Comedian Guy Williams is six foot five and full of beans and he speaks as though he is shouting through a loud speaker, so interviewing him is like interviewing a very tall and very loud exclamation mark. He sounds exactly as he does in his emails in which he also shouts. His first email was signed: GUY. CHEERS 1000. Why settle for one cheers when 1000 are available? He might be a bit exhausting. He does rather hurt your ears. Even by email, which is quite a feat.
I had been keen to see him a few weeks ago because you'd have thought he was, if one wanted to get all shouty and use capital letters about it, the Most Hated Man in the Country. You'd have thought he'd murdered the Most Loved Man in the Country, John Campbell. Or at least killed his show, Campbell Live, by dint of doing the voiceover on Come Dine With Me, which was rushed forth to fill the gap.
What a stinker Guy Williams must be. Plenty of people let him know that they thought he was a stinker. He posted a rather plaintive tweet: "Really excited to be voicing Come Dine With Me ... I'm not excited about being lynched by people who think it's a Campbell Live replacement!" The lynched stinker was really excited about the idea of doing an interview. He'd love to, he emailed. He was very self-absorbed and enjoyed talking about himself, also he was lonely and desperate for attention and love - and for the opportunity to say "something stupid". But I had better run it by the publicist at TV3.
The publicist was not at all keen about the idea of him doing an interview, which didn't come as a great surprise. The chances that he wouldn't say something stupid were zero. This is not what publicists want when they are, in his words: "Waiting for the 'shit storm' to blow over. 'Shit storm' is a technical term." He was very apologetic and so we made a date anyway and when he turned up I asked how he'd persuaded the publicist. He said, airily: "She went on holiday." I don't envy her job; attempting to wrangle him - or to interview him, as I was to discover - makes herding cats look like a breeze.
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He would say that this is mostly my fault. My questions were weird (he asks weird questions for a living). I was all right sometimes but sometimes I was crap but that wasn't anything personal; everyone was crap sometimes; the Jono and Ben show was crap sometimes. I can see why the publicity department is loath to let him out. I interviewed him for an hour. This was plain lazy. Why, the guy who interviewed him for Metro magazine: "Like, literally interviewed me for seven days." An hour was quite enough for me, not having arrived equipped with ear plugs.
He is both very polite - he paid for breakfast; he apologised for being "SEVEN minutes late", and had emailed to say he would be late; he said, three times: "Bloody thanks," for seeing him - and amazingly, but almost incidentally, rude.
We met very early in the morning, at a cafe, which was, thank goodness, almost empty - although you would have thought he was addressing a public meeting of thousands. I said, faintly: "You talk very loudly, don't you?" He said: "Yeah, well, my whole family does. You have to talk loudly to be heard. I'm the oldest of three and I have the loudest voice but everyone else has a loud voice as well." Almost the first thing he said (shouted) was: "You have quite a bad reputation". He said he knew this about me because he told his mum he was going to do an interview with me: "And she was like, 'oh no!' And I was like, 'why oh no, mum?' And she said because you find people's weaknesses and exploit them." Do I really? "Yeah. Which is exciting, isn't it? I think it's an interesting thing to do and the good news for me is that I think my mum said something like, 'You've got so many weaknesses she'll be sweet!' I think I'm about 90 per cent weaknesses so ... " In anyone else I'd have thought: Yes, very clever and tricky, getting in first like that. But even if he does actually believe this, he's not remotely interested in what those weaknesses might be. He's not very interested in himself or in why he does things or doesn't do them. He says things when they occur to him so he often offends people but he really has no idea why except that: "People don't say what they really think, which I think is a shame. I think that it's sometimes more funny and more interesting to say what you think." There are these things known as social conventions. He said, wonderingly: "I don't mean to go round hurting people. Sometimes I do." It's impossible to know whether he became a comedian because he lacks the usual behavioural brakes, or whether he cultivates the lack of them because he's a comedian.
It's probably a bit of both. He's certainly not thick but he might be a bit lacking in the emotional intelligence department. He said that I wasn't the first person to have asked if he might be a bit Asperger's. He didn't think he was but that, actually, he didn't even know what it meant. I'd have googled it. That he hasn't might be some sort of proof of ... something. One of the other things that he didn't know anything about was the origin of his middle name, Malachi, other than it was a family name - and that he liked it because "it's unusual. Nobody knows how to pronounce it." He thinks it is probably a Biblical name (it's the last book of the Old Testament) but he has never been curious enough to find out. "No. I gave zero shits about that name to be honest." Still, he was, I think, and possibly to his surprise, really hurt by the slagging off he got over Come Dine With Me. He's a left-winger and people were writing in blogs and on Twitter that "I had something to do with this right-wing conspiracy! I'm like: 'I'm on your side!'" And, he said: "Steve Braunias still calls me out in his bloody column and that's one of the main reasons I'm doing this so that his readers will actually know who I am so that some of his jokes make sense. Ha, ha." He said: "It annoys me that I get annoyed ... Because I should be able to take that, right? If I can dish it out, I should be able to take it." I said (joke!) that he should fight Braunias and he stared at me as though I was the mad person in the room. He shouted: "That's ridiculous!" Ten minutes earlier he had been singing (at my invitation, admittedly, but at the top of his voice, naturally) a song he wrote called Jesus is my Boyfriend in which Jesus is a hipster with a six pack. He believes in God. He appeared on the cover of Metro magazine in Speedos, with a fake fish stuffed down the side. The most appalling thing about this is that they were his own Speedos, I said. He said: "Mate, I've got a million things. I'm a semi-good comedian. I won Sexiest Man a few years ago." He said, some time later: "Can I just say, I think I'm normal. You're the one who thinks I'm weird." There was, he said, a beeping. What was it? I couldn't hear any beeping. He heard more beeping. It was his phone, in his pocket. He said: "It's my phone after all that. I'm so sorry about that." I do think he seems to have a weird detachment from himself.
He arrived with his shoelaces undone and a food spot in the middle of his jumper. I told him to do up his shoelaces, and he did, like a chastised 5-year-old. I pointed out the spot, thinking that he might not want to be wearing a jumper with a spot on it for his picture. I left the room, briefly. When I returned he was licking at the spot. He was still wearing the jumper. Most people would have just taken the jumper off. But then most people would not lick at a food spot on their jumper in front of other people.
He is 27 and is living with his parents. We're happy about this? He said: "I don't think my parents mind having me there but I don't think they're super stoked about it." Did they think he was funny? "No." He was back at home because he has been kicked out of his flat because it was "in such a bad shape and that was due to incompetence by me. I think the landlady thought I was on drugs." He has never taken drugs except once, "accidentally", when he ate some "weed cake" at a party. (That he calls it "weed cake" tells you pretty much everything about his experience of drugs.) He doesn't drink and he never has because his family don't drink ("because drink problems run in my family"). Also he played basketball "very seriously" in his first year at university and so missed his chance to get used to drinking. The nearest he gets to a drink is holding a bottle of beer at a party: "Trying to stop the questions about why I don't drink." I asked whether the not drinking was also about not wanting to be out of control and he thought there was something in that. It was sort of a joke, really. He gets in enough trouble sober.
When I saw him he was in the process of trying to get back on side with the All Blacks, who he was in bad odour with for a variety of crimes - including phoning Steve Hansen and asking him whether he liked cats and having to be told to stop ringing him and asking about cats. He has history with the All Blacks and the IRB. He almost lost TV3 the broadcast rights to the Rugby World Cup. He climbed on a fence to see Namibia and "it became a huge fiasco". Getting back on side has involved a lot of "kissing the All Blacks' arse". He once said that the All Blacks "definitely need to be screwed with", and now here he is sucking up. He needs to suck up and kiss arse and sell out (he says he hasn't; he's merely in the process of selling out) because he needs people to talk to him, for Jono and Ben, and for his radio show on The Edge. He sent an email, after I saw him, about the All Blacks: "It's like they're my dad and I'm searching for their approval. I went to their press conference yesterday and now we're super friends again!" Super friends again! He'd told me: "I think I can behave like an adult, when it's necessary, but luckily my job has always encouraged, I guess, bad behaviour. So I've just continued going on behaving like a kid." That's about right. It was an appropriately strange interview - with a six foot five kid who shouts and says rude things but who you can't stay mad at for longer than 10 minutes. Ask the All Blacks. If he's good, I said, they might let him bring the oranges on at halftime.