Q&A: Brad Williams
There’s more than one reason why Brad Williams is one of the fastest-rising comedians in the business these days, but the most obvious factor is his schedule. He’s always on the road, which means he’s always onstage and you’re always laughing. “When I’m home, my suitcase is always open at the end of my bed,” says the 34-year-old Southern Californian. “People come in and ask, ‘Are you going somewhere? Did you just get back?’ The answer is always yes. So when is the tour done? I don’t know, when I die? The tour is never done.” And he wouldn’t have it any other way. His travels will bring him to Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend shows at Red Rock Resort on Feb. 1-2 and Williams is looking forward to capitalizing on the wild energy coming to town.
You had a lot of success with the Netflix special The Degenerates, which was filmed in Las Vegas. Has Vegas been a consistent stop for you?
Oh yeah, for my whole career. I started coming to the Palms when it was doing the Playboy comedy (shows) but even before that, my first gig was at the Comedy Stop at the Trop, a weeklong run doing two shows a night. I didn’t get paid that much and I had to eat in the employee dining room. But the Palms was really when I started coming to Vegas regularly. There’s even a room there under the Pearl Theater called the Brad Williams room. The ceiling is about four feet high. Whenever I would come, they would decorate it, put a cushion and a rug and a lamp in there. It’s like my dressing room, but that’s because I’m the only one who fits in it. Until Peter Dinklage starts touring, I’m the only person that can use that room.
This time you’re at the Red Rock. Do you like performing off the Strip?
I like Red Rock because it seems like that’s the locals casino. They get a lot of tourists but it’s really the place where locals go. If tourists come to see me, that’s awesome, but sometimes in Vegas you’ll get an audience of people who were just walking around and weren’t even looking for comedy, or they don’t know who you are and thought they were going to see Bob Newhart. I need people who know what they’re getting into.
Stand-up comedy is having a weird moment right now. It seems like every week there’s a headline about a comedian doing or saying something offensive. You talk a lot in your act about being politically correct and people getting offended. Have you received negative feedback because of a joke?
It happened last week. I was doing a show and there was a female dwarf in the audience and I was making jokes about her. She is laughing and I am laughing and I’m doing dwarf jokes. And there are some other people who are just, ‘Oh my God, this is just wrong.’ But why are you getting upset? I don’t get it. The two people that should be offended are not, so you have permission to laugh. That’s the way the world is right now, everyone is clutching the pearls and just looking for something to piss them off or go on Twitter and be a social justice warrior.
That’s why I like Vegas. It’s still what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. It’s still that town you can go and really let loose, drink, have a one-night stand and listen to a midget tell you filthy jokes. That stuff hasn’t really invaded Vegas yet, not that I’ve seen.
You got your start when you went to a TV taping for Carlos Mencia’s Mind of Mencia show and he pulled you onstage. Were you thinking of a career in comedy before that?
I was always a performer. In high school, I was in an improv troupe and did plays and musicals, so I was always trying to do it, but I never thought it was a career. I didn’t know how you become a stand-up comic. I thought someone called you in, the vice president of entertainment, to his office and said, "Congratulations, you’re a stand-up comic." Then I started getting into it and saw you have to start doing open-mic shows for drunks that were there to have a beer and someone says it’s time for the comedy and they get bad, and you slowly make your way up. If you can make people laugh who are not expecting a show, the rest is a cakewalk.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
There are the three that are just a given: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce. There is no stand-up comedy as we know it without those three individuals. But I was a huge fan of Robin Williams and his energy. I loved Robin because if you don’t like a joke, wait 20 seconds and you’re going to get another one. And then Christopher Titus, his first special, Norman Rockwell is Bleeding, that was eye-opening to me. It taught me you could get serious and talk about things that are painful and dark in your life, as long as you hit them with a good punchline in the end. And nowadays, Bill Burr, Jim Jefferies, and I’ve always loved Joan Rivers.
How long have you been doing the About Last Night podcast with Adam Ray?
About four years, so we’re over 400 episodes. I’m going to continue with that, continue touring like a madman because a lot of people watched the Netflix special, thankfully. If I’m not in your town, wait a few months, I’ll be there. I have some TV appearances planned this year, too. I’m having a lot of fun right now and the fans have been incredible, so I’m going to keep giving them what they want. All I ever wanted to be was a touring headlining comedian. If I can do that, any TV show or movie is great, but as long as I get to keep doing this, it’s all just to fuel the stand-up.