Harlandia

Comedian Harland Williams crafts recognizable, eccentric characters that populate his stand-up routine and films like “Dumb and Dumber.”

Joseph Kleinschmidt

What: Harland Williams

When: Tonight through Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: Rick BronsonâÄôs House of Comedy, Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington

Cost: $29.95

If anything links the characters of Harland Williams, itâÄôs his disarming sense of improvisational humor. Even in WilliamâÄôs first role in âÄúDumb and Dumber,âÄù the comedian and actor invented original lines on set.

âÄúI love to improvise in my roles. I love to add stuff. When IâÄôm in the moment, I love to follow my instincts and let it take over,âÄù Williams said. âÄúStuff just comes out of me that I donâÄôt even know is there.âÄù

Opposite Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey in âÄúDumb and Dumber,âÄù Williams played a highway cop who mistakes a beer bottle of urine for alcohol. The pee-drinking patrolman launched a movie career with small but memorable roles in âÄúThereâÄôs Something About MaryâÄù and âÄúHalf Baked.âÄù

WilliamsâÄô many characters exude the actor and comedianâÄôs peculiar sense of humor. Somewhere along the continuum of fellow comics Norm MacDonald and Pee Wee Herman, Williams inhabits a world of bizarre musings and non-sequiturs with each role.

âÄúI think itâÄôs really just shades of me. ItâÄôs not really a character. I think itâÄôs just me amplified or a little more geared up than my mellow self,âÄù Williams said.

Although WilliamsâÄô roles include the critically panned Disney romp âÄúRocketManâÄú among other corny projects, he brings irreverence to each of his characters. Each movie fails to fully encapsulate the comedianâÄôs propensity for weird. He strives for fuller characters.

âÄúMy dream role would be to create an Ace Ventura or Austin Powers type character and have it take off: my own persona thatâÄôs bigger than life,âÄù Williams said.

Since beginning stand-up in 1982, WilliamsâÄô combination of the mundane and peculiar got him noticed in Toronto. The erratic quality to his appearances on the âÄúLate Show with David LettermanâÄù explains one of his core philosophies.

âÄúLife can be pretty predictable at times, but silliness can just go in any direction. ItâÄôs like a firework going off. It just blows up everywhere,âÄù he said. âÄúI like silly. You donâÄôt know when itâÄôs going to make you laugh or why it makes you laugh.âÄù

Williams cites inadvertent influences like âÄúSecond City TVâÄù cast members Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Rick Moranis, but he consciously attempts complete originality in his humor.

âÄúI try to sometimes block out influences and think: What if I was the first guy to do comedy? What would I do? What would I say? How would I act?âÄù Williams said.

When Williams began his stand-up act, he notes that structure and writing dominated comedy. Williams favors a balance between improvised and planned material. Still, his strange energy didnâÄôt always fuel onstage improbability.

âÄúOnce I felt comfortable [on stage] then I started to come out of my skin and go berserk and improvise,âÄù Williams said.

Matching his impulsive characters with written wit during his podcast âÄúThe Harland Highway,âÄù Williams loathes the new crop of comics who rely solely on attitude and delivery. He attempts purer forms of laughter.

âÄúI wish people with attitude would marry it with joke writing. ThatâÄôs what the art of comedy is,âÄù he said. âÄúSometimes they just leave the joke writing behind. If I want that, IâÄôll just get in a New York City cab and talk to a cab driver.âÄù