When we spoke to Katt Williams, he had just marked three career milestones: hosting the BET Hip-Hop Awards, releasing the DVD of his HBO stand-up special, The Pimp Chronicles Pt. 1, and spending three days in a Los Angeles jail on a concealed weapons charge. All things considered, the Norbit star was in a relatively good mood, and took the time to tell us why stand-up's like The Crocodile Hunter, among other things.
You say you want to help restore dignity to your profession. What do you think took the dignity away from comedy?
It just got really oversaturated. And when everyone was reduced to a seven-minute clips and they started making audiences stand up at the end of people's performances rather than having to earn a standing ovation, it kind of watered down our profession.
You're from Ohio, and Dave Chappelle lives there too. Is there something about Ohio that breeds funny people?
You get exposed to a lot there, just from the fact that, more so than anywhere else in the country, it's more than likely that your next-door neighbor to the left is white, and the neighbor to the right is black or Hispanic. In a lot of larger places or more cosmopolitan places, the black people live in one area, the white people live in one area and the Hispanic people live in another area. It's much more diverse in Ohio, especially from an artistic standpoint. Even on the radio-when we were coming up, we'd hear Phil Collins, and then the next song would be the Gap Band.
During your appearances on MTV's improv show, Wild 'N Out, your hairstyles have been the topic of a few conversations. How'd you decide to wear your hair like that?
Honestly, I could care less. I'm a grown man. I do whatever I feel like doing with my hair. And if for some reason you feel like there's a magnet and you should have something to say to me, then more power to you. I hope you're prepared.
You talk a lot in your act about being a pimp. What makes someone as a pimp?
Well, actually, I don't talk very much about being a pimp in my act. Do I have a pimp joke in particular that you were thinking about?
No, but I saw you talking about it on Def Comedy Jam, and your most famous character is the pimp "Money Mike" from Friday After Next, and your stand-up special is called "The Pimp Chronicles," and you play a pimp in Norbit. So what do you think qualifies someone as a pimp?
I really couldn't answer that. I don't know. I don't know what qualifies you. There's only winning and losing, and in our society, as in all societies, there's the person that's doing the winning, or there's the person that's facilitating the winning. Pimping and hoing isn't about putting women on the street-that's kind of antiquated. We're at a different level, and we're trying to make the best out of whatever situation possible. So if the manager at your job is making more money than you and doing less work than you, that's pimping. So you just have to find your own answer to that question individually.
In Norbit, you play a pimp named "Lord Have Mercy." What's that character all about?
Eddie Griffin and I play these retired pimps who are in this small town and they're trying to change their lives, so they've opened up stores and restaurants and they're trying to buy into the town.
Williams (right) alongside Eddie Murphy and Eddie Griffin in Norbit.
Was it tough to act opposite Eddie Murphy while he was in costume as, say, a 400-pound woman?
The thing was, his stand-in had to be dressed like him, and the costumes are so realistic that"¦ you wouldn't know it was him on the set. It was like, "Is that Eddie, or was that his stand-in?"
How did you get started in comedy?
Well, I'm still working on it. I started in earnest when I was 21, so I've done 10 years in the business trying to get it together. But that's the beautiful thing about stand-up. It's much like being one of those guys who works on the wildlife shows: you live the life of the Crocodile Hunter. It's beautiful when it's beautiful and it's awful when it's awful.
Learn more about Katt's music, comedy and musical comedy at KattWilliams.com.