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New Zealand’s Sexiest Man talks comedy, politics, and kicking Cirque du Soleil in the face
Guy Williams is a presenter on Jono and Ben at Ten. He’s a Flight of the Conchords fanboy. He’s definitely the first former VUWSA Executive member to be named New Zealand’s Sexiest Man. Salient hasn’t researched this, but we just know. And he’s performing at the Hunter Lounge on Wednesday 27 February. Alice Reid called Guy to discuss awkward non-dates, piles of mush, and his dreams of revenge against the Cambridge Hotel.
Alice: I heard you first started doing stand-up when you were here at Vic in your first year and living in Weir House, so how exactly did you get started?
Guy: There was a girl that I liked named Hazel Ryan and she asked me if I wanted to come along to a comedy show and I almost thought it was a date. Turns out there was like eight of us going and she just invited a crowd to support her brother doing a shitty stand-up comedy show. So I went along and sat in the front row, and while obviously the date was a bloody disaster as it wasn’t even a date, I loved the acts on stage.
I don’t know if I just went on the most magical night of the year, but every comedian killed. They were amazingly good and I laughed harder than I’d ever laughed. I got a high off comedy pretty much.
A real alternative comedian came on last and he did a routine that he called “Giving Birth to the Wall” and I loved it. Looking at in the light of day, it was the dumbest sketch that I’ve ever seen in my life. He literally just mimed giving birth to a wall but that’s how good the night was. For the next week I went along trying to replicate the experience and I didn’t, but I just kind of became addicted to comedy. I went along to the Wellington Comedy Club at the San Francisco Bath House every week until eventually they announced that there was a competition and I was just dying to get up there and give it a go.
How does it feel to be back now as a successful comedian performing two shows at the Hunter Lounge?
It feels bloody good, it’s always been my dream. The main reason I do comedy is because when I was in Wellington studying, one of the jobs I had was being a pub quiz host at the Cambridge. And I did a few of them, at the Cambridge on Cambridge Terrace obviously and at a student hall in Hataitai and stuff like that and I got fired from all my pub quiz jobs and replaced for not being good enough.
Ever since then, I’ve just had a vendetta against that shitty pub to try and come back and… I don’t really know what my plan is, but to do really good comedy. I’ve just always kind of been like “I’ll show you, Cambridge pub”, so this gig is to prove I’m good to the Cambridge pub quiz hosting people and hopefully they’ll rehire me as their pub quiz person.
Have you been back there since?
No, shit no! I didn’t even want to go there before, it’s a terrible place that no one should visit. I don’t drink so I’d never go to a pub normally and yeah they have a miserable business, I hope they go down the tubes. It’s like that Adele song ‘I Wish Nothing But the Best For You’, but it’s the opposite of that, because I wish nothing but the worst.
What’s your fondest memory of going to uni here at Vic?
I really enjoyed sitting in the library and not doing any work, just looking at the amazing view of the city. I won the election for VUWSA’s Activities Officer, that was an amazing achievement that will never be replicated. I remember living in Aro Valley and walking down the street and queuing up to see Flight of the Conchords do a gig at Aro Valley Video. That was amazing, there was like 60 people in there and that was just after they’d had an HBO TV series as well, it was insane.
Alright! And ‘cos you’re doing O-Week shows, I’ve got to ask—what’s your craziest O-Week story? Did you get up to any shenanigans in your time here?
No, I got up to zero shenanigans!
Yeah pretty much, I don’t drink so I don’t get really pissed. Weird things did happen but I was very boring. I just remember a guy in a helmet in the quad burning a New Zealand flag one year and then getting arrested, witnessing that was a pretty memorable experience. To be honest, I have no crazy stories. Nothing that crazy happened to me.
That’s disappointing. So you graduated with a degree in political science and you’re now a full-time comedian and radio show host—did you ever think your life would turn out like this?
Yeah well it was my dream when I was at uni. Everyone has what they realistically can do and what they dream of doing. What I dreamed of doing was being a touring stand up comedian and what I realistically was going to do was be a low-level employee with a BA at some government department. So I am very fortunate that I achieved Plan A because Plan B was not a good one.
Sweet! So you didn’t really wanna get into politics?
I always wanted to get into politics but I feel like I’ve already kind of fucked that up. I think my biggest strength now—‘cos I consider myself to be quite left wing—I’d be able to help them with communications. Right now I feel like John Key and his government have won three elections, really nailing their marketing and their message and the brand of John Key, whereas Labour have had three leaders who most people can’t recognise and just don’t have the same sort of prowess. They’ve got great quality policies and ideas but if you can’t pull an audience you’re wasting your time pretty much—same as comedy! You could have the best jokes in the world but if no one comes to your shows, you’re sucking arse aren’t ya?
Yeah! So what’s it like behind the scenes of shows like 7 Days?
It’s a lot of fun! But I’m kind of an outsider ‘cos I’m of a younger generation. What people don’t realise is that all those guys are really good mates, they all hang out outside of 7 Days as well. Being able to do 7 Days for me is like getting to hang out at the cool kids’ table. Probably not the cool kids… actually definitely not the cool kids. I’m hanging out at the funny kids’ table.
What would say has been the weirdest professional experience for you so far?
Oh man, well there’s more than a thousand. I got banned from Cirque du Soleil for kicking one of their performers in the face accidentally, I went to Japan for one night to sing a song to Sonny Bill Williams in front of 50 Japanese people, I’ve been naked on a billboard, I’ve drunk urine, I’ve been kicked off red carpets, I’ve been in trouble with the New Zealand Rugby Association. I don’t know, so many weird things happen every day it’s ridiculous.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career then?
Probably Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords learning my name. I’m the biggest Flight of the Conchords fan and that’s something I aspire to be obviously, they’re amazing. I feel like people really under-appreciate New Zealand comedy—I think it’s one of our best exports up there with movies and Lorde. People underrate how many good comedians come out of New Zealand: Flight of the Conchords, Jarred Christmas, Urzila Carlson who sells out shows in Australia now as well—it’s quite amazing. Rhys Darby obviously. Wilson Dixon is another one.
Anyway, so my biggest accomplishment is Jemaine—after questioning him on the radio and meeting him a couple of times, at the What We Do in the Shadows premiere he said “hi Guy” and the fact he knew my name just blew my mind. Also he follows me on Twitter and he favourited my tweet so that was a highlight of my life as well.
Yeah, that’s sick! Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing during your time in Wellington?
I always love going to Wellington. I’m looking forward to reading Salient ‘cos I always enjoy that. I’m looking forward to going to the library in the quad which is real flash now. I always enjoy going to the store Emporium next to the bucket fountain and buying vintage clothing and to Graphic, the comic book store next to Matterhorn. My favourite place to eat when I was a student was Higher Taste which is near the InterContinental Hotel, it’s a Hare Krishna restaurant—fond memories of that place and piling up the plate for $8. That’s my final answer, going to the Hare Krishna restaurant to have an $8 plate of mush piled as high as I can.
So what do you reckon your chances are at retaining your title of New Zealand’s Sexiest Man on TV?
It depends, high if I wanted to do it again. People are very skeptical of my status as New Zealand’s sexiest man and to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel like New Zealand’s sexiest man. Sometimes I feel like New Zealand’s best man at making up fake email accounts and voting for himself online. But to be honest, I feel like it’s sad to try and go in that competition again so I feel like I’ve just gotta relinquish my title this year. Plus Cam Jones from Shortland Street is so goddamn good looking that he deserves the title. Not even I could stand in the way of that, that guy is hot.
I’ve just got one last question for you. It’s shoot, shag or marry: Helen Clark, Judy Bailey and Jaime Ridge?
Well this is a very sexist question! Thank you for asking it. This is a terrible question, there’s no way of answering this well. Okay, I’d marry Helen Clark ‘cos I love her, I’d shoot Jaime Ridge and shag Judy Bailey? There’s no good answer to this!
There’s really not, I’m sorry!
That question is going to look sexist as hell so you did it, not me, alright?
It’s actually not my fault, that was the one thing my editor told me to do, to end with shoot, shag or marry.
Put this in the story, say that I say your editor’s got dumb ideas. Is your editor a man or a woman?
Make sure you write that he has dumb ideas, quote Guy Williams. You put me in a real awkward position there, I had to say I was going to shag one, shoot one, it’s not gonna turn out… you backed me into a corner, it’s all your fault!