That’s what it felt like trying to weed through all the comments of the repeatedly shared video of Katt Williams announcing his retirement from stand-up comedy today. Most of the comments were about how “old” and “horrible” he looks. Some said he “wasn’t in tune with his star player,” using his own jokes against him.
When I watched the video, I witnessed the same wreck they did but saw something totally different. I saw a man truly in distress and in need of help. I saw a man blatantly crying out for help with one crazy, inexplicable antic after the other – all the arrests and random Target employee smackdowns – while at the same time silently suffering with a wreckless, don’t give a fugg attitude. I also saw the tears rolling down his face when he told the viewers of Seattle’s KOMO News, “I’m just gonna go ahead and announce my retirement from stand up. I’m kinda done.”
The word “done” stuck with me. It reminded me of when I went to a two-day Mental Health First Aid certification training, hosted by Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. When people are hurting and dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide, the signs sometimes require decoding. A common saying in the Black community used to describe such feelings is the word tired. “I’m so tired…I’m tired of all this.” It’s not just a physical tired, but an emotional tired; a hopelessness. With so much stigma around mental health and depression, it’s much more
acceptable to say we are tired than to say we are hurting and feeling depressed.
Maybe I’m the only person reading too much into Katt’s words, but when I hear “done” I can’t help but think he means something more than finished with comedy. It doesn’t help that he goes on to say that he’s talked to his children. Or that he was just evicted from the hotel where he was staying. Or even worse, he’s getting bailouts from Suge Knight. I wonder where his family and friends are and if they are just as concerned as me, a complete stranger and outsider.
Last week, I got an urge to watch some of the Katt Williams videos that are currently on Netflix. I knew he was funny, but I realized that this man is EXTREMELY funny. Not only that, but in interviews he sounds very intelligent. I almost can’t believe the Katt Williams in those videos is the same one that announced his retirement today. All the life and light is missing. But instead of joking about how he looks, I feel compelled to pray and to keep watching his videos. Maybe if he knows that people actually care about his life and about the value he brings to the world through his art maybe that light in him will spark again.
With all of this happening in the aftermath of the tragic suicide/homicide of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins, I’m a little surprised that more people aren’t taking Katt’s downward spiral more seriously. In the case of Belcher, a constant refrain is that no one saw it coming. Belcher’s actions were uncharacteristic. With Katt Williams we CLEARLY see something coming. We expect it. Wait for it….
Sadly, that’s exactly what we’re doing – waiting for it. Perhaps the most disturbing part of Katt’s announcement video is the closing remarks of the news anchor: “Katt Williams has proven to be unpredictable, so we’re gonna watch and see how this all plays out."
Damn. We’d rather see a crash than help prevent one.