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Think Carol Burnett mixed with a rock concert
Some comedians are always on the lookout for new material — everyday experiences or observations they can portray in a funny light.
For Sheila Williams, it comes naturally. Even while hosting a scriptless show or doing a live TV hit presenting the Janeway Telethon, she's able to improvise with comedic gold on the fly.
"How I became funny is listening to my mom. She was my biggest inspiration," Williams explains. "I have a very funny family. Very witty. We get together and we're always like, 'I'll just up this, now. See if I can beat it.'"
Williams has made a successful 30-year career from performing. With formal training in music, she's a founding member of Spirit of Newfoundland theatre company, and a recipient of the 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for her cultural contributions. She has performed on stages from here to Ireland and is known equally for comedy and her singing voice.
For a second year in a row, she's combining both for a show at Holy Heart Theatre in St. John's: "An Evening With Sheila Williams: Giddy Up!" will run Sept. 27 and 28.
Actually, she's also adding in some dancing.
"A triple threat, yes, I'm sure that's exactly what everyone's thinking of me," Williams says, laughing, when given the suggestion.
This show isn't the same as last year's by any means, Williams is quick to point out, though it will follow the same format. There's no plot, just comedy (complete with some of Williams' best-loved characters), music (with help from local musicians such as Dana Parsons, Karla Pilgrim, Darrin Martin and Justin Martin, as well as the Etcetera Company Choir), dance (accompanied by Steffen Dance Studio) and, hopefully, a good time. Think "The Carol Burnett Show" mixed with a concert mixed with church, Williams' show posters proclaim.
Williams is stepping outside of her beloved classic country music this time around and branching into other genres: come to the show, she says, and you might hear everything from retro rock to Lady Gaga. You'll also maybe get a chuckle at Williams' self-deprecating look at some of life's struggles — things everyone goes through, but might not always find funny.
"I never, ever, as a lifelong rule, put people down. Ever," Williams says. "I try to lift people up. But I don't mind putting myself down, not in a low self-esteem way, but with a bit of that self-deprecating humour."
Williams says she is feeling more creative than ever, having turned 50 this year and having realized life is far too short to worry about the small stuff. She put the show together, she says, feeling free to choose whatever material she wanted. Not used to hearing a woman do Elvis tunes? Prepare yourself. If she felt drawn to it, she included it. Why not?
"My mother died, and with that died my tolerance for bullshit," Williams says. "My God, we have such little time here. My sister says, 'Darling, this is not an audition.' And it's not. We get one chance at this. Let's make it good."
With that in mind, Williams hopes her audiences leave feeling lifted in spirit.
"I hope they leave with the fact that friends and family and relationships are the most important thing. I hope they leave lifted enough to be kind to each other. Let's laugh and be lifted together."
Tickets for "An Evening With Sheila Williams: Giddy Up!" are available at the Holy Heart Theatre box office and online at holyhearttheatre.com.