Comedian and children’s author Harland Williams keeps his two careers separate
By Carl Kozlowski 08/05/2010
Harland Williams has a skewed way of looking at the world. As a standup comic, he’s prone to expressing awe and wonderment at the most ridiculous things imaginable, while his acting career has featured him playing everything from an accident-prone astronaut in “Rocket Man” to a hitchhiking serial killer who’s invented a six-minute workout for abdominal muscles in “There’s Something About Mary.”
But what even his comedic fans may not realize is that Williams is also a popular children’s author, with eight tomes to his credit, including “The Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know” and “The Kid With Too Many Nightmares.”
Williams turns back to comedy Friday and Saturday, performing in rare appearances at the Ice House comedy club in Pasadena.
A Toronto native, Williams spent several years working as a Canadian forest ranger before embarking on comedy as a profession. But he grew up loving to write, since his mom was a professional writer while his dad was a lawyer and member of the Ontario provincial parliament. In fact, his first book was released even before he became famous as a comic, making Williams one of the few celebrity authors who can legitimately claim that he was published due to the quality of his writing, not the notoriety of his name.
“I just get the inspiration from my childlike mind,” explains Williams. “I want to do them because it combines writing, composing, drawing and painting. It’s such a visual and mental combination of disciplines that it’s just really fun. I don’t necessarily pick a topic; it’s what I find amusing that I think they’ll find amusing. My first priority is cool, funny drawings and silly stories. The difference between me and most celebrities is I do my own artwork, since I illustrate as well.”
Williams also eagerly noted his online podcast talk show “The Harland Highway,” which he offers for free at iTunes.com and his own Web site, harlandwilliams.com. In it, he engages in a weekly rant, tells stories and performs characters — “just like coming to a concert with just your ears.” He also takes pride in his guest list, which has included top comics including Dane Cook, Tom Green and Orny Adams.
The one disappointment Williams feels about his comedic and acting success is that his performance schedule keeps him too busy to write books as often as he’d like. He’s careful not to cross the two professions and draws a clear line regarding what material is appropriate in each arena.
“I don’t intermingle my styles. I think people go through stages in life, so for kids ages 3 to 10, my material is presented in my books with that age bracket in mind, for them to enjoy during those years,” says Williams. “But there are also human beings in the world who are 15 to 100, and they don’t want to hear about a kid’s book, so I tailor my humor and artistic expression toward that age. It’s like, are you a counselor for kids or a therapist for adults? They’re two separate things.”