Richie's dark past

Clarence Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson and stand-up comedian Paul de Dassel have differing memories of their school days. Paul takes his stand-up comedy show to Byron Bay this month.
Clarence Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson and stand-up comedian Paul de Dassel have differing memories of their school days. Paul takes his stand-up comedy show to Byron Bay this month.

STAND-UP comedian Paul de Dassel clearly remembers being thumped by Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson.

The pair were in Year 10 at Catherine McAuley Catholic School at the time and Paul was in the middle of one of his usual lunchtime break-dancing sessions when the "prettiest girl in the school", who happened to be Richie's girlfriend, began dancing with Paul.

"Richie was a real ladies' man," Paul said yesterday. "He was going out with the prettiest girl in the school.

"I was dancing and she came over so I was going for it. I forgot she was his girlfriend but I shouldn't have. Richie saw us and he came over and thumped me - I had a black eye and everything.

"Later on we shook hands and he apologised and said he just lost his temper. He's a good bloke, but I never danced with the big fella's girl again."

Paul, now 37, said he left the area soon after finishing school and was surprised to hear years later that Richie had become mayor.

"He wasn't the brightest spark at school," Paul said.

Speaking to DEX yesterday, Cr Williamson laughed heavily before declaring Paul's story a "complete fabrication".

"That's not true, I don't remember that but I do remember him always dancing with the pretty girls," he said.

"I have heaps of fond memories of Paul; I'd like to catch up with him (possibly for another thumping - ed.)

"If you can't laugh at a comedian you've got problems."

So, why didn't Richie have a dance-off?

"I couldn't break dance to save my life," he said.

Paul grew up in the Maclean area with four brothers and three sisters and he still visits "home" from time to time.

He has turned his hand to stand-up comedy after a tumultuous early career as a high school teacher where alcohol addiction and mental illness - including both extremes of bi-polar - finally took their toll and he ended up at one stage living on the street.

But a chance meeting with former alcoholic actor and iconic Australian comedian Barry Humphries convinced him that all was not lost.

"Funnily enough I bumped into him at an AA meeting," Paul said.

"Barry told me that wallowing in misery and self-pity really is a dead end and that we all needed to get off our behinds and take a risk in this life."

From there, Paul enrolled in an acting course at NIDA and embarked on a stand-up comedy career.

Despite being thrown out of NIDA for "reckless impulsive behaviour", his comedy career has gone from strength to strength.

Paul will perform his show, Heartbroken, at the Byron Community Centre on Saturday, October 20.

"The show is about the two most important states of existence in life - either you are in love with someone or you are heartbroken," he said.

Paul began his foray into stand-up less than 12 months ago at the Melbourne Comedy Festival's Raw stage and Andrew Denton described him as "an incredible raw talent".

Topics:  paul de dassel, richie williamson

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