Seeing a post-heart surgery Robin Williams perform stand up, you worry not whether the long time actor/comedian will be funny, but more so that his often chaotic, high energy routine will result in him dying on stage. Anyone who has seen the DVD Robin Williams: Live on Broadway will know that you’re guaranteed one of three things during his stand up routine; frenetic pace (he’s a 59 year old comedian going on 20), copious amounts of sweat and an unrelenting mainstream wit that leaves no situation (and celebrity) unturned.
Remarkably, this was Robin Williams’ first ever trip down to Australia for stand-up, here for his Weapons of Self Destruction tour that sees him through Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in about a week’s worth of shows. And if there were any doubts of his appeal, the 7000+ that turned up each evening through his 3-night stand in Melbourne is proof that while his movies have been erratic for years, his razor sharp comedic tongue is still very much flexing its muscle.
Local comedians the Umbilical Brothers warmed the stage with a brief 15-minute human sound-effect set that would have made Michael Winslow proud. Brief as it was, the brevity of the set was part of its not overstaying its welcome charm. They were however, an almost perfect segue to Williams’ animated and loud routine, opened with the familiar (I hope) Good Morning Vietnam geo-localized call.
“GOOOOD EVEEENINNNGG MELLLBOUURRNEEEE!”
And if with that, there was little, if no respite until the show’s close some hour and a half later. No one was safe. Qantas and Australian flora and fauna got the brunt early on- from kangaroos and koalas (the latter receiving comparisons to Lindsay Lohan) and the poor old platypus which, according to Williams, was God’s joke on humanity created under a drug fuelled haze.
Now bearded and visibly aged, Williams is no stranger to these vices. His documented alcoholism and drug use becomes part of his humor- and when an eager woman in the audience calls out and tells Williams she’s had cassette (ridiculed by Williams because she pronounced it “CASS-SETTE”) tapes of him from the 1980s, he wryly thanked her for paying for his drugs.
Current global issues and American politics are in bulk, a large chunk of his attack. Perhaps he’s just catching up on 10+ years worth of material but George W. Bush jokes, while still on point and ravagingly true, feel a little outdated (“George W is so dumb he waved at Stevie Wonder”). But when Williams talks about his homosexual dog (performing fellatio on fellow canines), drunk pick up lines (“Were your parents retarded? Because you sure are special”) and Michael Jackson’s use of the drug Propofil (“[He] used it to go to sleep. That is like having chemotherapy because you’re too lazy to shave your head”), his relentless and boundless humor is at a stadium filling best.
Robin Williams is no Bill Hicks, and his comedy is catered to an audience is probably satiated more by his comedic film roles than socially conscious stand-up. He isn’t here to change the world through his words and a lot of his material is easy to get involved with. His routine is perhaps best described by a friend of this writer who has always said that “Robin Williams’ comedy is his drama sped up and his drama is his comedy slowed down”. Yet as he closes to rapturous applause, the night is noted by one striking thing; Williams, sweat and all, appears to have had an absolute blast. Oh, and anyone worried about whether he’s funny or not can rest easy. He’s funny, damn funny.
w/ The Umbilical Brothers
November 9, 2010
Melbourne, VIC @ Rod Laver Arena