14 A word with...:
Guy Williams talks about the new series of Jono And Ben and why he shuns alcohol.
Comedian Guy Williams is back for another season of Jono And Ben, the local comedy series hosted by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce on Three on Thursday. Guy, 30, grew up in Nelson and lives with his Green Party MP partner Golriz Ghahraman. His brother, Paul, is a comedian and his sister, Maria, is an actor. Guy, who is known for his deadpan humour, has a political-science degree and writes a weekly column in the Sunday Star Times. He tells Sarah Nealon about being brainwashed by his mother and how shunning alcohol helped his career.
What’s the same and what’s different with Jono And Ben this year?
The main difference is that we’re expanding into a huge range of cast members and contributors so the show will have a lot more new faces (like Kura Forrester, Brynley Stent, Hayley Sproull), which I think is really exciting because this show has been going for quite a while now. If you were going to complain about it you’d probably go, ‘Oh well we’ve seen this, we’ve seen that’ but bringing in new people is a good way of refreshing it.
Who would you rather be stuck in a lift with – Jono or Ben?
This is a complex question and very layered. I’ve known Jono longer and he’s a good, old friend but Ben is a lot less annoying so it’s a real divide. Jono for the camaraderie but Ben for not driving me insane.
How would Jono and Ben describe you in three words?
I think they’d describe me as loud, obnoxious and, hopefully, funny.
On a recent TV show you spoke about not drinking alcohol. Is that a rarity on the local stand-up comedy scene?
Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll was part of the comedy persona but for my generation that’s changing a little bit. I don’t think a comedian necessarily has to be a broken person or a maverick or a tears-of-a-clown story. For me I’m just a normal person who lives a normal life – just as a journalist or an accountant would. I just found in my normal life it helps to not drink. I don’t feel like I need to have a beer on stage or need anything to calm my nerves. I’ve got too much irrational self confidence as it is. If anything I need the opposite of a beer to rein me in.
Has being a non-drinker affected your career?
Early in my career, I would get on TV shows because people would call me up and say, ‘Hey, Guy, someone is too hungover to come and do this show’. It would be a panel show that was recording at 9am on a Saturday morning. They’d say, ‘Oh what’s-his-name hasn’t shown up’ so I’d literally get opportunities because of that.
You’ve spoken a bit about being a ‘craplebrity’. What is a ‘craplebrity’?
A Kiwi who is probably more famous than talented. Everyone knows who they are, for better for worse – someone who constantly does crappy ads on Instagram and stuff like that. I spend most of my days wandering around town hoping people will notice me. In New Zealand we’ve got three actual celebrities – Lorde, Flight Of The Conchords and maybe some of the All Blacks. The rest of us are ‘craplebrities’.
Your partner is a Green Party MP. How do you feel about the idea of being labelled a ‘power couple’?
Really embarrassing. I’m trying to call myself the poor man’s Clarke Gayford but I don’t know if that’s catching on or if it’s a positive thing or not. I’ve never wanted to use my relationship for publicity. I find that a bit cringe (worthy). You always try to keep your private life private. It makes it a lot easier.
When you were a kid growing up in Nelson, what did you want to be?
I might have wanted to be an All Black when I was about 12 but I think what I wanted to be was like a train that had a talking face because my favourite show was Thomas The Tank Engine. When you’re a kid you don’t want to be a lawyer. Maybe I wanted to be a postman like Postman Pat. For a brief time I wanted to live in a garbage can and be grumpy like Oscar The Grouch. A talking train or an animal that lives in a garbage can – two good options there. But it’s only when I think about it now that I realise I was conditioned to be a comedian. When I was a kid we didn’t listen to the radio much in the car because the ads were so annoying. My mum had two cassette tapes. The main one was Jerry Seinfeld: I’m Telling You For The Last Time. She just played it over and over and over again. It’s not surprising she’s got two kids – possibly three, my sister is an actor who is dabbling in comedy – who ended up being comedians when she brainwashed us as children.