Allen Strickland Williams. Our Funny, Florida friend. He’s one fourth of the sketch group WOMEN and a stand-up comic in LA. He has a one-liner style of comedy that he delivers with great timing. He’s really funny and a really good guy. You can pick up on both of those things in the following interview. So, let’s not waste any more time! Read this one twice with the lovely Allen Strickland Williams and double your laugh out loud’s!
Serial Optimist: Hey Allen! Thanks for talking with us! Have you always been known as Allen Strickland Williams? Like as a child?
Allen Strickland Williams: Thanks for talking to me. I’m so lonely. I’ve always been Allen Strickland Williams. Maybe it’s a Southern thing (or thang, y’all wouldn’t understand), but those are all family names and it just seems natural to use them all. You can’t take it with you, ya know? By the time I’m dead, I want to make sure I’ve used them all up.
SO: Hey, that makes sense to me. Where did you grow up in Florida? What was your family life like? What kind of comedy things were you into?
Allen: I’m from Orange Park, which is outside of Jacksonville in Northeast Florida. When people think of Florida, they typically think of Miami, Disney World or where their Jewish grandparents live. But that’s not all of Florida. Where I’m from is far more Southern in spirit and pretty rural as well. It’s more Georgia than Florida.
My family life was pretty typical, although I did grow up in the same town as my father, who is now a well-known lawyer there. My mother was a teacher at the elementary school I attended, and my paternal grandfather was a prominent minister before he died. All the family connections and generations of history made life claustrophobic at times, but I can’t say it didn’t help make me who I am.
As for comedy, I’ve always gravitated toward things that were basically jokes. I loved Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey, and I tore through as many of those compilation books of David Letterman Top Ten Lists as I could. I was obsessed with the show News Radio. I still have fourteen VHS tapes of it I set to record while I was in junior high. But one thing that really stuck with me was this robot at the Clay County Fair back home. It would just sort of roll around on its wheels and make fun of people’s clothes and shit. The robot was clearly controlled and voiced by someone probably twenty feet away, but to me it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I used to spend hours watching this fake robot tell the same jokes over and over and over again. No one will ever be as funny as that robot. Man, we should all give up.
SO: Other than the robot, was there anyone in particular that inspired you to do comedy? Or did people always tell you, “Hey! You’re funny! You should tell jokes!”
Allen: I was funny in my younger days, but I was way more of a sarcastic smart ass than anything else. I will say that the one thing that made me think I could do stand-up comedy was hearing Dan Mintz on the Comedy Death Ray CD when I was in college. I had always written down weird little sayings or thoughts in my notebook, and hearing him do a whole set of just one-liners made me think maybe there was something there. He’s still one of my absolute favorite comedians to watch–such an amazing joke writer.
Allen Strickland Williams: 19 Jokes At The Holy Fuck Album Tapinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN8sSgknzRo
SO: When did you start doing stand-up? How long have you been doing your one-liner brand of comedy? Has it always been that way?
Allen: I had a few false starts, but I really jumped in when I lost my job in December of 2009. I basically dedicated myself to it just so I’d have something to do every day. I started with one-liners, and I’ll probably die doing them. I’m not totally opposed to bits or stories, it’s just that nothing interesting ever happens in my life.
SO: Well, interesting things happen every day. I’m sure inspiration is just around the corner! Allen, Why go to college in New York? What did you major in? Do you feel like getting an education helps a lot in your style of comedy?
Allen: Oh, yeah. Ya gotta be real smart, buddy. Ya gotta read books. Big books. Actually, I went to Cornell not because it was such a great school, but because it was so far from Florida. I had a theory that if I didn’t catapult myself out of Florida for college, I’d end up living there forever. Not that Florida is so bad, but at the time I was really miserable there. Of course, at college I was pretty miserable too, so there’s the rub.
Education may help in some cases, but it’s way far down on the totem pole. I majored in Interdisciplinary Studies, which means absolutely nothing. See, I wanted to find a way to waste my college education even before I graduated, so I did my best to just avoid getting one in the first place. Pretty smart, if you ask me.
SO: Looks like you were already very smart before college. After school was over, did you have comedy overload when you moved to LA? By that I mean the abundance of places to perform.
Allen: Maybe it was youth or naivety, but I really wasn’t overwhelmed by options when I first jumped in. I just went to open mics until I found the ones I liked. I’m more overwhelmed by comedy in this city now. There are more people doing it than ever, and I feel like the amount of shows has doubled since I started. That’s probably a good thing for comedy overall, but it can get suffocating on the individual level. That’s why I like to go out to Joshua Tree every few months and tell jokes to rocks.
WOMEN – “Look at Allen”
SO: And trees too! From rocks to rocking comedy, can you tell me about your sketch group WOMEN? Why did you call it that? What was the reason for starting it?
Allen: WOMEN is really awesome. The other dudes in it are Pat Bishop, Dave Ross and Jake Weisman. Check them all out. It started because Dave sent a text to Jake and me saying that we should start a sketch group and call it WOMEN. So there’s the reasoning for the name. There’s really nothing else behind it. People seem to get really hung up on that, which is puzzling, because no one ever asks about sketch groups named Pizza Farty and Dr. Robot Pants. Dave, Jake and I made a bunch of stupid videos for a year because we had fun together, and then we started working with Pat and he made us look like we knew what we were doing. Let me be clear that we have no idea what we are doing. Pat is a genius and we are all really stupid. Pat actually does know why we’re called WOMEN, even though Dave came up with the name. Pat is great.
SO: You have a lot of 420 jokes. Are you slated to become the next Doug Benson?
Allen: I only have a few jokes that specifically call out smoking weed, but I do have a ton that are inspired by weed, if you catch my drift. (If you don’t catch my drift, you may be smoking too much weed.) But I don’t think anyone’s gonna compare me to Doug Benson. Besides, I have way more jokes about drunk driving. Maybe I’ll be the next Billy Joel.
SO: Billy burn! Do you have any new shows or projects in the works that you’d like to share?
Allen: Keep an eye on WOMEN, because we have some funny shit lined up. I’ll be in Portland, OR from April 18 – 21 for the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. Come out if you live in Portland. (If you don’t, just move to Portland. Where you are probably sucks anyway.) This is a quick plug for someone else, but my buddy from back home just started this great business venture you’re all gonna want to check out. His name is Dirk Foote.
SO: Cool, cool, cool. What’s the most recent dramatic emotion you had?
Allen: Extreme frustration. I’m dealing with a few problems right now that are proving to be quite challenging on a daily basis. I try to be strong, stay positive and power through it, but it can overwhelm me sometimes. (This is the part of the interview when I smoke a cigarette while staring out the window, wondering where the rain stops and my tears begin.)
SO: Great, now I’m sad and feel really bad for you. I hope you’re happy! To stay on hopes, where do you hope your stand-up will take you? What is ASW going to be like in 10 years? Married? Action star? Late night host?
Allen: The ideal situation would be to travel the world doing stand-up, but that’s somewhat unrealistic. I’d probably only travel the parts of the world that speak English. Until I get there, it would be great to write jokes for a TV show. I sincerely love the process of writing jokes. I like tinkering until all the parts fit together perfectly. And I appreciate the challenge of doing all that in someone else’s voice, no matter how similar or different it is to mine. My fantasy is that my stand-up will lead to some sort of involvement with the Comedy Central Roasts. That’s a childhood dream, right there.
If late night shows are still around in ten years, people will probably be sick of straight white male hosts, so that’s out of the cards. But maybe that robot I mentioned earlier could be the host, and I could be his sidekick. That would be awesome.
SO: I’d def watch that show. Thanks a lot Allen!
SO Note: Allen’s a pretty great guy right? Follow him on twitter @TotallyAllen one-liner guys are always great to follow, and @WOMENcomedy. Check out his website allenstricklandwilliams.wordpress.com for videos, dates, and such. And go to WOMEN’s website for all kinds of funny stuff! womencomedy.com.