Wearing a Hawaiian shirt with a fire-breathing dragon on the back and what looked like a dark brown skirt, Robin Williams turned in a sweaty two-hour set at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre on Wednesday night, the first of two "Working on Material" evenings at the 300-seat Mill Valley showcase in preparation for his fall Weapons of Self Destruction Tour.
When a woman in the audience asked him about his skirt, the delightfully manic comedian feigned umbrage, explaining that he was wearing a manly Utilikilt, which he bought while shooting a movie in Seattle.
"It allows easy access to everything," he said.
Tickets to the pair of shows sold out online in "the blink of an eye," according to an announcement on the theater's Web site.
Back in the Bay Area after two months on location shooting a film, Williams was in top form, launching himself on his trademark free association riffs, commenting on everything from the self-imposed isolation of Bolinas ("Is Nixon still president?") to the Olympics ("If I had a mother like Michael Phelps, I'd swim fast, too") to high-tech gadgets like a GPS that tells him to turn right on the Golden Gate Bridge. He cracked self-effacingly that the way his career's been going, that may not be a bad idea.
Near the end of the show, he tried something he'd never done before, improvising on suggestions audience members had submitted in advance.
He was impressed with the cleverness of the ideas, including a real estate salesman in San Quentin, George W. Bush on the Chinatown bus, a nurse who can't stand sick people and a Mill Valley woman negotiating with a terrorist ("You need a hug").
"Weapons of Self Destruction" is his first tour since 2002. The title apparently reflects some personal setbacks that Williams, a Redwood High and College of Marin grad, has suffered in the past few years.
In 2006, he checked into an alcohol rehab program after 20 years of sobriety. On Wednesday, he made a number of jokes about alcoholism, at one point asking fellow alcoholics in the crowd to raise their hands (none did).
In March, his second wife, Marsha Garces, mother of two of his children, filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
And in August 2007, Williams' older brother, Robert Todd Williams, died of complications from heart surgery. Proceeds from Wednesday's show went to the Healdsburg Boys and Girls Club in his brother's name.
Notorious for sexually explicit scatological material, he brought down the sold-out house with an inspired bit on a meeting of corporate types designing the human reproductive system.
Williams seemed genuinely grateful for the chance to perform, saying, "I haven't done this in a long time," and thanking the audience for hanging with him when they could have been home watching the Olympics.