5 Things Brad Williams Has Learned as a Little Person Comedian

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5 Things Brad Williams Has Learned as a Little Person Comedian

Brad Williams got his first stage laughs during another comedian’s set. The comic was Carlos Mencia, who was cracking jokes about “midgets.” “Half the audience was laughing, but the audience that was sitting by me was not laughing at all,” remembers Williams, who was only 19 at the time. “He looked over and was like, ‘Why aren’t you people laughing? These are funny jokes! What, is one of them here?’”

Yep, little person Brad Williams was in the house and though he didn’t know it, he was about to start a 20-year (and counting) career as a stand-up comic. Williams, whose new special Starfish is out now on the Veeps streaming network, recently spoke to me about all that he’s learned in the two decades since that night with Mencia.

Acknowledge the Obvious

 

Rather than being embarrassed about his little people jokes, Mencia invited Williams on-stage. “(Mencia) wasn't making fun of me,” Williams remembers. “He was just legit asking questions, and I legit answered them and my answers got laughs. I was like, ‘Oh damn, this is a lot of fun.’” 

Mencia asked young Williams what he did for a living, and he responded that he worked at Disneyland. “When I said that, being a little person, the whole audience started snickering,” he says. “And then I turned to the crowd and went, “F*** you, I’m not one of the seven.’ That got a big laugh, literally the joke that was like, ‘Ooh, that feels good.’”

Most 19-year-olds would be scared to death of speaking in front of a crowd, but “just being a dwarf, you’re used to getting stared at,” Williams says. And so, he simply acknowledged that fact — and got huge laughs in the process. 

Let the Audience Guide the Jokes

 

On the one hand, Williams says, he didn’t see a void of dwarf voices in comedy that he felt destined to fill. On the other hand, “the thing about being a little person is that if I walk up on stage and do not mention it at all, the audience just kind of stares at me like, ‘Does he know?’ There’s a natural curiosity from the audience, so they have guided where the material goes.”

His size is still the first thing people notice, but once it’s acknowledged, they get over it, Williams says. “I do a lot of material that has nothing to do with dwarfism, but there will always be the dwarf jokes just because I don’t know how to write otherwise. I don’t know how to write jokes from the perspective of a 6-foot-2, cisgender white male. I know life as a little person, and I know that there’s a lot that makes other people curious. How do you drive? How do you buy clothes? I get asked those questions a lot. So until the fascination goes away, I’m not gonna stop talking about it as long as I can come up with a fresh perspective. Sorry, haters. Dwarf jokes will continue.”

You Have to Get the Right Kind of Laughs

 

In Williams’ special Starfish, he does an extended bit about the Bud Light spokesperson controversy. “When I started that joke, it wasn’t good at all,” he admits. The original version “got a laugh but — and it’s weird saying this — it didn’t get the right kind of laugh. Like a bunch of dudes who probably stormed the capital on January 6th kind of laugh. And I’m like, ‘Wait, no, that is not what I’m trying to do.’”

“I knew there was funny there,” he continues. “I just had to be funny without being hurtful. So that one took time, but that’s the joke I’m the most proud of in the special. And that’s something a comedian has to think about: What kind of laughs do I want to get and not get? Do you want people to view you that way? Do you want to be a voice? But that’s the wonderful balancing act that comedy is. When you finally get it right and fine-tune a bit, it’s ‘chef’s kiss.’”

You Have to Find the Next Level Beyond the Niche

 

If you’re different, Williams says, that’s initially an advantage for a stand-up. You get stage time, and everyone wants you on their show. But “where it becomes difficult and a hindrance is when you’re trying to get to that next level, when you’re trying to prove that ‘No, I’m not just a dwarf comic.’” 

“We have to prove that we can be funny for an hour, and we’re not just hitting one note that whole time,” he says. But once you hit that next level and you’re a touring headliner? Then standing out can be an advantage again. “The best part about being a little person in this business is that people remember you. If you Google ‘dwarf comic,’ it’s not like there’s gonna be a whole laundry list of names that come up. We’re certainly not oversaturating the market.”

The Best Bits Get Personal

 

The audience tells you what some of your signature bits will be, “like I didn’t know that people were going to latch on to the damn urinal bit,” Williams laughs. “I had no idea that was going to be the one to go viral, the one people would send on my social media. If you go in my DMs, it’s pictures of tiny urinals.” 

“But personally, the bit I’m the most proud of is, if you watch my second special Daddy Issues, just the stuff about my dad in terms of how he raised me.” 

“Now that my dad has passed, that set of jokes just becomes really important to me. And really sort of a defining characteristic for who I am.”

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