Runaway Comedian

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Katt Williams Remembers The Alamo In Phoenix

By Mark Cromer

What with Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee suddenly finding themselves in a culture today that couldn’t even begin to understand the dangerously nuanced riffs of Lenny Bruce or Dick Gregory [actually, in general anyone under 30 wouldn’t even know who Lenny or Gregory were], I was reminded of this column I wrote in late 2011, about a black cat who stood his ground in the thick of it and in summary did the right thing—he held it. Like a Marine on Iwo Jima, he raised the flag onstage and didn’t let it go.  

Few things inspire more disgust, revulsion, rage and fear (pretty much in that order) among the white liberal elite than a black man or woman that doesn’t parrot their party line, particularly when it comes to matters of race relations and its third-rail of mass immigration and the plethora of issues it involves.

They have grown so comfortably accustomed to a servile adherence to the monotone of their own cultural worldview, one that is rigorously enforced by the media establishment and academia, that any deviation from the roles they’ve conveniently assigned minorities (as well as middle and working class whites) provokes not only high anxiety, but a reflexive impulse to destroy whoever dared to ad-lib.

Katt Williams, the comic who frequently seems to channel the blue streak of Redd Foxx with a potent blend of the eviscerating observational wit of Dick Gregory, surely knew this when he decided to engage a Latino heckler from onstage during a show in Phoenix last week.

But not only did Williams clearly not give a damn if he crossed some ideological fence line—he jumped head-first into the wild sociopolitical crosscurrents of immigration and nationalism with a zest and zeal that revealed a man who is, like most Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, simply fed-up with Mexicans in America declaring their fidelity to Mexico.

And Williams chose Phoenix, which alongside Los Angeles is the most volatile Ground Zero in the immigration debate, to raise Old Glory over the Mexican tri-colors and re-consecrate American sovereignty over the southwest.

In other words: he gleefully committed absolute heresy.

As Williams repeatedly paced laps along the perimeter of the circle stage at the club, he at first seemed intent on offering a relatively benign observation (as far as stand-up comedy is concerned) about Mexican immigration into the United States, playing off the resentful nationalistic machismo that many Mexicans adapt or continue to radiate once in America.

“That’s why I always ask my Mexican friends ‘What do you think of this idea?’ Since ya’ll like it over here a lot…I’m saying it appears to me, you like it over here a lot,” Williams said, meandering to his pseudo-punch line of “If you had California and you loved it, then you shouldn’t have given that [expletive] up.”

And that’s when things start to rapidly heat up, as Williams began directing his observations at a man close to the stage who apparently was wearing his Mexican pride like a loud shirt at the wrong party. The video shows the man jumping to his feet, posturing and shouting something to Williams, who promptly circles back for another round.

“Cause you think I am dissing Mexico and I am defending America. Are you Mexican?” Williams asked, to shouts in the affirmative.

“Do you know where Mexico is?” Williams continued.

A shout can be heard: “This is Mexico!”

“No, this ain’t Mexico! It used to be Mexico…and now it’s Phoenix!” a more animated Williams declared as he jumps into a foot-stomping chant of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” When the man flips Williams the bird, the comic retorted “Yeah, I bet you don’t leave here and go to Mexico.”

Williams then slid into a full-scale, no-holds-barred, expletive-laden rant in which he declared that people living in this country that proclaim their allegiance to another country “better get to steppin’”—a more nuanced but still rather ironic update of the old redneck slogan: ‘America, love it or leave it.’

But Williams’ rap is indeed deeply rooted in fact that blacks long ago declared their fundamental American-ness in part by rejecting the old taunts of white racists that they “go back to Africa” and instead celebrated their citizenship that was paid for in the centuries-old equity of the blood, sweat and tears of their forbearers in this land.

And it is a stake in this country that has been unselfishly replenished by millions of black Americans among each new generation.

It was from this redoubt that Williams issued a stark challenge to his heckler, and presumably to Mexican nationals everywhere in the U.S. that embrace a loyalty to Mexico over this nation.

“So if you love Mexico,” Williams said. “Get the [expletive] over there!”

He then started singing the Star Spangled Banner and much of his audience joined in.

As the video of Williams squaring off with the heckler began to spread, the collective bowel movement from the ideological twin guard towers of liberal elite’s doctrinal orthodoxy on race and culture—the media and ethnocentric groups—was swift and predictable, with the Huffington Post declaring that Williams had suffered a “xenophobic” and “anti-Mexican” meltdown.

Naturally, his brushes with the law were quickly brought up.

There were inevitable comparisons of Williams to Michael Richards’ (who played ‘Kramer’ on Seinfeld) frenzied self-immolation on the stage at The Laugh Factory in late 2006, though Richards mental implosion has virtually no valid similarity to Williams’ rap beyond they both started with comedians on a stage going after hecklers.

Richards diatribe had no real point, let alone a joke or a laugh. It was just dead-end rage.

Though Williams heavily freighted his verbal onslaught with an overload of expletives, his indulgence of 110-proof street lingo wasn’t enough to conceal or sink his boiling point, which he defiantly pursued a little louder and longer with each lap around the stage in Phoenix. But Williams was also clear that he was riffing on a common American frustration and went so far as to point out that he was defending America, not attacking Mexicans.

But the video also captures something that undoubtedly unnerves the politically correct wing of the Left far more than Williams’ fearless barrage: the reaction from what appears to be the ethnically diverse audience, which seemed to be packed with many Latinos cheering him on.

From the wild cheers to the chants of ‘U.S.A!’ to the national anthem sing-along, it was enough of even a momentary outburst of American nationalism to send shivering pause down the spine of a liberal elite that has long peddled in the dangerous currency of ethnic grievance and division.

Of course, most clear-thinking people familiar with the long and proud history of American Latinos that for centuries have fought, bled and died defending this country alongside whites, blacks and Asians would hardly be surprised that Williams exasperated riff drew cheers.

Yet for the strident pan-Latino nationalists who encourage immigrants to remain loyal to their home countries—and none more so than Mexico—and who have demanded that fourth, fifth and sixth generation Chicanos declare the primacy of their Mexican heritage over their own American identity lest they be reviled as ‘coconuts’ (brown on the outside, white on the inside), the specter of Williams prowling that stage and the audience’s reaction was enough to provoke stunningly poisonous attacks on the comic and his blackness, threats against his career as well as vitriolic rebukes of the cheering crowd.

But since Williams is indeed black and seems at times an amalgamation of Jimi Hendrix meets Don King meets Stokley Carmichael meets Flip Wilson meets Filmore Slim; the white liberal elite and the more mainstream Latino ethnocentric organizations can’t deal him quite the same cards they’d lay on the table if a white guy had said it.

They’ve sternly denounced Williams’ comments, but their condemnations are salted with patronizing caveats (warnings) that he can offer recompense by refocusing his inner-Black Panther on the “common enemy” of the dreaded, evil, colonizing oppressor. Or more plainly: white people.

Not that Williams has ever hesitated to mock or ridicule some white people’s behavior (along with virtually every other ethnic group in this country); they just feel more comfortable if he sticks to that routine—to their act—and not run his own playbook.

Liberals love to use the cliché of “speaking truth to power,” that is until the truth-teller is staring them in the face.

Now as we head into the 2012 presidential election, an unapologetic and self-declared All-American pimp takes the stage in Phoenix and unexpectedly gives voice to the righteous frustration American citizens all across the nation are feeling and in a manner that, at its very core, is as unvarnished Red, White & Blue as it gets.

Katt Williams at long last indignantly shouted what the Democrat and Republican leadership combined lack the cajones to even whisper.

Back in 1980, as another crowd chanted ‘U.S.A! U.S.A!,’ it was ABC’s Al Michaels who famously pondered aloud “Do you believe in miracles?”

The dusty sprawl of Phoenix is a long way from Lake Placid, New York, but you better believe that Williams’ rough-edged rant restored a measure of faith among the millions of Americans that have now heard him.

While not miraculous, Katt Williams in Phoenix certainly got a vast chorus of ‘Amen!’

This column was first published in Noozhawk.