Wendy Williams Makes Uneven Standup Debut


“Bomb-proof” (adjective): That state of being  for performers in which they belch and receive a standing ovation.

While awaiting a decision from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary on that submission, let’s discuss its inspiration: Wendy Williams at the Venetian.

Yes, the involuntary gas release after a Champagne sip brought some Wendy worshippers to their feet at the daytime gabber’s one-night, first-ever stand-up comedy turn. Promoted largely as a stunt—a bone for her fans, a lark for her—the appearance could double as a test run for a secondary career, one that wouldn’t be a stretch for the ex-shock jock.

Booking the sassy Williams as the opening salvo in the new Lipshtick series of female comics—with her fan base guaranteeing a sold-out house at least for a night—was a savvy move whether she soared or sank. Viewed objectively—i.e., not by her belch-applauding admirers—she didn’t land in either category, falling somewhere between funny and self-indulgent.

More stream-of-consciousness storytelling than structured stand-up, Williams’ set showcased her wig-whipping boisterousness, streaked with talk show-no-no cuss words (“motherfucker” was a favorite) and tales that swung from her “fat-shamed” childhood to brassy adulthood. Occasionally stopping, backtracking or skipping ahead of herself, Williams had a sometimes disjointed delivery that could be distracting, but also had a kind of shaggy-dog charm.

“I’m a nice black girl with a lot of issues,” she said before insisting that her under-21 life was rife with emotional pain. “We can either wallow in it and jump off a bridge, or turn it into funny shit. Well, I ain’t jumping.”

Some family stories were G-rated amusing—say, about her mom’s thriftiness, when she would counsel young Wendy while grocery shopping to pluck the cherry stems so they would weigh less, allowing more cherries for the dollar. Others, not so much—say, wiping the “soupy” bowel evacuation off her newly dead grandmother’s body before the paramedics showed up.

Much time was spent on being a high school outsider, skipping prom, not dating, comparing unfavorably to her siblings and her weight miseries, of which her mom and dad rarely missed an opportunity to remind her.

“I had to get away from those people we call family,” she said, but while the stories got yuks, there was an undercurrent of bitterness that almost created laugh-guilt for the audience.

As for recounting her first oral encounter with an uncircumcised schlong—replete with tastes, smells and “turtleneck” jokes—it was more than I ever cared to learn about a mainstream TV personality. Also, it was funny—though maybe not to gents who never underwent the genital trim.

Packaged on Broadway, Williams’ life travelogue would qualify as one-woman-show stuff. If her Vegas stopover winds up as an out-of-town tryout, it’s got a solid arc—from emotionally scarred child to media queen grownup—that could be molded into a funny-poignant narrative. If it’s toe-dipping into the stand-up pool, it needs discipline, timing and better camouflaging of her lingering resentments.

And if it was a one-time kick? Nothing wrong with a night of shits and giggles and belches.

Got an entertainment tip? Email Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.

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