For the first time in his long career, Robin Williams is in Australia to do a stand up comedy tour. It’s taken this long, and it’s been worth the wait. Mostly.
I’ve enjoy Robin Williams’s career in all it’s forms: from Mork’s first steps onto the Happy Days set, through every inch of his stand up career I could collect & view pre-internet, to his extensive movie catalogue (Dead Poet’s Society & Aladdin are personal favourites, as is The Fisher King & Awakenings). He can act, he can sing, he can take the piss, and boy, can he do stand up. He’s manic, he only pauses to gulp a mouthful of water or cola, and the jokes don’t stop coming. I consider myself a student of the art of comedy – I’ve even effaced myself and attempted stand-up – so I’ve a pretty finely tuned material copying detector. But first…
His “local content requirement” for the two Brisbane shows (at least) is the Umbilical Brothers. Shane & David have been performing their special brand of physical sound effects comedy for nearly 20 years and it shows. Their 15min was slick, well paced, humourous & engaging. Having seen the “Umbies” a few times, there were small bits I’d seen before but nothing outrageous. There were a couple of sparkling moments: the first when Dave’s mum was revealed in the crowd by his sister, after he dropped the first (of many) f-bombs of the night; the second mid-scene where Dave called back his imaginary horse & it appeared super quick, much to Shane’s surprise. These golden, slightly deivating from script moments only added to their performance. A great warm-up act.
A brief setting of the stage, an announcement, and the lights dimmed again for the great man. Straight in, he pronounced “Brisbane” correctly. Some local colour referencing the time difference after the flight here, the Melbourne Cup, local fauna, driving on the wrong side of the road, etc. A great crack about flying Qantas & landing with all four engines still working. Then into the show proper – and topics all over the place (and swearing!). Pets, marhijuana, Twitter, cyber-witches, US politics (state, federal & international), health care, the British royal family, his heart valve replacement surgery, war, cars, Germans, Hitler, sex, genitals, masturbation, creationism, mormonism, muslims, drug use, Obama, veiled references to disgraced NRL player Joel Monaghan’s ‘interaction’ with a dog, orgasms, more sex, Sarah Palin, George W Bush, golf, and so on. It was a rollicking good time, laughter aplenty.
The first half sailed along – bang! joke, bang! joke, bang! reference to earlier joke, bang! bigger joke. I did notice he seemed to trip over a couple of lines. Then it happened… he lost his place. Entirely. This show is one Williams has been touring for at least a year, across a number of continents, and he forgot his place. He reffered to his prompt side-stage, who fed him the topics leading into where was when he stopped, and BANG! segued back in without an issue. He apologised, and got on with the roller-coaster ride. A mere mind-snap (a brain-fart he later referred to it as) in the collective comedic consciousness that is a Robin Williams stand-up show.
While no intermission, the second half of the show was a little flat for me. It was still massively entertaining and funny to see and hear however I knew I had heard large chunks of the latter portion before, either in grabs of him performing stand up elsewhere (like the higlights performances of Montreal or Edinburgh) or in interviews on TV for this tour in Australia. I don’t begrudge him one little bit – it’s got to be hard to make people laugh they way do when he delivers the gags. I only mention it so as to point out he is human and forgets things, and that it was noticeable.
The show finished with a quick gag & he was gone… and back 1 minute later with his now very famous “how golf was invented” monologue. Again, great, but we’d heard it all before. Another sharp gag to finish, then he was off to bring Shane & David back on stage for final bows, then they were all gone. It was a marvellous show, one I’m glad to have seen, however depending on your seat you will have spent most of the night watching him on one of the four large screens flanking the stage & wings (necessary to see him from more than 10 rows back). You could just buy the DVD of the tour (out in Australia shortly, I’m sure), but if you’re a fan nothing beats seeing the hairy man throw water on himself to punctuate his point when discussing ejaculation. Simply hilarious. I’m so glad I got to see him live.
Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction, touring Australia & New Zealand in November
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