By Rodney Richey, Herald Bulletin Feature Writer
LOS ANGELES — Canadian Harland Williams was enjoying winter in Southern California.
“It’s beautiful out,” said Williams, 47, familiar from roles in films like “Dumb & Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary.”
“A bit cold, but is 65 cold? I’ll take this cold any day, thank you.”
Williams, whose Indiana performances have been exclusive to Crackers in Broad Ripple, will take the stage at the Paramount on Friday, April 2.
Williams, who says he loves Crackers, needed a larger platform for the new second half of his show.
“The first half of my show is going to be my standup,” Williams said. “The second half is going to be sketch comedy and improv. We needed a bigger venue for that.”
His stage show, to hear him tell it, is family-friendly, with a hint of innuendo.
“I try to keep my comedy really silly and bizarre and fun, to take people out of the everyday. Even though you’re seeing me, it’s almost like theater for the mind.
“I try to keep it thought-provoking and clever on one level, but I like it to be physical, improvisational, kind of ‘expect the unexpected.’ Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m going to do next.”
Comedy was an unusual destiny for Williams. Born in Toronto, he held several jobs before performing. While in college, he worked as a forest ranger, where one of his skills was, and we quote, “tracking scat.” That is, reading the trails by what animals have left behind.
That was just before, the timeline continues, Williams left to pursue a career in standup comedy in Los Angeles.
In other words, he knows crap when he sees it.
“I actually do,” Williams laughed. “I know moose poo and deer poo, porcupine poo. I can identify lot of animal poo. I should put that on my résumé.”
The trail from ranger to standup is seemingly a winding one.
“The actual first time I ever went on stage was on an amateur night at a club in Toronto,” Williams said. “I did it because I loved it, I thought it would be a great way to develop a career and have a life rolling around the world, making people laugh. It was that or Aisle 5 at Home Depot, in charge of the sprinklers.”
The quirky, gangly actor has since appeared in “Rocketman” (“I’m very proud of it; it’s a real sweet, family-friendly movie”) and “The Whole Nine Yards” (“When I die, I might call Bruce (Willis) to do it. I want to go out in style”). He has also provided voices for the animated “Robots” and “Meet the Robinsons.”
In the Paramount, Williams will be heading into new territory, which presents its own kind of unease.
“The show you see is going to be unlike any show you’ve seen me do,” he said. “A lot of times in the comedy world, there has always seemed to be a silent rivalry between the two (standup and sketch). I think it’s really fun to bring both of them to one stage.”
A versatile performer who has written and performed music with his cousin, Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies, Williams has also written and illustrated children’s books. His latest book is a collection of random observations called “The Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know.”
Williams said he was eager about working the Paramount (“I’ve seen pictures, and it just looks stunning”), but he admitted he also felt a kinship, as a Canadian, to the natives of Indiana.
“Well, part of it is just that word,” Williams said, laughing. “‘Hoosiers’ is very close to ‘hosers.’ So close that you could probably intermingle the tribes and breed and come up with ‘hosieres’ or something like that.”
Williams added that he does feel a similar attitude and humor among hosers and Hoosiers, a “good old folks vibe.”
Informed that his destiny, Anderson, Ind., has experienced some rough time over the past decade or so, Williams said he looked forward to “bringing some laughter to Anderson.”
“That’s the joy of what I do, man,” the former forest ranger said. “The best part is when I’m walking down the street, and someone is looking bland, and then they see me, and their face lights up, and they just start laughing.
“The fact that something I’ve done brightened their life, brightened their day, that’s amazing to me.”
Contact Rodney Richey, 640-4861, email@example.com.
If you go...
What: Actor-comedian Harland Williams on stage
When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 2
Where: Paramount Theatre Centre and Ballroom, 1124 Meridian St. in Anderson
Admission: $29, $35 for front two rows