Q&A: “Chicago’s Own” Comedian Damon Williams

August 9, 2014
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NDIGO.COM: Are you a native of Chicago?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Yes. I’m a born and raised Southsider, originally from Englewood; 6618 S. Greenwood. I went to Dumas Elementary.

NDIGO.COM: Where did you grow up?

DAMON WILLIAMS: We “moved on up” to the Beverly neighborhood in 1973.  My mom bought a house on Winston, just off Ashland.  She’s still there.  I attended Wendell E. Green and then St. Margaret, until my parents’ divorce, then back to public school.

NDIGO.COM: Were you a funny kid?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Somewhat, but not overly so.  I’ve always enjoyed humor.

NDIGO.COM: How did you get started in Comedy?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Open mic night at “All Jokes Aside” (see documentary Phunny Business: A Black Comedy now on Showtime)

NDIGO.COM: Who are some of the Chicago comedians that shared the stage with you when you began?

DAMON WILLIAMS: George Willborn was in the room when I first touched a mic. This was at the original “Close Up” piano bar.  The next day, he took me to “All Jokes Aside.”

NDIGO.COM: What comedians do you admire?

DAMON WILLIAMS: George (Willborn) obviously.  He was the man as house MC, at “All Jokes Aside.” Bernie Mac, because he always stayed true to himself.  Even on his sitcom, he dressed, spoke and played music like a true Chi-town brother.  Also, Adele Givens.  She was the host the first night at “All Jokes Aside” and she’s the same Adele to this day.  Lastly, the late James Hannah and many others.

NDIGO.COM: What do you think is your secret to comedic success?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Dedication.  I told my mama a long time ago, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”  That was over 21 yrs ago and I stuck to it.

NDIGO.COM: What do you think about the comedy club scene here in Chicago?

DAMON WILLIAMS: I like the direction it’s headed.  I see a mixing of cultures.  In our day, there were white clubs and NO clubs.  Black comics either had to conform to work white rooms or create places to entertain black audiences. Now, the black comics can go to the Northside and suburbs and work for diverse audiences, but with cultural integrity.  Nowadays, a few white and other ethnic types work the Southside rooms, especially “Jokes and Notes” where owner Mary Lindsey embraces that trend

NDIGO.COM: What do you think sets you apart from other comedians?

DAMON WILLIAMS: My comfort with myself.  I just “do me” with confidence and it seems to be working.  Each comic has a unique quality.  It takes time, experience and confidence to find it.

NDIGO.COM: Tell me about your experience with the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” doing the hilariously funny ‘Seriously Ignorant News.’

DAMON WILLIAMS: It has been a blessing and a goal of mine to be associated with Tom Joyner.  He’s the biggest name in black radio and I grew up listening to him since his early days at WJPC 950 AM radio.  He has a loyal and expansive listenership in over 100 markets and anywhere from 8 to 10 million people tune in.  That’s better than most network tv shows and any cable tv show.  It’s a no brainer.  My weekly feature ‘Seriously Ignorant News’ has caught on with them. More importantly, I believe it’s one of Mr. Joyner’s favorites.

NDIGO.COM: You also performed on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.”  What was that experience like?

DAMON WILLIAMS: It was anti-climatic.  I got on the revamped “Def Comedy Jam” in 2007. Although it was a good thing, it wasn’t like the original series when Martin (Lawrence) hosted.  It launched the whole black comedy scene and some of the biggest names in black comedy. BET’S “Comicview” was a bigger deal for me.  I did it in 1994 with Cedric “The Entertainer” as host.  That show “put me on” in this business.

NDIGO.COM: I recently interviewed George Willborn, another Chicago comedian, and he mentioned you as one of the comedians he admires, but he added that you’re under-rated. Tell me about your friendship with George.

DAMON WILLIAMS: As I mentioned, we met the first day I did comedy.  He’s actually my first cousin.  We just weren’t raised by our dads, who are brothers, so we’d never met.  We were inseparable early in my career and have recently joined forces again after having some “real life” take place in the interim.

NDIGO.COM: If I asked George to describe you, what would he say?  How would you describe George?

DAMON WILLIAMS: The first thing he would mention, I’m pretty sure, is my business sense.  I attacked comedy as a business.  George is indescribable.  He’s a true original.  He speaks his mind and lives by faith, something he calls “the flow.”  He taught me early on that if you submit to the flow, with full conviction, all that God has for you will come your way.  He was right!

NDIGO.COM: People may not know, but you’ve done some acting gigs in film as well.  You were in two independent film projects, Past Due and I Used To Love Her.  Is acting something that you would like to further explore?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Actually I’m full on into acting.  As we speak, I’m in the midst of several more Indies (independent films) including lead roles in True Grace by Tavores Johnson and another project by a Brooklyn-born director, Brigid Turner, who I met years ago at “All Jokes Aside.”  I completed Hate…Love by King B and Sex Ain’t Love by Will Adams.  Adele Givens plays my wife.  Now, how’s that for full circle?  “The flow” in full effect.

NDIGO.COM: Are there any other talents that you have that the public may not know about?

DAMON WILLIAMS: In the late eighties I used to rap.  I had a single produced by Grammy award nominee Steve “Silk” Hurley called “Don’t bite the dust.”

NDIGO.COM: You have avoided negative publicity, the typical comedic antics and have managed to stay out of the tabloids.  What’s your secret?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Common sense.  My mother always said, “When you see trouble, go the other way.”

NDIGO.COM: Are you currently on the road?

DAMON WILLIAMS: ALWAYS!  I have to work extra hard to secure my fan base.  I don’t have an agent or manager and never have, so I have to hustle until my career reaches a higher level.  The TJMS (Tom Joyner Morning Show) is valuable in boosting my visibility and relevance.

NDIGO.COM: What do you want people to know most about you?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Not much, mind your own business. (haha)  I’m a father and a family man.  I love my Mama, my Pops, siblings and Juanita my lady.

NDIGO.COM: You just recently had a gig at the Velvet Room here in Chicago, about a week ago. How did it turn out?

DAMON WILLIAMS: We had a blast.  It was the owner Kenny Johnson’s birthday.  Comedian Stick was the hilarious host.  He’s one to watch out for.

NDIGO.COM: Is there any comedian that you would love to work with, either in a comedy set, television show or in movies.

DAMON WILLIAMS: Eddie Murphy first and foremost.  I’ve worked with most of the other folks I wanted to work with, including The Kings of Comedy, Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, George Wallace, J. Anthony Brown, Rickey Smiley and Sinbad.  Eddie (Murphy), Martin (Lawrence) and Bill Cosby are still on my list.

NDIGO.COM: What’s next for Damon in entertainment?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Always Stand up (comedy).  I am about to do a comedy album. Yes, I said album.  A label approached me and I accepted.  There are a vast number of outlets for comedy audio.  It can be a continuous lucrative revenue stream, all without me catching a flight and doing a show.  Then there’s gonna be more acting and more radio.  I have a weekly talk show on urbanbroadcastmedia.com, Wednesdays at 2 pm Central, that I could see becoming a tv show.  My crew is bananas; comedians Kevin Williams and Just Nesh (Tanesha Rice) and super- producer Tasha keep it lively.

NDIGO.COM: You are a powerhouse of talent and although you are under-rated, you have had a chance to work with or host events with some of the biggest stars including Aretha, Patti, Luther, James Brown, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx and President Obama?  Tell me about some of these experiences and what it meant to you.

DAMON WILLIAMS: Memories.  There are more names that I could add to that list like Anita Baker, Ron Isley, R Kelly, Dick Gregory, New Edition, Michael Buble´ and Chaka Khan.  All legendary folk, but I’m no name dropper.  I’ve found the bigger they are the more humble.  Harry Belafonte is legendary.  I once opened for him, but the promoter hadn’t cleared it with him.  So he personally told me before the show that I would get paid regardless, but he wanted to set the promoter straight for not following protocol.  I went on to perform that night.  I was touched by the fact he didn’t send a member of his entourage to tell me, he came himself.  A class act!

NDIGO.COM: Now going way back, you appeared on the “Jenny Jones” talk show. That appearance sparked something for you at the House of Blues.  Can you tell me about that?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Jenny is a former comic.  She did Stand Up on Star Search She was looking to lighten things up on her show.  This was when (Jerry) Springer was having all those fights on his show.  A guest on Jenny’s show actually killed another guest because he revealed he had a secret crush on a male guest, so Jenny wanted a comedian on her show.  I landed the job.  With that exposure, I was able to convince H.O.B. to let me produce comedy shows, something they had never done.  Those shows became legendary, including the “Capricorn Comedy” bashes.

NDIGO.COM: On Saturday, August 9, 2014, you are scheduled to host “An Evening With Chaka Khan” at the Chicago Theater. There will be a special performance by Syleena Johnson & ZZAJE.  All of you are Chicago natives. How does it feel to have an entire ensemble of Chicago performers, performing at the Chicago Theater?

DAMON WILLIAMS: EPIC! I’ve done some video work with Syleena and I almost opened a fish franchise with her dad.  He was a blues man who made the song “Fine Brown Frame.”  He used to own Solomon’s Fisheries. Chaka is Chaka!

NDIGO.COM: This event is celebrating the 5 year Anniversary of the “Red Pump Project.” Do you have any involvement with this project?

DAMON WILLIAMS: I just became familiar with them for this event but look forward to a relationship HIV/AIDS is their cause and still a big problem in our community

NDIGO.COM: Is there anything that we haven’t covered, that you would like to cover?

DAMON WILLIAMS: My kids, Damon and Kristiana, are super talented.  Look up April Fools. They were recently featured on the cover of the RedEye 

NDIGO.COM: Do you have a website?

DAMON WILLIAMS: FACEBOOK! www.DamonWilliamsComedy.com is under construction. It got hacked by a porn site.

NDIGO.COM: Do you have any other upcoming shows or projects that you would like the public to know about?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Look for me to appear again on The Talk on CBS and The Real on Fox, with my friend Loni Love.  Also, I am bringing back “Funny First Saturdays”, my long running comedy series.  It will resume at the Holiday Inn Matteson (IL) starting October 4,2014.  My 16th Annual Damon Williams New Years Eve comedy bash will be held at the Star Plaza Theater, Merrillville, IN.

NDIGO.COM: What do you think about the growing shootings and violence here in Chicago?

DAMON WILLIAMS: It’s tragic and needs to be reduced, if not eliminated.

NDIGO.COM: What do you think is the cause of this horrific situation?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Economic disparity.  We have a whole generation of youth with no opportunity or hope, caused by the systemic exclusion of minorities in Chicago and the US for a piece of the pie.  Also, inadequate education and immoral values, which is promoted through music and other avenues, combined with easy access to guns and drugs.  This contributes to the breakdown of family structure, with a disproportionate amount of males being incarcerated, leaving ill-equipped women to try to raise boys to men.



NDIGO.COM: What do you think is the solution?

DAMON WILLIAMS: Reverse those trends, save the next generation… and prayer.

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