Whether it’s motivational speaking and career coaching or performing stand up comedy, Kevin J. Williams says both arts rely on showing one’s vulnerability, quirkiness and humor that can shine through any circumstance.
Williams, 35, is among six New York City-based comedians and spoken word artists who will perform in “Conversation Pieces” at Soft Illusions Fine Art Gallery on Saturday, July 30 at 8 p.m.
It will be Williams’ first time performing stand up in an art gallery setting, but he’s told jokes in classrooms, restaurants and convention halls during his three-year journey as a comedian. Williams dropped out of a cushy but soul-numbing career in corporate financing in 2006 to follow his own path as a motivation and turned to stand up comedy two years later, after his mother died and his girlfriend dumped him.
“It’s basically highlighting something I’m not proud of and letting my guard down,” says Williams of his comedy, which uses vulnerability for hilarious effect.
Born in Missouri, Williams calls himself an “ethnically ambiguous mutt,” whose background is a mix of African-American, Welsh, Jewish and Cherokee Indian.
“My message is you can’t let society put you in a box based on how you sound or what you look like,” he says.
Mike Brown has performed stand up comedy since January, but that hasn’t deterred the 28-year-old from telling edgy jokes about race relations from the perspective of a black man that people from all backgrounds can laugh at.
“I just give my perspective in a way that’s accessible,” he says.
During his first show in January, Brown opened the set with a joke about living in Harlem as a black man as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified.
“[Harlem] has a lot of flavors. It used to be chocolate and now it’s Neopolitan,” Brown says in the joke.
The $20 cover includes a wine tasting, desserts and a chance to win an original painting by Soft Illusions owner Diane E. Vaughn. Also performing is Cheyenne Sabrina, Leni Uddyback Forston, Nate Mitchell, and the event is hosted by Chaundra Daniels.