A couple of months back, Uncut headed to Nietota to run the rule over Jim Williams' new stand up comedy nights. Jim's witty, outlandish and irreverent show pokes fun at the many weird and unexplainable cultural differences between the US and Poland, and has continuously sold out. Having returned from the States and prepared a plethora of new material, Jim is ready to return to the stage this Sunday. Ahead of the show, Jim spoke exclusively to Uncut – giving us a sneak peak of the line-up, and his opinions on a few random topics …
So Jim, you've just got back from the US. How are things looking over there?
Big, big and a lot – those are the best words I can think of. Everything is enormous out there, the people, the portions… the propaganda. And the soda too.
Your sold out stand up night has been making waves recently, and clearly there is demand for more. People that do come for a second or third time usually expect to hear some new jokes. So how much of a challenge is it to come up with new material between shows?
I just always try to be writing. That's part of the gig. Stuff I do on stage has graduated from a vague, fetus of an idea born out of my head and most of that takes a while to figure out how to communicate. Each previous show I've done has had new material weaved into the old "tried and true" shtick, which I also try to hone even further to keep it fresh and alive. This show coming up though is basically a whole new show. It's the most I've written all at once in a long time. I went back to my home country and basically had mind blowing experiences all day long, every day, for three weeks. That resulted in a TON of ideas and the process has been about sifting through everything and harvesting what's ready. It's overwhelming but as a performer I'm really excited. It'll be fresh and it will certainly be live.
The open mic nights you set up a while back are still on the go, which tells me they've been a modest success at the very least. During these open stand up nights, what (and who) has surprised you the most?
I've been surprised by the willingness of people to get up and give it a go, as well as the audience's desire to see people do well. There's a lot of support between the performers themselves, and the performers and the audience. You never know who's going to get up and what they're going to say.
I can definitely tell you every open mic night has had it's jaw-dropping, shocking moment where everyone went, "What the hell did we just watch?". My favorite surprise has been the people who didn't write me ahead of time, didn't sign up at the door, sat through the whole show and when I close the evening down and said, "ok, last chance", they got up on stage and unfolded a piece of paper with jokes on it. It's a beautiful thing because here's this person who couldn't hold themselves back anymore. They couldn't resist. The ratio of people who have expressed interest to those who have actually got on stage is not 1:1 – many people have got cold feet. So, to see someone just crack in the moment and actually go DO IT is exciting to watch.
All that being said, there's been one guy who got up for the very first time in his life at the first open mic and he keeps coming back, and he blows me away each time, and that's Peter LaVilla. I think people are going to get to know him quite well on stage.
How is the line up looking for Sunday?
Open mic is full, Derrek Carriveau will be the special guest, "Drunk Hulk" Christian A. Dumais will be the MC for the evening, and I'm ready to tell my tales of hurricanes, Halloween, and high fructose corn syrup.
Is there anything you wouldn't joke about?
My general rule is that everything is fair game but like I said, some ideas need to cook longer and it takes time to not just be offensive. There's something funny in everything though. The first step is to find it, the next step is to figure out how to communicate it to an audience.
Moving onto some more random topics now, and why not? What's the strangest experience you've had here in Poland?
Watching my kids be born. Granted, that's just a strange experience in and of itself that just happened to take place in Poland, but still, it was crazy.
What's the best and worst thing about Christmas in Poland?
The best thing is that rampant consumerism hasn't hit Poland yet on the scale you'd see it in the States. Sure there's a lot of people out shopping, buying things they don't need and can't afford, but for me coming from the States, this is mild by comparison. I hear about far fewer shopping-related injuries and fatalities out here, and I like that.
The worst thing? It's mostly just confusing, but I see that Wygilia (Christmas Eve) is really important and celebrated out here – more so than Christmas day. So why not just call Christmas Eve Christmas? And why do so many people have to work on Christmas Eve? That's how we end up with Ryba w Galarecie. No one has time to cook and they slip and fall and get their fish and carrots and peas and eggs in their gelatin and ruin dessert. Gelatin should be the flavor of fruit … with fruit in it. And Bill Cosby on television telling me to buy it. I've made the joke before about how for me Ryba w galarecie is like ice cream with ham and broccoli and garlic, but I stopped that because I don't want to give anyone any ideas.
And lastly, what tips would you give for anyone brave enough to get up and do a bit of stand-up for the open mic night?
Keep it simple and just f**king get up there. Everybody has 5 minutes of funny in them. Besides, who else is going to tell that story?
Fancy going? The whole thing kicks off at Nietota on Sunday at 20.00. Tickets are 15zl, and can be bought at the door. The show has regularly sold out however, so to be sure of securing your place, we recommended buying online via ekobilet.