'Katt Williams: Priceless': TV Review

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In Katt Williams' second solo HBO appearance, Spike Lee captures the performer's manic energy and devoted physicality

In his new HBO comedy special, directed by Spike Lee, Williams acknowledges his checkered past and legal woes

"When you are standing next to Suge Knight, and you're the person going to jail … that is a wake up call for your ass," Katt Williams says at the start of his stand-up special, Priceless. The comedian's many run-ins with the law provide fodder for his routine, which is from a May 17th, 2014, performance of his "Growth Spurt" tour. Priceless is his second solo special on HBO, after 2006's The Pimp Chronicles, Part 1, and just one of several other collaborations with the network.

In Priceless, Williams bursts onto the scene covered in a floor-length white fur coat, which he tosses aside on one of the giant chairs decorating the set. The larger-than-life furniture serves to further dwarf the diminutive star (who is 5'5"), as he immediately begins a manic routine in front of a highly receptive audience at Ontario, California's Citizens Bank Arena.  

Williams' energy is at an all-time high as he launches into some familiar comic territory about the changing state of weed, racist celebrities, police violence and his favorite TV shows (in the current number one spot: Swamp People). He almost never stops moving; if he's not pacing, he's shifting around the stools on the stage. At one point after taking off his jacket, he runs back and forth across the stage, even throwing himself down on the floor occasionally (and sometimes with a stool, which he uses as a great prop), all of which capitalize on combining his gift for physical comedy with his jokes. He also just looks like he's having fun.

Williams does address some of his recent controversies, though, like about whether or not he is homophobic ("I am pro-pussy," he says. "I don't even think lesbians should pay taxes, because they're already taking care of two vaginas!"), and also riffs a lot on his faith: "Atheist, no one is afraid of you because you got no backup. If you kill me, then I'm going straight to Jesus, and I'm gonna snitch on you. Who you gonna tell?" 

Most of Williams' material (much of which is topical, some of which feels recycled) lands, and some of it is raucously funny. But even when it doesn't quite elicit a huge response, the volume of jokes, as well as Williams' nonstop nature both in speech and physicality, doesn't leave much time for dwelling. From the start, Williams sweats profusely, wiping his face and hair down distractingly often. Yet it's no wonder given the amount of exertion. Halfway through the special, he catches a glimpse of himself onscreen, and looks genuinely taken aback at his unpolished state. "Ladies," he says, "you didn't tell me my perm had left the building!"

Spike Lee's direction acts as a balance to Williams; when he moves, the shots are mostly static. In the rare moments when he stops (or uses the stools as a prop), the camera moves around Williams, often shooting him from below to make him seem larger, yet also approachable, like a friend cracking jokes at a party. But in the end, the mood shifts. Williams closes the show on a serious note of encouragement, and as he leaves, he hugs, high-fives and takes pictures with his fans in the front row. The encouragement seems as much for himself as anyone else. Despite his successful set and laughing at his own legal woes, Williams' troubles may not be behind him. That somewhat somber moment at the end brings to mind a line he uttered at the beginning: "Check TMZ for more."