Katt Williams is like so many comics working stages around the world in that you either like his comedy, or you don’t. Often, it’s just that simple. But where he stands out is those times when he speaks his mind about the state of comedy, his fellow performers, and the toughest thing comics have to fight every single day to become recognizable and successful.
If you think about it on this specific stage, what comedians face isn’t that far removed from the usual nonsense we all face in our corporate sphere.
Williams remains in the public eye after an appearance on the Shannon Sharpe podcast, “Club Shay Shay”, where he ripped off the band-aid on those sensitive topics. I’ll wager few even in the business were mildly shocked to hear Williams allege that Cedric the Entertainer stole one of his bits a long time ago, helping to make Cedric famous. The industry has also wagged for a long time about Steve Harvey allegedly stealing the idea for his very successful and career-launching sitcom, “The Steve Harvey Show” from fellow comic Mark Curry, who years earlier hit the big time with his networker, “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper”.
Then again, not everyone agrees with Katt in his slaps at Harvey and Cedric. Dave Chapelle has never been one to hold anything back on any subject, and he let if fly in response to Williams’ comments.
Stealing jokes has been going on since the first pratfall was introduced by court jesters who were just trying to keep their heads attached to their necks. It’s endemic not just in comedy, but in every business known to humankind. I’ll wager everyone in this audience has either had a great idea pirated by someone with a lot less talent who took advantage of a situation, or I’m speaking to those on the thieving side of the exchange who to this day won’t admit pilfering ever happened.
Welcome to the human race, yes?
But where Williams tossed open some real meat is when he talked about how the major corporate broadcast networks and media content aggregators run the show in deciding who gets the break, who gets on stage, and who has a shot at raising that ceiling to become the next comedic star of the small screen and maybe, just maybe, the stratosphere occupied by the likes of Kevin Hart, Bill Burr or Taylor Tomlinson.
Having worked my entire career in the media industry, in front of and behind the cameras, I’ll stand testament to what Katt is talking here. How upper management in the form of suits that have never spent a day in the trenches, producers with favors to grind, and networks more concerned with a little more lucre in the pocket than presenting real talent are doing more harm to rising and steady comedic talent than any gaggle of audience hecklers. To be fair, Netflix has gone out of the corporate way to try and feature promising comedy, not just along the TV line, but also with their channel on SiriusXM. Other outlets, sadly, are more preeners than doers.
It harkens back to the day when HBO was THE comedy place to be, when young comedian showcases were featuring future breakout stars the likes of Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis Anderson and plenty more. Do yourself a favor and go dig out “The 9th Annual Young Comedians Special” on HBO from 1985 hosted by Rodney Dangerfield. Pure genius from start to finish. If it weren’t for HBO taking chances way back when, we may never have been afforded the chance to know Rita Rudner, Sam Kinison, Janeane Garafolo and so many others.
We started “Toast Boast Roast Comedy” to help blaze a trail for the young comics getting their start, the working comics taking the stages every night, the veteran comics who have plenty to offer, and those who simply know how to make people laugh and forget all the daily nonsense. We’re just a small part of the national scene where excellent comedy is played out every night of the week across America and Canada, with those pounding away at their craft. The jokes are original, the talent is there to see and appreciate, the hard work that makes our world a little better every day.
Think about it, and what these comics are doing is what everyone with a talent in their soul strives for. Knocking down those walls, refusing to surrender when someone snatches an idea or prevents that life-changing moment from happening. Damn right it’s a fight, but it’s one that we all hope and believe will pay off in our own lives and careers.
So never take “NO” for an answer, and always believe that your next audience, whatever size it may be, is the one that will turn everything around.
And say, did you hear the one about……..?