Katt Williams is the hardest working comedian in show business. Since his scene-stealing appearance in 2002's Friday After Next where he played a pimp named Money Mike, the Cincinnati native has become a hood favorite—the Underground King, if you will—and methodically worked his way into mainstream consciousness over the years.
Between 2006 and 2012, my local barbershop in Jersey either played the newest mixtape or the latest Katt Williams comedy DVD. Getting a shape-up while watching a Katt Williams special was always the most nerve-racking shit ever, because the last thing you want to do when someone has a pair of clippers lining you up is to start laughing uncontrollably. That goes for both me and my barber, who constantly have to take timeouts to wipe the tears from our eyes whenever Katt was doing his standup on the shop's flat screen. Despite the man's comedic genius, Katt's legal troubles and public breakdowns have overshadowed his recent run of tours and specials, resulting in him becoming a meme along the way.
With his new Netflix special Katt Williams: Great American (streaming now), Williams looks to return to form. He talks on a wide range of topics from Donald Trump's turbulent first year as President to how he's able to chose from a binder of mugshots whenever he gets arrested. That's not all Katt has on deck for 2018 as he's also making a cameo in the highly-anticipated season two of Atlanta, and just wrapped filming a pair of films—Meet the Blacks 2: The House Next Door with Mike Epps, Lil Duval, and Michael Blackson and 2 Minutes of Fame with Deon Cole, Jay Pharoah, and Keke Palmer. We caught up with Katt to see why he refuses to call this a comeback and chooses to talk in the third person.
Do you think Donald Trump is good or bad for comedy?
You know, comedy doesn't have those types of needs. Comedy's gonna discuss whatever is goin' on. I will say that he hasn't been the best thing for standup, e hasn't been the worst thing, either. As comedians, we deal with whatever is goin' on. We're all members of this great country. You can tell jokes about your family for a while, but if you keep tellin' jokes about your family, you might have to leave the family function. That's where we are.
With everyone from Dave Chappelle to Jerry Seinfeld and now you dropping comedy specials on Netflix it seems like that's the new avenue for standup comedians now. Do you agree?
Well, it seems like Netflix is the avenue for a whole lot of things, and we all could learn a valuable lesson from little bitty ol' fledgling Netflix. When we all first heard about Netflix, we were inside of a Blockbuster. We thought it sure would be funny for this lil company to try to get all these movies together on their own, and then show 'em to people at their house. We were so busy at Redbox, we didn't think this was possible, what this lil company was talkin’ about.
we don't have to keep braggin' about these things, these are facts. He's really the king of that lane. To come back as many times as is necessary.
And then they started with movies nobody wanted to see the first year. Wasn’t nothin’ there at all. And now if you don't have Netflix, you probably don't have a spouse or a significant other or any friends [laughs]. Netflix is that necessary in your life. From nothing that you care about to something that's important, and we like those types of examples, that mirror our journey, our same struggle. So what a joy [it is] to be able to have started this business, to own all of your standup specials, to have financed all of them, and for them to have been produced in-house with your own people. Then we get to this point and be able to be on a Netflix schedule, in a time when Dave Chappelle has dropped six specials in a calendar year, you know what I mean?
You and Chappelle are probably the most important black standup comedians of the last 20 years.
Well they got one of us for $20 million and they got the other for $20; the point is to make sure that when the people see it, they like 'em both [laughs].
Speaking of Chappelle, he found himself in some controversy over some of his jokes about the transgender community. How does a comedian navigate that sort of climate in 2018?
They gave him $60 million to navigate with.
So how would you approach it? Do controversies like Chappelle's influence...
I just told you. I say more vicious things for $20 [laughs].
How did this Netflix thing come about? When did you realize you were ready to make a comeback?
I'm not sure what people consider a comeback. I've had seven comedy specials in the last nine years; that probably puts me five specials ahead of whoever's favorite comic is, alive. [Starts talking in third person] He doesn't get the credit for it; so I don't know what he's comin' back from. I saw his specials in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014. I saw his special in 2015 and then I saw his special in 2017. I've only seen this dude put out specials.
No, no, I meant you. The last couple years you been in and out of legal trouble...
Oh, no, no, I'm always in legal trouble. I just never hear what happens with that legal trouble, and nobody else ever asks, "What happened to that?" It's made very public when he gets in trouble. It's made very public when he's “accused of,” or when those charges are dropped. Nobody makes a statement about those. Nobody says, "Oh, this took place, that took place." They just act as if, "Oh, yeah, he's still out there." When we really know in real life, nobody gets 19 felonies and is still out there.
Do you wanna talk about that?
No, I just did. I don't have a comment about that, because I'm not in the journalist field. It's not my job to look up stories and figure out what's goin' on and how does this keep happenin' and why do we keep sayin' this dude is in trouble, and every time we go to check the trouble this dude is in, it don't match up with the story we told? Just understand, that hasn't happened to anybody, where we say, "They ran away from the police and got away," and "Oh, yeah, they're performing tonight. Come out and see 'em.” “Oh, yeah, they'll be there next week.” “Oh, he got another felony.” “Oh by the way, he's comin' to your town and he's crazy and he's a crackhead, but when you go see him in person, he's gon' be great." And they gon' do that for 20 years [laughs].
I mean, that's part of what makes you a living legend.
At the end of the day, these are facts. So all my audience knows is no matter what happens, if I'm alive, I'm comin' to see you, we gon' have a real conversation, and I’m not gon' act like ain’t nothin' happenin'. And in this day and age, it's that authenticity by the fan and by the performer that is valuable.
At the end of the day, these are facts. So all my audience knows is no matter what happens, if I'm alive, I'm comin' to see you, we gon' have a real conversation, and I’m not gon' act like ain’t nothin' happenin'. And in this day and age, it's that authenticity by the fan and by the performer that is valuable. No matter how much trouble it is, I'm still always honored to stand in front of that crowd and see that they came out, you know what I mean? Because all of these things are being said so that people won't come out. These things are being said so people will not support you. They call you crazy so society doesn't listen to what you're saying. So the fact that you have an audience that has kept you in arenas for the last eight years, the fact that you haven't worked in a club in a decade... we don't have to keep braggin' about these things, these are facts. He's really the king of that lane. To come back as many times as is necessary.
The streets are always gonna love you.
That's because I'll always love them. That's how that goes. It ain't always all sweet in those situations, but my love is for the people that I'm representin', and so when it's complex like that, you gon' get that interview on Complex [laughs].
Are you planning on doing more things with Netflix in the future?
Netflix is the great home for everything. With me, it will be dictated by the response that they get, I'm sure. I'm sayin', they, right now, have products with the who's who of comedy. If you're in comedy, you gotta come to that Netflix pathway and hopefully, we all get judged by the strength of our numbers, and I imagine if my numbers are overwhelming, the response will be overwhelming. And I would imagine if it's not overwhelming, I would imagine he'll be doin' another special next year. I'm sayin', he's got Showtime specials, HBO specials, Comedy Central specials. He owns all of these specials; he didn't have Netflix, and Netflix is the place to be, so it's just wonderful to slide into home plate.