I can't imagine that I was the only one who felt trapped by the mania of Katt Williams as I sat inside the less-than-half-full Wells Fargo Theatre last night.The first of two Denver shows on his Ghetto National Convention Tour, this was a car wreck from the start. From the late start of the show -- tickets said 8 p.m., but a very disorganized collection of six opening comedians didn't get started until well after 9 p.m. -- to Williams' Jekyll & Hyde personality conversion when he finally took the stage almost two hours later, the night was badly off-course. And Katt was not in control. Whether he was high or anxious or angry or affected or all of those things combined, everyone in the theater -- although many had left by then -- saw a very public wreck.
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, and it was clear that my fellow audience members were feeling that way, too. Couples were dressed up, gaggles of girlfriends were sipping beer and wine, and the early arrivals were sitting back in the theater, enjoying the opening DJs as the rest of the crowd found seats.
Introduced as "Big Pussy," Williams came out in a cowboy hat and floor-length fur coat, which dropped to reveal a neck of gold chains. Apparently, this "Big Pussy" routine was an alternate persona for the comedian, but nothing seemed different from the little pimp his fans know well. In fact, during the few moments this alter-ego regaled us with commentary on the upcoming election, Williams's signature smart-ass style shone through. During these few moments, he started parading through the crowd, which seemed all in good fun.
But our time with Big Pussy was just a short and sweet primer for Gina Yashere, the first in a downhill toss of opening acts. The British-born comedian was good, but she wasn't Katt. And it was clear that the crowd had come for Katt.
Yashere bagged on the crumbling American healthcare system, Americans' addiction to prescription medication and other things America did wrong in general. Her "fucks this"s and "fuck that"s quickly became grating, but her time was thankfully limited. I thought we were going to get Katt back to the stage -- and we did, but only for a minute.
Big Pussy reappeared briefly to introduce John Witherspoon -- famous to most for his role of Mr. Jones, Ice Cube's father in the Friday series. Witherspoon spent the first several minutes of his routine reprising his famed Friday role, dropping all of his signature lines and crude gestures.
It was entertaining, sort of, but it wasn't Katt, and there was a growing feeling that no one was really driving this bus. The show was under way, but where it was going was unclear.
Comedian Cortney Gee followed, and many in the audience took this opportunity to head back up the mountainous stairs to the bar. Ten minutes of mediocre jokes followed before Katt reappeared again as Big Pussy, announcing a very unnecessary "fifteen minute intermission." This was when the road really got bumpy.
A good thirty minutes later, two more comedians were thrown to the wolves, and the audience was now audibly wondering if Willams was ever going to take the stage. Finally, around 10:50 p.m., the fuckery appeared to have come to an end, and Katt returned dressed as, from what I could tell, himself, trailing a cloud of his signature weed smoke.
But the man who stood in front of us was a mess. He paced the stage, sweating and singing, rapping in mumbles to the song booming overhead, facing what was left of the raucous crowd. He ripped his shirt off, did some stunt-like push-ups and more pacing, pouring water all over his face and body.
He shook out a fuzzy Broncos blanket and carried it across the stage like a flag. Continuing to garble his words, he then dropped the blanket on a very inebriated fan who had climbed on the stage moments before to dance. The comedian's babble then became a freestyle of sorts, angrier by the minute, the fight in the air now thick.
As more audience members left, those who remained inside the venue felt the tension rise as the heckling became more pronounced. Katt's demeanor continued to spiral downward -- but he still was not telling any jokes, instead elevating his bizarre behavior with more babble and erratic movements. He certainly seemed elevated, and not by the altitude: The comedian would pull out a cigarette, feel his pockets for a lighter, give up when one didn't appear and start the search all over again in a sad, repetitive cycle.
Pushed too far by hecklers, Katt finally demanded the house lights come on as he jumped off the stage and went on a hunt for those who vocally disagreed with his performance. He reportedly spit on one heckler (I couldn't see see it to verify) and threatened another. Returning to the stage, Williams delivered a strange closing rant involving mentions of E-40 and Too Short and San Diego (see the fan video above.)
Then he promised that all ticket holders would get their money back, threw the mike and left the stage.
It was a sad end to an emotionally terrorizing show. For all the hope and hype that's surrounded the comedian's comeback, it was clear that he was not ready for such a loaded public performance. In the three hours of this reign of error, Katt Williams spent less than half an hour on stage as headliner. And when he was finally in front of the sparse crowd that had started out stoked to see him, all he could do was lash out in anger.
I hope he has the support he needs to stabilize mentally and emotionally after such a public breakdown. Because the Katt Williams I saw was not in a good place. And neither was anyone at the Wells Fargo Theatre last night.
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