Paul Williams is confidently self-conscious in his new show, ‘Summertime Love’
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Paul Williams is confidently self-conscious in his new show, ‘Summertime Love’

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It’s a humble man who proclaims his best ever comedy show to be one where only two people showed up to sit in the audience. But that’s New Zealand comic Paul Williams all over – humble, slightly awkward and ready to make people laugh, whether there’s two or two hundred of you.

The night in question was at the beginning of Williams’ circuit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival – a late 11.20pm show at an obscure venue with minimal publicity. Williams describes himself as “really bad at self-promotion”, but really that only strengthens his authentically modest charms.

The dedicated audience-goers were two middle-aged women, who made a beeline for two seats right up the back, next to the door.

“It was a small crowd, but a really good crowd,” he says. “I was terrified when I first went up there… but it went really well. There was even a bit where I was trying to get them to sing along to a weird song that I was sure they wouldn’t know, but they knew the words better than me.”

It’s Williams’ first Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, but his show Summertime Love has already been watched and adored by audiences across New Zealand and Scotland. In fact, with this show he even won New Zealand’s Billy T Award, made for the country’s best up-and-comers.

He describes the show as “almost like a kind of dating seminar, but quite loose.” And why should you take dating advice from a man who’s already proudly proclaimed his innate awkwardness? Because there really is a certain allure in someone so confidently self-conscious.

“It’s got some songs, I use a projector, there’s a slide show kind of thing, there’s some visual stuff and yeah, the loose theme is about trying to help people kinda find love.”

If you’re wondering if it’s a reflection of Williams’ personal dating experience, his only answer would be a vague “yeah, maybe.” Williams has a background in comedy rap parodies, something he’s quick to laugh about. He had a brief stint writing more serious music after that, before he decided stand up was going to be his thing.

He still calls himself a musician though, and has sneakily released an album called Surf Music which he says was not supposed to be funny, but “people still say it’s kind of funny as well.”

It seems that comedy is just Williams’ default, whether he likes it or not. It’s in his blood after all, with a “more famous” comedian brother, Guy Williams, and a Mum and Dad who “people definitely find funny.”

Williams says he’s more excited than nervous about his first foray into Melbourne comedy, but perhaps that’s because he really would be happy with a simple crowd of two – as long as they join in on the singalong bit.

“I definitely don’t do stock-standard stand up. It’s warm, fun, there’s some songs, but not too many, and some jokes. A bit of audience participation, but not too much if you don’t like that – so don’t let that put you off. Even if you don’t find it funny, it will be fun.”