Fatherhood, dreams and the road less traveled

This week we sat down with local comedian, Jr Williams, to discuss fatherhood, and his swiftly thriving career as a stand-up comic. Williams saunters casually into the Blind Squirrel in flip-flops and a big easy grin that just instantly sets you at ease.

The conversation begins immediately without hesitation or awkward pause, and you understand why Williams is so appealing. Hailing from Flint, Williams’ journalism studies were derailed when he moved to the Upper Peninsula with his then-girlfriend after her graduation. Once they were married, they moved to Gaylord to start the family that is the basis for Williams’ special brand of comedy.

Serendipitously, a promoter discovered Williams while attending a comedy show in Traverse City in 2014.

“I went [to a comedy show] with a friend and we were waiting for the show and I was just being myself talking to people in the crowd and I didn’t know that the guy that puts on a show was standing next to me and he approached me afterward,” Williams said. “He’s like, you ever thought about doing comedy? And I was like, no. He was like, do you want to try it? And I was like, sure?”

The promoter gave Williams two months to come up with 10 minutes’ worth of jokes. His first show was awful, but something that night struck him.

“I typed out my jokes and I was holding these 8-and-a-half-by-11 cards. I was reading it. I wasn’t performing. I was just reading. There was no timing, there was no delivery. I was chewing gum. It was awful. But the jokes work, like people were laughing at the jokes, and I was just hooked from the first laugh.”

Fast forward four years and now Williams is a traveling comedian whose popularity is growing exponentially. Williams credits this to writing jokes like a machine and never turning down a show.

“I found out people wouldn’t book me because they felt I lived too far away, and I was like I’ll drive for it. I don’t care. I would drive four hours to do five minutes in an open-mic in Grosse Pointe and turn around and come back,” Williams said.

“[When I first started] I felt like I had to do new jokes at every show so I was a writing machine. That helped in the long run because now I can do an hour show on myself,” Williams said.

As his children’s primary caregiver, Williams finds most of his inspiration in his family life. When asked about how his wife and children feel about his jokes, Williams quipped, “The jokes about my wife are always run past her first because I’m not stupid.”

“One of the first jokes I ever wrote [was about her] and she still laughs at it to this day, like she’s heard it a million times, but she still laughs,” Williams said. “ As far as my kids go, they know that I talk about them, but they don’t know what the jokes are about. For a while, I had to hide my stuff on Facebook and YouTube because my daughter was looking me up.”

This naturally begs questions about how Williams balances his newfound career with his duties as a father, and to this, he replied, “It’s actually kind of easy because I used to travel for [work]. I would be gone for three weeks to a month at a time and now like I’m gone for a weekend. I get to see [my kids] all the time, and involve them in some of what I am doing. It’s a lot easier than when I had a normal job. It helps that I can work from home.”

The Blind Squirrel spearheaded the local comedy scene with its support of alternative events.

“If you look at Gaylord, there’s not a whole lot going on,” Tony Vaden, Blind Squirrel owner, said. “If you ever want to go to do anything like this, you have to go to Traverse City at least, generally speaking. And I think that the community is ready for some different alternative entertainment. Obviously, we tried it and the people have been receptive to us, so yeah, it’s taking off.”

For more information on how to keep up with Jr Williams, you can check https://www.static-ent.com/ or find him on social media @jrstandsup.