Saturday, July 18 at The Mahaffey Theater
Hotspots Exclusive Interview
Wendy Williams has done it all. A broadcast icon, she had a very successful run on radio before she focused her energies on television, specifically her daytime talk show, which has been on the air now for the past seven years. She’s acted in films, introduced her own fashion line on HSN, and even written a novel! Now she’s showing off another one of her talents for Florida audiences: stand-up comedy. Or as she calls it, “sit down” comedy.
Wendy’s “Sit Down Tour: Too Real For Stand-Up” comes to St. Petersburg on Saturday, July 18, which is also her birthday! She will be taking the stage at the Mahaffey Theater at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $39 per person and can be purchased by going online to themahaffey.com or by calling (727) 892-5767.
It was an honor to speak with Wendy Williams for this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Welcome back to Florida! What do you love most about the Sunshine State?
My mom and dad; they’re retired now and they live there. I have a condo there, my sister and my brother-in-law and their family live there…everyone’s migrated from Jersey down to Florida. As much as I fly the flag for Jersey, it’s only me, my husband and my son who live here now. Everyone else has moved down to Florida.
I love Florida. I love the weather, even though it’s humid, and I love the beautiful people. Everyone’s so colorful. Florida is a melting pot, just like New York is. And I really love Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, around the area where the Versace mansion is. I could walk that road all day long.
How did you get the idea to pursue stand-up comedy?
The first place I ever did stand-up was at The Venetian in Las Vegas, last summer, and I got pushed into it, basically. I was turning 50, and everyone was telling me, “Oh, it’s a milestone! You have to do something that you’ve never done before!”
Then my husband Kevin [Hunter], who’s also my manager and one of my executive producers at the talk show, said to me, “Wendy, you’re funny, yo. You’re funny on the talk show, but you’re a different kind of funny off the talk show, yo. The stories you tell and the way you tell them, you won’t even need a joke writer.” Because I’m not good with working with writers. I never had a writer on radio, I never had a joke writer on the talk show…nobody writes anything for me.
So I said, “Okay, fine!” I felt like I was pushed out on-stage in the name of love, and I fell in love with it. I played to a sold-out crowd at The Venetian.
Please tell us about the show that’s coming up at the Mahaffey Theater. Let us know what we can expect.
The tour is called the “Sit Down Tour” because…I’m lazy. Who wants to stand? Really? I’d have my heels on, I’d be walking around with nothing to hold onto. I have to give it up for my girl comedians who can walk back and forth for an hour. That’s not me, honey. I need a seat. Then, when the spirit moves me, I can stand up, walk around, and then come back to my seat.
The production is fully-blown. I have a set designer, and there’s a couch, a big chair, palm trees, a throw rug, lights, the whole deal. I travel with a DJ, and he gets everyone pumped up before the show. And I’m going to be at the Mahaffey on July 18; it’s my birthday, but it’s my 51st birthday. There’s nothing eventful about 51. My husband came to me and said, “HSN wants you back on July 18. Also, the Mahaffey Theater wants to book you for comedy. Do you want to work on your birthday?” I said, yeah, of course! Might as well!
I tell stories. I don’t tell jokes. No “knock knock, who’s there?” That’s not my thing. I tell stories from my real life, and I also talk a bit about hot topics. I will choose the hot topics the week of the show, because what we talk about now, we may not be talking about in a week or two. There’s no point in talking about that fake black lady Rachel [Dolezal] on July 18, you know?
I also talk salty. It’s not “Talk Show Wendy”; I’m not out there in a pencil skirt and a blouse, or a cute, sensible wrap dress. Everything, from the set design to what comes out of my mouth, is like a house party. It’s Wendy, at your house, after a few Jack Daniels. [laughs]
Your talk show has been on the air for seven years now. Why do you think people love to watch?
Because they never know what they’re going to get. They know what they’re going to get insofar as the double doors open at the beginning of the show, I throw my hands in the air, I teeter on my heels, and I do hot topics. So in terms of what falls out of my mouth, or what a guest might say, or what questions will be on “Ask Wendy,” those are not formulated. Those are all things that happen on the fly, and since it’s a live talk show, there’s nothing edited. Our show is messy and sloppy and I mean that in the best way.
As a host…listen, I’ve let go of lots of baggage that new people on TV might have. Look, if my bra strap is showing on television, I adjust it. If there’s lipstick on my teeth, I wipe it off with my finger. Sometimes I laugh too hard and all 500 teeth show…it’s real. I know that sounds cliché, but our talk show is real. A lot of people get on TV and they’re very guarded. They may take themselves too seriously. That’s not me. If you want polished journalism, or polished anything, I might not be the one for you.
You tell it like it is on every single topic and sometimes that may upset some people. You’ve been an LGBT ally for a very long time. Do you ever feel like you have to “prove yourself” over and over again as a friend to people?
Does it ever get tiring?
No, it doesn’t get tiring, because I love doing the talk show. I knew what responsibilities came with having a talk show when I signed on to do it. I knew exactly what I was signing up for, so no, it doesn’t get tiring, but it does get upsetting.
I think society has gotten to a point where we’ve become so P.C. that you can’t say anything, because there will be a few people out there who don’t understand things that are tongue-in-cheek. You can’t talk about black people, because black people will get upset. You can’t talk about Jewish people, because Jewish people will get upset. You can’t talk about Asians, you can’t talk about LGBTs, you can’t talk about the Confederate flag…then what can you talk about?
I’m on television in a time in our nation’s history that’s…kind of tumultuous! So it may seem to some like I sit in my hot topics chair and just talk out the side of my mouth, but I’m a smart woman, and I’m a businesswoman. I have the responsibility of making sure 200 staffers at the talk show have jobs, and I take care of my family too. I am too smart to say something that will get me canceled.
But what pisses me off is that people nowadays are so doggone sensitive, including my own people. It really does upset me because you can do 100 right things and you can say one thing that may make the crowd at the talk show laugh uprorariously, but 10 people may not like it and those 10 people have big voices, and now 10,000 people are upset, when in reality it’s only 10.
You’ve accomplished so much in mass media, whether it be in radio, on daytime TV, as an actress and even as an author. Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would really like to do?
I’ll be honest with you. I’m a hardworking woman, and it’s tough to keep all the balls in the air when it comes to what I have going on right now. I need to keep all the balls up in the air that I have going right now. I want a bigger talk show. I want a bigger HSN line. I want more gigs for my comedy show. I want to do more movies…I can’t talk about this too much, but I have a movie that I’m filming in August and I’m very excited about it. You’ll be shocked to see who’s in the movie with me. Like, shocked. I think I would really just like to maintain, because life right now is really good.
What’s on the horizon for you after your performance in St. Petersburg?
I have a show that’s coming up on the ID channel. It’s my favorite channel in the whole world, and it was my favorite even before my production company got involved with them. Michael, do you watch the ID channel?
Nightmare Next Door and Who the Bleep Did I Marry?, all of those shows. I love it! So the ID channel called my production company several months ago and said that they wanted to do business. So we came up with the concept of a show called Death by Gossip. So here’s the premise: real-life stories in Regular Town U.S.A. For instance, the chief of police is screwing around with the superintendent of schools, and both are married to other people. It gets wild and sloppy, and on the ID channel, everything ends in death. That airs in the fall.
Then there’s the HSN line. All of my stuff is under $100. So on July 18, I’ll be presenting my fall line, because by the middle to the end of July, nobody’s buying summer clothes anymore. I’m really proud of this line. We have bandage dresses that look like the wearer has a girdle on, but she doesn’t. We also have denim jumpsuits, one in the blue jean color and one in the black jean color, and of course blouses. What I’m really proud of is that my manufacturers and I have found some of the best material so you’re really getting bang for your buck, and the sizes range from extra small to 3X. It’s for every woman!