Katt Williams, an Ohio native who now lives in Los Angeles, seems to put a certain song to the lie. It’s hard out there for a pimp? Williams makes pimpin’ look easy. The man is not only an actor, a comedian, and a rapper, he’s a businessman, with diverse companies such as Kattpack Records, Kattpack Investments, and a clothing company, Secret Pimp Society. He has played a pimp in cartoon form in The Boondocks, and in such films as Friday After Next and Norbit.
It isn’t that he’s been a victim of typecasting; he brings the persona on stage with him by choice. His first standup show was titled The Pimp Chronicles Part I; his audio CD was called Pimpin’ Pimpin’ and he even has a ringtone for sale called Pimp Phone Ringing.
Katt Williams’ latest standup DVD is called It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’. It begins with the comedian strolling out onstage with “Secret Pimp Society” spelled out in glittering letters across his coat. The message and the glitter is echoed in a matching belt buckle. And in case anyone thinks that’s all a joke, the joke’s on them. Williams, a gifted intellect who won a full science scholarship at age 12, is nobody’s cliche. To Mr. Williams, the word "pimp," put into practise, means a man who has no boss and lives life his way. He may have a diamond watch and matching pinky ring; a walking stick and a velvet coat; but those surface trappings do not confine or define him any more than Groucho Marx’s greasepaint mustache or Harpo's wig did for them. It’s entertainment, born of truth but not the sum total of a human being. There’s something more to Katt Williams — a man building an empire based upon his intelligence and his comedic talent.
Those deeper aspects show in various ways. It isn’t everyone who would choose to adopt seven children and raise them as a single father. Williams has a child from his former marriage, and adopted seven more from foster care. He speaks out for the need children in foster care have to find adoptive homes: "There are needy children right down the street,” he’s said. But when he’s on stage, the serious is wrapped into comedic routines so sweet one hardly even notices the vitamin it’s wrapped around.
And the routines are sweet. Katt Williams is a funny man. In It’s Pimpin’ Pimpin’ he sends up the eight year search for Osama bin Laden: “…eight years for the tall one, with the dialysis, lived in a cave…”, the recent elections, and of course GWB’s tenure as Commander in Chief. He doesn’t mention Sarah Palin, but he has some funny things to say about John McCain (of course, this standup concert was filmed before the elections). Joking that McCain is “a hundred and eleven,” he mimics McCain: “What is your last name? I think I used to own your grandfather.” About Barack Obama, he wonders aloud “where they found” him. “He’s been running for two years, there isn’t a baby mama, he doesn’t have a pit bull puppy, he doesn’t owe anybody $200. He’s a black superhero. I believe he can fly…” He asks “white people” to “give us a minute to be proud” and points out that every past President and every Vice President has been “white white white white, white white white white.”
Race is something that’s mentioned here and there in his act, but it isn’t a dividing point within it, but just another topic for his humorous observations. Speaking of President George W. Bush, the comedian says that “white people” will let someone drive the wrong way for hours, without saying a thing about it, but “with black people, you make two suspect left turns and your (bleep) is out the car.” It’s a metaphor for the way this country has been going, and tells us how Williams feels about who has been in charge so far. The comedian has a way of bringing abstract concepts into focus through everyday metaphors.
Another major theme is the importance of being proactive and attentive for the dire times up ahead. He points out the difference between “real” people and those who only want their money, and care nothing about the lives they profit from. "If you are real, they can't stand you. They hate the way you think, the way you dress, they hate everything about you. You have to look out for your star player in 2008.” By way of illustration he offers up the cavalier way new pharmaceuticals are put on the market and touted as “the best pill ever” — only to place a quiet, late-night ad a few months later: “Have you or a loved one been killed by our drug? Call 1-800-OUR-BADD.” That’s a topic right up my alley; anyone who’s looked into the standards lately will have some serious alarm bells going off. It isn’t easy to make serious matters funny and entertaining and light-hearted but Mr. Williams pulls it off.
The actor/comedian’s command of physicality is one of his strengths as an entertainer, and he gives that no shrift here. Whether acting out his tips for lovemaking, or steroid musclemen posturing, or Barry Bonds playing baseball, or playing Wii tennis while high on vaporised marijuana, or even his own motorcycle accident, his vibrant energy and precise pantomiming add life and dimension to each story he tells. Throughout all this he reminds us repeatedly of the necessity of laughter. “Get every laugh you can,” he advises. He advises he tries to get at least seven good laughs a day, “even at things I’m not supposed to.” He recounts how he roared with laughter watching the FLDS wives on TV. Then, he re-enacts parts of that story, set to the Little House on the Prairie theme song.
Perhaps the most brilliant bit in the whole evening is Katt Williams’ tiger story. The true story of a mauling at the San Francisco Zoo was another thing he admits he laughed out loud at, “whether he was supposed to or not.” He points out the reasons why grown people should not be climbing into a tiger’s cage at the zoo. Then, like Richard Pryor with his animal stories, Katt becomes the tigers – proud, wild things robbed of their dignity, locked in a semblance of their real environment, talking about what they’d do if someone “ever, ever” stepped into their cage; their glee when it actually happens; and then getting to behave like an actual tiger for once, instead of a stuffed animal at the mall. That Williams compares the tigers’ lot to the lot of a “black man in America” adds another layer to the story, and the hilariously funny suddenly becomes sobering, and poignant as well. If anyone thinks racism is over simply because Obama is the President-elect, listen to Williams' account of the Flavor Flav Comedy Central roast.
Self worth is a major theme in all of his standup shows, and he exhorts us all, repeatedly, to be good to ourselves. This man may point out sharp delineations between segments of society but he's the observer of same, not the creator of it. The message he practically sweats himself off stage repeating is "love yourself." At the core of his very comedic entertainment is nothing less than a message for the inherent dignity of the human being. There’s a lot woven into this concert to make a person think, if they’re paying attention. Katt Williams is certainly paying attention — and it’s relaxing as well as entertaining to watch him tell us just exactly what he’s observed.
It's Pimpin' Pimpin' is dedicated "in loving memory of Pimp C, 1973-2007." The title is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and contains the concert itself, a scene selection menu, and a bonus featurette of Katt Williams meeting and greeting fans in "the other D.C." in and around Ben's Chili Bowl. Opening and closing songs by Katt Williams and other artists from Kattpack Records.