Heal with Humor

If anyone knows about the healing power of laughter, it’s Will C, a.k.a. William Clifton, because he’s seen it happen.
The veteran of both comedy and American armed forces, Will C lives by his message that laughter is truly the best medicine.
On a dare he took the stage at the World Famous Comedy Store in La Jolla, California, in the spring of 1995. He caught the comedy bug and never looked back.
Will C has traveled the country as a road comic and has performed all over the United States and Canada. With his quick wit, over the top goofiness, and his ability to relate to his audiences, Will has become a favorite at clubs, colleges, and military bases everywhere.
He was the runner up in the Southwest Comedy Competition in 2004 and a finalist again in 2005. That same year he was voted funniest comic in Kansas City by All Comedy Radio. In 2006 he won Best of the Fest at the Calgary Comedy Festival, in 2010 he was voted into the finals of the Boston Comedy Festival Competition, and in 2011 was chosen Best of the Fest at the Eagle Rock Comedy Festival out of 160 comics in Los Angeles.
He’s also a talented actor who has been in such films as Yes Man, Seven Pounds, Never Surrender, Article 99, and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. He has just wrapped shooting Inherent Vice, Wizards Dream, The Vatican Files, Purge 2, Murder of a Cat, and more.
Will C has been featured on shows like, “Hello Ladies,” “Ragtag,’ “Kill Em’ All,” “Wendall and Vinnie,” “Monk,” “Numb3rs,” “Knight Rider,” “MANswers,” “Family Jewels,” “Storage Hunters,” and more.
He is a proud veteran and founded the group the Veterans of Comedy in 2014. With their motto “No Laugh Left Behind,” they hope to help bridge the gap between soldier and civilian life by using laughter as the foundation.
His new CD “Weighting to Inhale” has been released and is available wherever comedy is sold.
We talked with Will C about his comedy, his career and the show he brings to the Edgewater. Here’s his take…

Which came first the acting or the comedy?
Well, actually the military came first. Then I was kind of dared to do comedy back in ’95, so I went down to La Jolla to the Comedy Store and hit an open mic, loved it, and haven’t looked back. Comedy started first. I did some acting when I was younger and even in the military, I’d done some acting. I actually got lucky about 12 years ago, and went out to L.A. Originally I was only going to be there a couple of months, but I ended up — not striking gold per se, but maybe striking copper — so I stayed and I kept on landing things. Every time I’d think about getting out of that town, I’d land something else, and so through the comedy, the commercials, TV shows, and movies, I stuck around and comedy kept on going as well, and so it’s been good.

Is there one thing you are most proud of?
I enjoy the acting, I really do, but I think more than anything, I’m proud of my service — I did serve in three branches of the military, and so you don’t find a lot of people who’ve done that. and so through a combination of that, I started meeting other comics that were veterans, so I put a group together called the Veterans of Comedy back in 2014. We’re all military veterans and standup comedians, and so I’m able to travel with my group and we do USO tours and armed forces entertainment, and things of that nature. I’ve been very fortunate, I wrote a series called Combat to Comedy, which I presented to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I got a thumbs up on that. We work with a lot of transition veterans who are being med-boarded out of the military. A lot of them — whether it be visible or invisible wounds, or injured in whatever way, through laugh therapy, I’m able to travel from base to base presenting that and being able to work with those veterans.

How long have you been doing comedy?
I’ve been traveling as a comic now going on 25 years here in January. On Facebook, they make you give your real name, which is William Clifton, or Will Clifton. My stage name is Will C, and I think it sounds great… “coming to the stage now, Will C.” It just kind of stuck and here we are. I always said I’d get out of comedy if I stopped having fun with it, well, funny is funny, and I’ve found that if you can stay relevant and find humor in things people want to talk about and hear about, people will continue to want to hear what I have to say. I’m still working, 25 years later. So I think I’m still having fun with it, I still like making new fans, and meeting new people. I think it’s what I’m gonna keep on doing.

How did you go about finding your own comedic voice?
The nice thing about comedy is you find your voice about every five or 10 years. and when I started it was all Marine Corps. I thought I was crushing stages because it’s like my friends are coming to the shows in La Jolla because it’s all Marine Corps. I think I’m so funny because I’m making my buddies laugh, then you realize you really sucked. Then it’s Italian and I’m wearing these black dress shirts, and black angle hats and going, “how ya’ doin’?” I was like, that’s not even who I am. I’m an Italian kid who got adopted by rednecks and so then I kind of went with that whole blue collar thing. Then everybody was saying, “you look like Larry the Cable Guy” and I was like, well, “that look is already taken, so what are you gonna do now?” Little by little you just find a niche and go with it. I never would have thought the military was gonna be the niche, but the way I look at it, I have a 2-million person fan base that’s never going to go away. So it’s a pretty cool thing.

Describe your comedy.
Some people get confused with the Veterans of Comedy thinking it’s all about the military, or people see my name “Will C” and think I’m urban of all things. I’ve come into clubs where people didn’t do their research, and they’re like, “oh, you’re white.” I make fun of myself, I do have the three branches of military to pull from, but my comedy is not all about the military. It’s about struggles in life, kids, being adopted, parents dying, everyday life that people have to deal with and I just try to find the funny in that. I’m not out there to make fun of anybody in the audience — I make fun of me. I just want everybody to have a good time and look at life through my eyes and hopefully we can come together and just have a good time. You have an hour or so, and I just want people to forget the things that are going on with them and just focus on me. Maybe that sounds arrogant, but you know what, this is me being vulnerable to you and hopefully you can find something relatable in what I’m saying. I do push the envelope on some things, but I’m not a filthy comic. I’m not raunchy, but I will take that envelope and push it as far as I can. If people had a good time, that’s the goal.

What’s your favorite thing about being a comic?
I’ve had the honor of performing in front of 20,000 people and I’ve also had the honor of performing for troops coming off their shifts in Kuwait, so when I look at the things I’ve been able to do as a comic, I’m very blessed. I feel that the Combat to Comedy series I wrote and doing that stuff helps veterans get through the grieving process. The grieving process in the military is very similar to that of a civilian, but when you’re injured, it’s different. The government takes you at 100 percent, and off you go. Maybe all of a sudden you get hurt and you’re not at 100 percent and they’re basically done with you, so it is a grieving process. All of a sudden, you’re in the denial aspect of it. Then you get angry and you bargain with yourself, your family, with Uncle Sam, and then depression sets in and you sit there and teeter-totter with that, until you get to the acceptance level of it. Maybe they took an arm, an eye, a leg, but you’re still here, and everybody has a story. I think people are afraid to tell it ’cause they think others won’t understand. But if you put people in a room with people who have been there, you do have that believability. Little by little you can knock that wall down once you begin sharing. I believe that’s really a healing process. I really believe that when you laugh, when you smile, when you hug somebody, those endorphins are released to your body and they have been scientifically proven to be a healing process.

Your least favorite thing about being a comic?
I miss my kids, and my wife. You look back at the year and oh man, did I really just work 44 weeks last year — that’s probably the hardest thing. The constantly living out of a suitcase, that’s the toughest part about the whole thing, but you deal with it and you keep the lights on.

You’re thoughts about comedy?
I think at this point in the game I feel like I’m a puppeteer and the audience is my puppet and I can take you any direction I want to. I think that’s the sign of a professional and I also think that’s a lot of years in the trade. I feel like we’re all artists, I really do, whether I’ve been in it for 25 years, and somebody’s been in it for 25 minutes, we’re still painters. I’m painting the Sistine Chapel and you’re painting by number, but I can’t discredit anybody who gets on that stage because public speaking is on the Top 10 of scariest things you can do with your life. I know your back is tightening up, your throat is dry, your mouth is dry and you can’t get the words to come out. I know what that feels like, but at the same time, words are power, and your words can change lives.


COMEDY ON THE EDGE

The Edge Lounge at the Edgewater

Friday-Sunday, Dec. 13-15 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info