Guy Williams deserves to have nice things said about him.
He has a busy schedule doing stand up as well as working in TV and radio, but he was keen to meet me for an interview after work on Wednesday.
First of all, he was so easy to have a conversation with. He likes to talk about comedy and his career which is obviously exactly what I needed.
“Do you reckon – because the room is loud – that the recorder will pick this up? Should I move it closer to me? I just want to be the star of the show.”
Only occasionally prompted by my questions, Guy took charge of the interview and was so brilliantly honest and talkative. Only after did I start writing this article did I realise I need to do it in two parts. There was so much discussion and it was all worth writing about. Transcribing the interview took a long time, but that can only be considered a good thing. Guy had a lot to say and I found all of it so interesting.
Guy is now preparing for his national tour “Started from the Top and Continued at the Top, Has Had a Very Privileged Upbringing Now We’re Here. Probably Underachieving if Anything”. He will be performing in theatres all over New Zealand including a 700 seat theatre in Christchurch and it’s evident that Guy lives for stand up.
“Different jobs force you into different directions to where you want to go but my dream is to be a comedian who can travel around doing shows in theatres. I’ve done tours before but just in halls and cold hard gigs and this year I’m doing a proper tour in proper theatres. [Deciding to do a national tour] this year was just a natural progression. It’s really fun to try and move forward and that’s the dream.”
“[My main goal is] to get the most laughs and to also get laughs about things that I think are interesting and important as well.”
A familiar theme in this career path, Guy sees comedy as a medium to highlight parts of society that he wants to bring awareness to. Guy talks extensively about issues he wishes to highlight in his material. Along with casual sexism and racism which is fairly prevalent in New Zealand, Guy touches on his concerns with colloquial speech.
“Recently I’ve been quite passionate about the language that people use in New Zealand. On the radio we are censored from saying certain words. And I’m like, “Why are we censored from saying them when they are just part of everyday New Zealand vernacular?” And I guess they’re not part of everyone’s vernacular but I always – on the internet especially – get called a fag and faggot.
In my stand up show I definitely talk about the use of these really offensive words and how in New Zealand we don’t really care. So I do a lot of material joking about how funny it is that in some circles we’ve got to try normalising these highly offensive words.
Even the N word is quite casually used in New Zealand society, not necessarily in a derogatory way always. Fag and faggot are always used in a derogatory way, that’s really common. This [material] is more about exposing ignorance in New Zealand and laughing at it.”
“I don’t necessarily do a good job always but I try [to stand up for things that are important to me].”
Now working in a range of mediums, Guy’s true passion is clearly stand up and his national tour is an exciting step towards his dream of being a touring comic. Of course, he really enjoys working in radio and television but he’s not shy about explaining his original reasoning behind taking those paths and I love his honesty.
“I like doing stand up. My goal is always just to tour and do stand up and one of the reasons I got into TV was because it was a good way to reach a broad audience and advertise yourself. Becoming more famous really helps to get people come along to your comedy shows, so that was the main thinking behind that.”
Incidentally, his step into television years ago was due to an uncomfortable conversation with the producers of a TV show. Since then, his knowledge with working in television has opened his eyes to what goes into a New Zealand-made programme.
“It was a night I was in Auckland to do the competition to be Dai Henwood’s protégé. We were there having a dinner with the producers of the show, but I didn’t really know I was there with the producers and I kind of rubbished the show because I said I wasn’t a fan. They ended up going, “All right, well let’s see you do better” and that’s how I got hired, in a way.
“When you see TV shows you think they are big-budget, flash things. It has made me a little more sensitive to rubbishing stuff now, you don’t realise in New Zealand how small budgets are and how small the teams putting it together are. Often in New Zealand we rubbish things made locally but don’t realise that comparing it to America or Britain is just not fair.”
“I work really hard but I’m really lucky that everything I do is quite fun.”
Nearing the end of our interview when Guy says, “the biggest challenge [in comedy] is being funny,” I’m sceptical. Guy Williams is, of course, incredibly funny. He elaborates.
“Writing funny jokes is hard. And especially now that I do so many things it’s really, really tough to come up with a lot of good material. Stand up is the best because you’re the boss and you’re the only one talking. It’s really hard in the other mediums to share the ball around a little bit and it’s also hard to work in a team, not being able to say whatever you want. In TV and radio you’ve got to really tone it back a lot, there are a lot of things you can’t do or say.”
This discussion over dinner at Tanuki’s Cave was like no interview I’ve ever done. Right from the moment I approached Guy for an interview, I could sense his enthusiasm for talking about comedy in a candid way. He followed through. After half an hour – my longest interview yet – he thanked me for my time, paid for dinner, and offered to drive me home. I can’t say it any more simply, Guy is a stand up guy in more than one way. (Ed. Seriously, Marika? We’ve talked about this. Marika: Shawn, you know I smashed that ending out of the park. Ed. Stop being so smug about it.)
In Talking Comedy – Guy Williams: Part 2 he touches on a number of issues, including his concerns with the media and comedy scenes around the world.