The Fall and Rise of Katt Williams

He’s had a string of run-ins with the law, yet the comedian’s popularity continues to grow—with a recent podcast appearance blowing up the internet


Katt Williams’ Wild ride of an appearance on Shannon Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay podcast started the year with one clear message: the comedian has far more than nine lives.

In a conversati­on spanning almost three hours, Williams, 52, discussed his family, career, legal issues, grievances with other comedians and this year’s presidenti­al election, among many other subjects. He also shared claims so wild that it was forgivable to expect a punchline (the assertion that his and Ludacris’ fates in Hollywood were decided at a meeting with “the Illuminati” is a highlight; Ludacris dismissed the allegation­s via a freestyle rap).

On a personal front, the statements were no less sensationa­l. He was reading fluently at 3 years old. He got accepted into college at 7. He read 3,000 nonfiction books a year in “multiple languages” between ages 8 and 12. He moved from Ohio to Florida by himself at 13, and later lived with sex workers. The interview was social media gold. In the two months following its January 3 release on Youtube, it garnered over 60 million views. Countless snippets of Williams’ cognac-fueled chat with NFL legend Sharpe have become viral hits on social media. And, according to research by Booking Agent Info, Google searches for the comedian exploded by 1,328 percent, rising from 85,900 to 1.2 million searches just 24 hours after the interview. Per the celebrity database, Williams’ pre-club Shay Shay Instagram following stood at 798,052. As of press time, it exceeds 1.3 million.

“The study’s track of growth following the interview showcases how a single media appearance can lead to a substantia­l increase in public interest and online following,” Sophie Miller, a celebrity contact agent at Booking Agent Info, told Newsweek. “Katt Williams’ digital footprint [has] expanded dramatical­ly, reflecting the power of viral content.”

It also reflects the power and resilience of Williams himself, whose past scandals would be enough to topple Hollywood mega stars.

“Every time they try to put you down, they try to put you to the back, you bounce up [higher],” former Denver Broncos tight end Sharpe told him.

“You move right back to the front.” Williams responded: “Trampoline skin is something that you ask God for,” before diving into football analogies to explain that he works tirelessly at being the best that he can be, whatever the intentions of his detractors.

Williams’ movie debut as Money Mike in the 2002 classic comedy Friday After Next secured his status as one of Hollywood’s bright new stars, but it wasn’t long before he was drawing the wrong kind of headlines.

In December 2006, the comic pleaded no contest to the misdemeano­r charge of carrying a concealed firearm, after he was found with a gun at Los Angeles Internatio­nal Airport the month prior. It led to three years of probation and a fine.

In November 2008, he was pulled over in New York for driving a car without license plates. On searching the vehicle, a gun was found. Charges were eventually dropped in July 2009. Four months later, Williams was charged with burglary and trespassin­g after his arrest on suspicion of breaking into a home near Atlanta.

The year 2011 saw Williams arrested in Palmdale, California, after a heated confrontat­ion with a tractor driver. The driver, who was working on a home where Williams was staying, alleged that three women attacked him with rocks and clods of dirt. When the complainan­t’s wife arrived to collect him, Williams, he alleged, blocked their exit. The comedian was subsequent­ly charged with felony intimidati­on of a witness.

In November 2012, Williams was arrested in Oakland, California, on

“His trials and tribulatio­ns never overshadow­ed his comedic brilliance, which is why he is a force to be reckoned with.”

suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, after an 18-year-old man alleged that the star hit him in the head with a bottle. A week earlier, a former assistant filed a lawsuit accusing him of inflicting “permanent injuries” via a closed-fist punch.

The following month saw Williams arrested three times. One arrest stemmed from police finding firearms and marijuana in his Los Angeles-area home, leading to felony child endangerme­nt charges (he has three biological and seven adopted children). The case fell apart weeks later.

January 2013 got off to a bad start when Williams was arrested for failing to appear in a Sacramento County courtroom over reckless driving charges.

In 2014, the star was arrested and charged, along with notorious rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, for stealing a paparazzo’s camera in Beverly Hills, California. After pleading no contest to robbery in April 2017, Williams received three years’ probation and was ordered to undertake a year of anger management classes.

The comedian was arrested at least four times in six months in 2016, the bulk of charges stemming from altercatio­ns in Georgia and California. And footage went viral of Williams losing an altercatio­n with a 17-yearold boy on a soccer field in Florida.

His chapter of legal woes appears to have ended with an October 2018 arrest in Portland, Oregon, on a charge of assault in the fourth degree. Williams allegedly got into a fight with a town car driver over a dog that he had brought with him.

Williams told Sharpe that he had

been in jail “30 times,” adding: “If it’s dangerous to be in the hood, and you have to have a gun on you for protection, and it’s either be judged by 12 or carried by six, I’m always going to have my heater on me...unfortunat­ely, I smoke cigarettes and weed. If you catch me 15 times, 15 times I’m going to have it on me.”

Yet Williams’ run-ins with the law merely punctuated his success. To date, he has 12 stand-up specials under his belt—a feat for even the most accomplish­ed of comedians.

Ongoing Success

Often referred to as the “undergroun­d king of comedy,” Williams—given name Micah Sierra Williams—cut his teeth on the stand-up circuit, years after leaving his deeply religious parents’ home at the age of just 13. He lived in Miami, Oklahoma City, and then Sacramento, before heading south to Los Angeles.

He continues to hone his craft. Williams is in the midst of his U.S. Dark Matter Tour and told Sharpe that it is his 19th 100-nighter. Business, all evidence shows, is booming.

At one point on Club Shay Shay, Williams said that his penchant for cursing in his stage acts has seen him shut out of “mainstream” comedy. He also said Joe Rogan would not want him on his powerhouse podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, because of this.

“If you were a comedian that cussed, you were ridiculed by the mainstream comedy-geist,” Williams explained. “That would be like me being on Joe Rogan. Joe don’t want me on there. I need to be on Shannon. Joe’s got six comedians that’s never been funny [that] he wants to push out. That’s really how it is.”

“I love Katt,” Rogan responded on X last month. “He’s one of my favorite comics, and I’d love to have him on.

We talk about him all the time. If he’s down, I’ll make it happen.” That one of the most listened-to podcasters is a fan shows that the attention garnered from the interview is merely a representa­tion of Williams’ popularity.

Addressing Controvers­y

Social justice journalist and national media contributo­r Lisa Durden told Newsweek that Williams holds a “magnetic” presence. “His sharp wit and unique perspectiv­e captivate audiences far beyond the stage,” she said. “Katt is fire in films, TV and, of course, on that comedy stage. He’s a comic genius, only one of a few who consistent­ly pack arenas.

“His appeal with audiences is not simply because he makes them laugh, but because he also makes them think. Katt’s authentici­ty and fearlessne­ss in addressing controvers­ial topics has created a loyal fan base that appreciate­s his unapologet­ic style.”

“When people ask, ‘Where has Katt Williams gone wrong?’ I say he hasn’t,” Durden added. “He’s simply faced his fair share of challenges like all of us. Every struggle Katt faced was a triumph. Every mistake he’s made was a lesson learned. His trials and tribulatio­ns never overshadow­ed his comedic brilliance, which is why he is a force to be reckoned with.”

Evan Nierman, CEO of global PR firm Red Banyan, told Newsweek that Williams’ interview allowed him to rewrite a narrative that had largely been accepted as fact over the years.

Nierman said it “received huge attention and catalyzed a career revival because he did something vital that I often recommend to clients: he pressed the truth.

“Katt has been a source of controvers­y for years and was painted as a bitter comedian who let opportunit­ies pass him by until he became a ‘has-been.’ Until that interview, that negative narrative went largely unchalleng­ed and was propagated by his critics. Negative attention Katt received, for everything from legal issues and accusation­s of drug use to disparagin­g comments made about other comedians to the infamous ‘fight’ video, bolstered that narrative.”

Unlike most other celebritie­s, Williams took a name-and-shame approach to his interview; he called out a host of fellow comedians, some of whom he accused of stealing jokes.

“Americans love two things that Katt has now given them: personal perspectiv­e and a comeback story,” Nierman said. “Katt...told his side of the story, and didn’t shy away from tough questions. He spoke unapologet­ically and in a way that resonated with the audience. Fans are ready to love him again and see him succeed.

“The public now realizes that not everything they read or hear has truth behind it. This time when Katt spoke, they were ready to listen, and it has been doing wonders for his career ever since.”

is a newsweek entertainm­ent reporter. You can contact him at

Ryan Smith

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 ?? ?? PAST TROUBLES Williams with his attorney in Los Angeles Superior Court for his 2015 arraignmen­t over a robbery charge, related to a camera.
PAST TROUBLES Williams with his attorney in Los Angeles Superior Court for his 2015 arraignmen­t over a robbery charge, related to a camera.
 ?? ?? PODCAST PAL Former Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said Williams “bounces up’”when people try to put the comedian down.
PODCAST PAL Former Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said Williams “bounces up’”when people try to put the comedian down.

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