Williams' Comic Well Never Runs Dry

Live Comedy 2002

Originally published on March 7, 2002 | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | written by Dave Tianen

There was a point, perhaps an hour and a half into Robin Williams' show Wednesday night, when I was reminded of Salvador Dali's famous remark: "I don't take drugs. I am drugs."

That kind of intensity can hardly be human. For nearly two and a half hours, Williams prowled the Riverside stage and riffed non-stop on John Norquist and the apple; the indigestibility of Wisconsin food products; his youthful pharmaceutical experiments; the "camaraderie" of ice fishermen; how to meet girls in Arkansas; the erotic subtext of the Winter Olympics; the effect of anthrax on Keith Richards; the insights of Miss Cleo; the interaction of body piercing and airport security; the Secret Service and pretzel security; the difficult role of Joseph in the New Testament; fighting Islamic fundamentalists with our own maniacs; John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley and Jack Nicholson in a remake of "The Greatest Story Ever Told"; the love life of Koko the gorilla; body hair; Milwaukee as the lesbian capital of America; the arrogance of teenagers; and Shakespearean porno.

That is really only a small portion of Wednesday's show. Even nudging 50, and many years away from his regular stand-up days, Robin Williams is an amazingly manic, brilliant, inexhaustible font of comic energy. This was, among other things, the longest stand-up act I've ever seen. Most comics do an hour or maybe 90 minutes. Williams ran way over two hours, and you had the sense that some of the best stuff just erupted on the spot.

Some of Williams' best stuff will never make it into the paper, and quotes give only a bit of the sense of an act that's built in parts on mimicry, improvisation and manic intensity. But following are some of the better verbal shots.

"The security at the Olympics was really good. But let's face it. It's the whitest state in the country. An Arab in Utah is like Al Sharpton in Idaho."

"Ever look at Congress and feel like the little kid in 'Sixth Sense?' I see dead people. I see dead people everywhere."

"The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, 'Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.' She's got a baseball bat and yelling, 'You want a piece of me?'"

"It's great that we've got a compassionate conservative, but to me, that sounds like a Volvo with a gun rack."

"Ever notice that George Bush doesn't speak when Dick Cheney is drinking water? Do you realize we're only a heart attack away from Bush being president?"

"What did they put in those food packages to Afghanistan? Pop-Tarts and peanut butter. You put in a honey-baked ham and you've got a redneck Christmas."

"My only hope is when those terrorists get to heaven, they meet up with the kind of virgins we had in Catholic school: Sister Mike Ditka from our Mother of Eternal Retribution."

"When the Williams sisters play tennis, it gets pretty hot. When they start grunting, I'm in."

"My God. We've had cloning in the South for years. It's called cousins."

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