Harland Williams has no problem performing his standup comedy in the middle of August in the steamy Sunshine State.
“I’m Canadian, man, the hotter the better,” he said in a phone interview during a fishing trip in Ontario last week. “You can crank it up to 100 and I’ll feel fine.”
Williams, 50, performs through Sunday at Capt. Brien’s Seafood and Raw Bar, home of the Off the Hook Comedy Club, on Marco Island.
He recently fished in Canada, and landed a northern pike in Ontario.
Williams said he wants to fish in the Gulf of Mexico so he can “get his mug” in the naplesnews.com Catch of the Day photo gallery, a weekly online feature.
“I’m going to go to Marco Island and land a giant grouper,” he said.
Williams began his standup career in his native Toronto, drawing inspiration from late-night television hosts Johnny Carson and David Letterman.
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“I started doing really well in Canada. I rose to the top of the headlining circuit,” he said. “I realized this was a carousel I could be on for the rest of my career.”
Williams also wanted to try acting, so he drove from Canada to Los Angeles.
“I kind of took a big gamble and took every cent I had in the bank and went for it,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll stay here until my money runs out.’ That’s kind of the upside when you take chances. It’s fun when it pays off.”
Before long, Williams was starring in movies with a cameo as a state trooper in “Dumb and Dumber” (it was water — not urine — in those beer bottles he was drinking, he says) and “There’s Something About Mary.”
Williams joins a long list of Canadian comedic actors who have done well. They include the late Leslie Nielsen of “Naked Gun” fame, Mike Myers, Howie Mandel, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, the late John Candy, Michael J. Fox, the late Phil Hartman, Rick Moranis, Jim Carrey and Matthew Perry, among others.
Williams pointed to Carrey as someone who helped him early in his career. Carrey, he said, helped him land the small role in “Dumb and Dumber” and he said he continues to keep in touch with him.
Williams said he’s often asked why the Great White North produces so many talented comedians, and he has a few theories.
“It’s possibly because we’re not as bombarded with the same stimulae as you guys are,” he said of the United States. “It’s not as frantic and crazy up here, so it gives the mind time to wander into bizarre places. It frees the mind to think of silly things.
“We always seem to be a bit more twisted, unlike the Jerry Seinfields, the cut-and-dry guys.”
Americans, or maybe the U.S. national media, is always focusing on a scandal, from New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez, Williams said.
“It never stops. Every now and then, there’s a murder or something in Canada,” Williams said. “But even the political stories never seem to be that grandiose. It’s usually the prime minister slipped on a cabbage roll in the kitchen.”
Williams said his next movie is due out in January, “Back In the Day,” about a man who returns for his 20-year high school reunion and tries to pick up where he left off when he was 20. It also stars Morena Baccarin; Michael Rosenbaum, who directs the film; and Nick Swardson (“Grown Ups” and “Grown Ups 2”).
But Williams said he enjoys standup, and looks forward to his trip to Florida.
“There’s the freedom, which I always love,” he said.
“There’s no script involved, so you can do what you want.”
Capt. Brien Spina, co-owner of Capt. Brien’s Off the Hook Comedy Club, said he has been trying to land Williams for some time on the advice of other comedians.
“Other comics enjoy watching him all the time,” he said. “He’s just a funny guy from start to finish.”