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'Pulp Comic' offers lukewarm jokes, no laughter

By Melanie Winderlich
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 22, 2000
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The Arizona Wildcat

Harland Williams, a blend of Fox Mulder and Pee Wee Herman, is the newest featured comedian on Comedy Central's "Pulp Comics" - an innovative conduit for demonstrating comic storytelling.

The half-hour show, on Cox Cable channel 52 tonight at 10:30, combines the spontaneity of stand-up with short films to illustrate the comedian's narrative.

Williams presents himself as an everyman with a blue-collar appeal to the masses. His schtick unsuccessfully revolves around government secrets and conspiracy theories. He is totally immersed in the topic of government cover-ups and hidden agendas.

His lazy, southern drawl is just another irritating element to his routine. He lacks the required enthusiasm all comics should possess. The jokes do not seem rehearsed, and often don't result in laughter.

But there are a few moments when the show actually becomes slightly funny and worthwhile - mostly in Williams' stand-up comedy.

He informs the audience of secrets and lies that the government has been plotting for years.

"We know where garlic powder comes from," Williams said. "We know where chili powder comes from. But the government doesn't want us to know where baby powder comes from."

This is about as wild as it gets. Each conspiracy theory gets stranger and stranger, losing the all-important goal of a comedian, which is to keep the audience laughing.

Lucky for Williams, each time the audience has a lukewarm reaction to a joke, "Pulp Comics" edits to the original short filmed parts.

Here is the moment when the show goes from bad to worse. The filmed story, illustrating the stand-up subjects, is outrageous in an obnoxious way. Staring at strange, wasted video tape is boring, unclear and questionable.

His entire filmed sequence was like stepping in a high school production of an "X-Files" episode. His acting motivation is completely random, and the sequences lack overall coherency and a relevant tie-in to the stand-up routine.

Surprisingly, this is not Williams' first encounter with acting. He just finished filming "The Whole Nine Yards" and was also in "There's Something About Mary" and "Rocket Man."

Williams seems inexperienced and amateurish with his comedic timing, yet has many entertaining ventures awaiting him. He will lend his voice to the new NBC animated series, "Sammy," Fox's "Gary and Mike" and the Saturday morning cartoon, "Ned's Newt."

Maybe children will appreciate his brand of comedy.

The funniest moment is his reflection on the Pillsbury Doughboy's lack of female companionship. Unfortunately this did not appear until the end of the program.

Williams demonstrates the entire reason why sitcoms must add a laugh-track with the audience's hushed snickering.

Given the opportunity, this episode of "Pulp Comics" with Williams, should be tossed into an X-File of failed comedians and out-of-work actors.

Melanie Winderlich can be reached at catalyst@wildcat.arizona.edu

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