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Wendy Williams ventures into stand-up comedy in St. Petersburg

Wendy Williams, 50, will bring her hot topics to St. Petersburg Saturday night in the first stop of her 12-city "sit down" comedy tour at the Mahaffey Theater. [Mahaffey Theater]
Wendy Williams, 50, will bring her hot topics to St. Petersburg Saturday night in the first stop of her 12-city "sit down" comedy tour at the Mahaffey Theater. [Mahaffey Theater]
Published Jul. 17, 2015

The funniest people on TV rely on rooms full of writers to workshop jokes until they come up with enough gold to fuel memes for days.

Talk show host Wendy Williams relies on Wendy Williams.

"I don't do knock-knock jokes. I also don't have joke writers. When people watch my show, what they see is my authenticity," Williams explained in a phone interview with the Times.

She'll bring that off the cuff humor to St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater Saturday night in the first stop of her 12-city "sit down" comedy tour.

"I travel with whole sets filled with glamorous furniture," she said. "I'm not just standing there behind a microphone. That's boring. I don't do boring."

It's been a year since Williams began doing stand up. Her husband threw her a lavish birthday party with celebrity guests including Doug E. Fresh and Chaka Khan. After the champagne and confetti, her husband/manager, Kevin, asked her what was the one thing she wanted to do that she hadn't already tried.

"Why?" she asked him. "I'm not about to die. I'm just 50."

Still, she'd been told she was funny ever since she was a child growing up in New Jersey and throughout her storied career as one of New York's most popular morning radio hosts. Williams took that humor with her to daytime television in 2008 as the host of The Wendy Williams Show. The only place she hadn't tried it out was the stage.

"So, I think I'm going to do stand up," she said. "Let's get a seedy nightclub with maybe 50 people. My debut was a sold out show at the Venetian in Vegas that ended with a standing ovation."

The "sit down" comedy tour is Williams' second time traveling as a stand up — she's been coached on pacing and timing by veteran comic Luenell and is leaving the rest up to the day.

"I won't know until maybe a day or two before the show what we're talking about," she said. "I study pop culture. Around the show, they call me the professor of pop culture."

Don't expect "Hot Topics" live.

Williams said she talks about everything from things currently going on the media to universal experiences every fan can relate to.

"Like, have you every had your kid walk in on you when you're having sex? Let's talk about it. What about being a woman of particular age in a young world? What people can expect is that kind of stuff. We'll have ourselves a glass of wine or something stronger and get into it."

St. Petersburg became the first stop of the tour purely by happenstance. Williams was scheduled to come to HSN and shoot four hours to sell her line of clothing and accessories available through the network.

"My husband said, 'It's up to you. It's your birthday. You can go rest after if you want or you can schedule a show,'" Williams said. "What better way to celebrate my birthday that being on stage in front of fans?"

She'll be leaving her sensible wrap dresses and cardigans at HSN and showing off some of her old school Wendy-style when she takes the stage. Her DJ from her studio show will hype the crowd into a frenzy before she walks onto her set dressed to thrill.

"I definitely think that people who only watch the TV show don't know the real me," she said. "The real Wendy loves things a bit shorter and bit tighter. I also love razzle dazzle."