Comedian comes to Campus

By Megan Bennett

Chicago-based comedian Damon Williams performed at the Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Ave., on Feb. 26, as a part of Columbia’s African Heritage Month celebration.

A writer and actor, Williams has performed in radio, film and television for almost 20 years. He has participated in ComicView, a comedy show that aired on BET until 2008, and was part of the popular Kings of Comedy Tour, opening for Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac.

Williams’ set, which he described as situational comedy, discussed gay marriage, the Paula Deen scandal and college struggles such as losing sleep and maintaining relationships.

Kimberly Weatherly, director of Multicultural Affairs and a friend of Williams’, said she hoped his show at Columbia would appeal to students with different artistic interests.

“We try for African Heritage Month to bring in people who speak to our majors,” Weatherly said.  “Of course that’s comedy, TV and radio. Those are the industries he has been a part of.”

Williams, who has performed at Columbia several times, said his stand-up comedy act speaks to a large range of people.

“I have done every type of audience from church, to the Republican National Convention, to the hood,” Williams said.

Alayna Bell-Price, the president of Columbia’s Black Student Union and a senior fashion business major, said this was the first performance for the African Heritage Celebration.

Weatherly chose Williams, according to Bell-Price, and said she suggested having a comedian perform for the celebration and thinks Williams is a positive influence on students.

 “He’s been around a long time and he’s always super funny,” Bell-Price said. “He’s relatable to college students so that’s why we chose him.

Aaron Branch, a freshman comedy major who has opened for famous comedians such as Carlos Mencia and Dave Coulier, was the opening act for Williams’ show.

Although Branch and Williams had spoken on the phone previously, Branch said the show was the first time they met in person.

“[Williams] seems like a cool person,” Branch said. “I’m just happy to meet him.”

He added that he enjoys the different performance opportunities he finds through the school.

“Columbia is a really good platform for me to get better and stay focused and learn whatever I can,” Branch said. “Opportunities like this are always awesome because I can take away something.”

Williams spoke with the crowd and joked about where students were from. He said he enjoyed the size of the group because it made the performance more intimate and interactive.

Weatherly said she hoped students would be better informed about what it means to work in the entertainment industry after Williams’ performance.

Williams said he agreed to hold a discussion after the show because he hoped to inspire students to pursue their dreams.

 “If something I say can inspire someone to go ahead and take that leap of faith—because that’s what it is when you’re an artist—and find their passion, I think I’d be proud that I had some part in that,” Williams said.

Williams said his main piece of advice to Columbia students is to stay passionate and persistent.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said, “It can, but perfect your craft, be diligent and just enjoy what you’re doing. Enjoy the journey.”