Katt Williams' "Great America Tour" brings 5000 plus to Verizon Arena | Rock Candy

Katt Williams' "Great America Tour" brings 5000 plus to Verizon Arena

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Katt Williams is a professional comedian.

He wears a suit for the 5276 who attended his show at Verizon Arena on Saturday; it is green and glittery.

He does research on where he plays, opening his set with ten or fifteen minutes of location-specific jokes, the best being that he thought he was staying in a nice hotel because it was named the Ritz. Aside from that introduction, his jokes revolve around things that everyone can understand: food, the body, the weather, race, love (well, sex, anyway).

He gets laughs in Little Rock and Ohio and New York and Stockholm, and he's been doing it for 20 plus years.

Along with four openers who stretched the "Great America Tour" over a rollicking two and a half hours at Verizon Arena on Saturday night, Katt Williams is here to entertain you on your terms. You paid to be happy — that's the promise of comedy — and Williams is here to deliver.

And, in 2017, that's almost surprising.

Alt-leaning comedy has been making mainstream stand-up more intimate, self-effacing and conversational since at least the 1990s. But, when comedy becomes personal it also becomes, well, personal. It's for you and people like you. Comedy nerds debate whether doing stand-up in a coffeehouse is doing stand-up at all. Meanwhile, thirteen-year-olds are on Instagram watching a panda yawn and dying of laughter. Combine this with a comedy boom across platforms like YouTube, Netflix, podcasts and whatever-new-medium-I-haven't-heard-of — all of which are cumulatively redefining what it means to even be a "comedian." Even professional comedians have been customized; designed to please a small but devoted audience. Still, there are few you can imagine reaching one of the former pinnacles of comedy: playing a stadium like Verizon Arena.

That's probably a good thing. Small rooms for comedy have become almost fetishized, and rightly so; comedy becomes a little strange at the distance of a basketball game. For humor to work in a stadium setting, a comedian's artistic creativity sometimes has to employ business-like efficiency. (And, this is a business, especially because a slew of legal troubles means Williams needs to get paid.)

What makes 5,000 people laugh is not always nuanced.

For example, Chalant, the first opener, strides onto the stage with music; kicking off the show by fist pumping and running around — getting the audience excited. When he begins, some of jokes go towards old tropes: white people are like this and black people are like that; women are like this and men are like that; etc. That basic riff continued through all the openers (and through his set, too). The second performer, Cory "Zooman" Miller, stuck to impressions, while Mark Curry — famously of the sitcom "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" — did not stray far from the subject of "women."

When the jokes worked, though, they worked; seeing an unabashedly professional comedian able to bring together the broad interests of a diverse audience into a tightly congealed moment was exhilarating.

For example, when a song blared through the stadium mid-joke as a punchline, Williams pretended the microphone was his penis. It was not a laugh born of nuance; it was vaudeville and big and, yes, funny. Looking back, I could pretend it didn't work — I could be the critic above it all. But, people loved it. They were happy.

At the end of the set, he listed a series of reasons sex was good; stringing the motto "do more fucking" around them like tinsel on a tree. Elaborating these reasons often involved Williams pantomiming sex on stage. And, you know what, that worked too. It turns out that 5,000 people like jokes about sex. Who knew?

The way we've over conflated comedy with philosophy or politics has, at times, pushed out the pure enjoyment of certain figures and styles, and William's set Saturday night proved that there's still a place for comedy with big, broad appeal, comedy that connects you — the person laughing — to thousands of other people around you doing the same thing.

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