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LAist Interview: Comedian Doug Williams

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Comedian Doug Williams is co-creator and host of "Martin Lawrence Presents: 1st Amendment Standup" which airs at 10:00pm on Wednesdays (tonight) on Starz.

Williams has been doing standup for coming on 20 years and has been a fixture in Hollywood since '95 after appearing in Eddie Murphy's version of "The Nutty Professor". After coming up with the idea for "1st Amendment Standup" and a co-producer in Martin Lawrence, the show presents authentic, late-night comedians in a comedy club setting - this is in contrast to the circus atmosphere of shows like "Last Comic Standing" and over-produced comic specials set in enormous theaters with obnoxious and unnecessary sets cluttering the stages.

Tonight's episode features comedians Carmen Barton, Shang, Joey Medina, and Grady. Laist had a chance to talk to show co-creator and host Doug Williams:

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LAist: Tell us what's different about "Martin Lawrence Presents: 1st Amendment Standup" as compared to other comic showcases currently on TV.

Doug Williams: What we do that makes "Martin Lawrence Presents" special is we present everybody: white, black, Latino, male, female. You also get to see the comedian as you would see them at a comedy club. A lot of the time when you see a comedian on TV you see the comedian do a television oriented set, it's scaled down from what they would actually do at a comedy club - but we actually bring their comedy club act to your living room. It's what you see if you actually went to a club.

Another thing we try to do is keep the show simple, a throwback: the microphone, the comedian, and the audience.

LAist: How involved is Martin Lawrence with the show?

Doug Williams: He's very involved, and very passionate about it - he's at just about all the tapings, he gets up and addresses the audience and he knows everything that's going on. The show is taped in what is essentially his hometown this season.

He also wanted to give back to comedians, he wanted to provide a place to give people a chance, to give me a chance, and all these great comedians and bring attention to them, sort of the way that Def Jam did back in the '90s.

You're not going to see these comedians on prime time television or on these other showcases. We wanted to provide America the opportunity to see these underground comedians.

LAist: What does being involved in a show like this do for you and your comedy?

Doug Williams: It really helps me get my name out there, gives me some great exposure. It has been so helpful in enhancing my career to work on this, to work with Martin, and to work with these talented comics.

LAist: What else do you have going on right now?

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Doug Williams: I've got a show that we shot the pilot for, "Domestic Doug", and then we've got the 1st Amendment Comedy Tour that will probably be hitting the road at the beginning of '09.

LAist: How do you feel about "Last Comic Standing"? How do you feel about combining reality programming with standup? Does this show really help standup?

Doug Williams: I have mixed feelings about this show. I think a show like that doesn't focus on how good a standup comedian is or what kind of experience they bring to a club. It seems to be more about casting than it is about talent. People who might have a really great look or have a great fit for a TV show are what that show is about - the emphasis isn't about talent. It's a political show, I think the best season that show had was when they had comedians, not comedic actors, but actual comedians pick the talent in that show.

With "1st Amendment" we go with the funny - we don't care what anyone looks like or how they dress. We're about the realism and what it's really like in the club.

It's important for Hollywood to realize that there's a multitude of talent out there that doesn't fit the Hollywood mode of what is acceptable in this town. If you look back at Bernie Mack or Cedric the Entertainer or Tyler Perry. They had to make the noise outside of Hollywood that Hollywood could not ignore it and they were forced to open the doors and let them in. The powers that be in Hollywood have no idea about this whole other world. Just because they're not used to it, it doesn't mean that it doesn't have the same value as the people that fit into their mold.

They need to open up the door and be open-minded to everybody.

Pic via