Damon Williams has long ago cemented his standing as one off the most well-known comedians from Chicago. With a diverse portfolio that includes appearing on television, producing and hosting comedy shows, performing in stand-up comedy tours or holding down the “Friday Funny Chair” on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, Williams shows no signs of slowing down.
The Chicago Defender caught up with the Windy City native to talk about raising his son in Chicago, balancing comedy and fatherhood and the never-ending Father’s Day “hustle.”
Chicago Defender: This is a very different Chicago for your son than it was for you as a young man; do those comparisons ever cross your mind?
Damon Williams:All the time; it is constantly on my mind. My son initially grew up in Country Club Hills, but we moved back into the city near the Brainerd neighborhood. When he was younger, because he loved to play basketball, I put a rim at my house so that our home was the focal point in the neighborhood; it helped me keep my eye on things. Because we were in an area where anything could happen, I made it a point to tell him that if a fight broke out, to not stand around and watch but go the other way. Also, if we’re comparing, I think we parents feel like we were raised better but I don’t think we [necessarily] were. I just think the times were better then.
CD: Given the strained relationship between young Black men and law enforcement, as a father, how do those situations affect you — especially in your line of work where you are expected to be funny and “on” all the time?
DW: It’s a tricky position to be in because my job as a comedian is to bring light to people when they come out to my shows. As far as humor goes, I can make light of what’s going on in the news or bring attention to a headline and still try to find the laughter within it. However, I try not to be too heavy-handed while on stage. I still make my statements, but I tend to use my social media as a platform for that.
CD: How do you incorporate fatherhood into your comedy in general?
DW: All year, not just on Father’s Day, I salute all the fathers. I do it year ‘round because Father’s Day is such an underappreciated holiday. Now, of course mothers are the greatest and in many cases in our community, they are the backbone of the household…however, fathers who are around and who are doing the right thing don’t [always] get the love and appreciation. So, I just take a moment in my show to say, “Happy Father’s Day.”
CD: I don’t know if anyone would disagree with you that even after all this time, Father’s Day still flies way below the radar…
DW:For sure! In fact, I even talk about how you can’t even get a restaurant reservation around Mother’s Day but on Father’s Day, you can get a table for a party of 20 — that same day!
CD: So, not many dinner reservations or even home-cooked meal from the kids on Father’s Day?
DW:You see, they trick us into believing we’re these great “grill masters,” so they [coyly] say, “Daddy you should grill on Father’s Day!” Now daddy is cooking and working on Father’s Day!
CD: And from the looks of things, kids can certainly step up their Father’s Day gift game, no?
DW:With the gifts, moms get fragrances and flowers — dads get a drill or a hammer! Basically, it’s: “Now that we’ve got you this brand-new power drill, you can fix that banister!” It’s not alwaysbad on Father’s Day, but it’s definitelya little biased.
CD: Speaking of young Black men in Chicago — your son Damon, through his Let Us Breatheinitiative, is blazing his own path by helping to crush all the stereotypes about young adults in Chicago. Can you tell us more about the work he’s doing there?
DW:My son is my proudest achievement in life. He amazes me on a daily basis — all the trips, flights, dive bars and comedy shows I’ve done that paid for his education have paid off because he’s a brilliant, scholarly young man. And by his own choice, he decided he wanted to be a social activist and for that, I commend him. Let Us Breathe is in the heart of Englewood and it serves as an incubator for men’s issues, gender and lifestyle equality and it’s also for artists and activists. All these poets, writers, intellectuals and hip-hop artists fellowship and do neighborhood outreach. He felt it was his mission to change the Southside of Chicago and on a larger scale, change the world. I’m very proud of him and his initiative to give young people a place to use their voice — to try to find resolutions to problems so many youths are facing.
CD: Father’s Day is here. What kind of message would you like to send to all the African-American dads out there?
DW:I want to remind fathers that they are valued, they are a powerful force and they definitely matter.