News Column

Robin Williams uproarious in 2009 visit to South Bend

August 12, 2014

By Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune, Ind.



Aug. 12--EDITOR'S NOTE -- As reaction to the death of iconic actor and comedian Robin Williams pours in this morning, the Tribune remembers Williams' visit to the Morris Performing Arts Center in October 2009. This is what ran following that visit.

SOUTH BEND -- Robin Williams lurched onstage Thursday night at the Morris Performing Arts Center, his back hunched over, and yelled, "Sanctuary!"

After a pause, he said, "Wrong Notre Dame."

With that, the 58-year-old comedian launched into an uproarious 90-minute performance that demonstrated his wide range of accents and featured tightly written material while leaving room for his signature free-association and improvisational skills.

He spent most of the show in almost constant motion, moving left-to-right and back again or pantomiming part of his routine, but this was more of a conversational Williams than the manic one who usually shows up for his appearances on talk shows.

He also, however, stumbled a few times with his rehearsed material, but each time, he recovered and demonstrated that his quick wit remains intact.

In one instance, for example, while discussing how his bowel movements were the last function to come back "online" after his open-heart surgery earlier this year, Williams meant to say he feared he'd need a "rectal exorcism" but instead said "rectal ventriloquism."

No matter, he forged on and improvised for two or three minutes about that and concluded that "ventriloquism" might work better as the punch line.

Williams also had material tailored for the local audience -- delivered seamlessly --with jokes about the University of Notre Dame's "Touchdown Jesus," its parietals policy, and its football team and Charlie Weis.

Williams' most pointed local reference -- various sources supplied his management with information in the weeks leading up to his performance -- came while discussing some people's fears regarding President Obama's election: That "every white family in Granger would have to send a relative to the west side to be a maid."

Multiple national politicians came under fire, with former Vice President Dick Cheney being compared to Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" and former President George W. Bush's friendship with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described as a "United Nations 'Rain Man,' " which led into a humorous dialogue between Bush and Blair.

Williams said comedians shouldn't despair at the loss of Bush for material: They have Vice President Joe Biden.

" 'I'm proud to run with Barack America,' " he said in impersonating Biden. "He's not a superhero, you idiot."

And "whenever you need comedy, there's always Sarah," he said next, referring to Sarah Palin. "Where did they find her? 'Project Running Mate'?"

Later, he referred to U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' use of marijuana.

"Poor Michael Phelps," Williams said. "He gets caught smoking weed, and they take him off a box of Frosted Flakes. That is a failure in marketing."

Williams' open-heart surgery this year also provided him with material, from the types of replacement valves he was offered -- "I was hoping I'd get an iHeart" -- to ruminations about buying organs from the New Jersey rabbi who was recently arrested for selling them.

Williams bemoaned the porn industry's appropriation of some of his film's titles and then -- in perfect impersonations -- imagined Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart and Christopher Walken as porn stars.

For his encore, Williams talked about knowing Walter Cronkite and that the late news anchor liked a good dirty joke. He finished by telling a good -- if corny -- dirty joke for and in the voice of Cronkite.

Just moments earlier, Williams paused, his shirt drenched in sweat, and said, "You people are like, 'Wow, we've seen a lot.' "

That's not as self-congratulatory as it may seem -- it's true.

___

(c)2014 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at www.southbendtribune.com

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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)


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