Comedian Harland Williams’ first, and perhaps most iconic, film role as an unfortunate state trooper in the film “Dumb and Dumber” featured a quirk he’d practiced on stage.
After drinking from a beer bottle supposedly containing Jim Carrey’s urine, Williams’ face grotesquely warps to the right, and he begins clicking like a dolphin – something he’d done in front of the film’s directors as part of a gag spoofing Whitney Houston.
“The Farrely brothers (directors of the movie) had seen me do the bit at the comedy club, and during one of the takes, they said ‘Do your dolphin noise,’” Williams said this week from his home in Los Angeles. “And I said, where? Why? And how? And they said, ‘I don’t know, just do it.’”
The 54-year-old performer, who enjoyed cameo fame in films of the 1990s such as “Dumb and Dumber,” “Half-Baked,” and another Bobby and Peter Farrelly film, “There’s Something About Mary,” will bring his stand-up to the Spokane Comedy Club this weekend. Williams said he’s more often recognized on the street for roles like the gagging policeman than his stand-up specials, which aired on Comedy Central around the same time.
“I don’t know why my little moments in those movies like ‘There’s Something about Mary’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ but people not only know them, they’ve memorized every line,” Williams said. “And they come up to me, and they rehearse them, they play them back to me. They know them better than I do, and it blows my mind.”
Williams grew up in Canada perfecting his zany and physical comedic style in front of a mirror.
“I knew, from when I was a little kid, I was one of those idiots who stood in front of the mirror for hours and listened to the radio, and twisted my face up and made goofy faces, and contorted my body,” Williams said. “I knew, interacting with my friends, for some reason I was just better at getting the laugh than they were.”
This weekend’s trip will be the first to Spokane for the comic, he said. But don’t expect him to take in any Gonzaga basketball while he’s here.
“This may sound weird, don’t take it the wrong way – I’ve never watched one college basketball game in my whole life,” Williams said. “I don’t know the name of one team. I know more about ovarian cancer than I do about college basketball.”
Williams said as he tours, he often picks up the local lore from cab drivers and fans, something he expects to do during his performances in Spokane. He found out Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh when he performed there, and had a few drinks at the bar where Jack Kerouac held court while performing in San Francisco.
At a gig outside of New York, Williams said he was slated to perform in a club attached to a mall. When he arrived, he noticed some grave stones along an embankment next to the club and asked the driver about them.
“He goes, ‘Oh yeah, the mall was built on an Indian gravesite,’ and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Williams said. “Suddenly I’m doing a show on ‘Poltergeist IV.’ I was terrified. That was fun.”
Williams takes the stage during a strange time in comedy, as different performers have to figure out how to please an audience with a potentially deep political divide. Picking on both sides and keeping the tone light has helped Williams connect with audiences, he said, but the Canadian comic also said he’d seen a disappointing lack of willingness to speak about politics when he turns the mic around to the crowd.
“It was really sad to see that people were afraid to say who they were voting for, and it really broke my heart,” Williams said. “I thought, this is America, this is the land of quote-unquote free, and the elections are the democratic process which keeps it free, and I would ask people in the crowd who they were voting for and not one person would put their hand up for Trump. Even though I knew, in a room of 300-400 people, there had to be people.”
While Williams is aware that many of the people who’ll come to see him know him from his movie roles, they shouldn’t expect to see much of that in his on-stage performance.
“I think people get kind of overwhelmed, you know, movies are so powerful,” he said. “When you get that imagery in your head, it kind of sits there. So I don’t mind it at all, if it brings people out to see me and lets me expose my comedy to them, it’s great.”
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