’t met many women. I thought this at one time but it’s cause I was a Christopher Hitchens fanboy at an all boys school!
When I eventually met a woman my views changed!
My advice is watch more female comedians! People don’t like Amy Schumer and then decide to judge all of them? Imagine if all male comedians were judged just based on Rob Schneider?
Can I recommend Maria Bamford? Her early albums are some of my favourite comedy albums of all time! Tina Fey and Amy Pohler (30 Rock and Parks and Rec) are no brainers. But then try international stand ups like Josie Long or Urzila Carlson or my favourite at the moment, an Australian called Anne Edmonds!
What advice would you give to young people who want pursue a career in comedy?
Start doing it! It really is a process of trial and error so sign up for an open mic, write like crazy and get up there and start bombing! It’s lots of fun.
Guy Williams is performing as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Details about his show Why Am I Like This? can be found here.Support Villainesse