Review for Richmond, VA (2)

Performed on October 10, 2009 | Landmark Theatre

The World According to Robin

Originally published on October 17, 2008 | Style Weekly | written by Brent Baldwin

Legendary stand-up comedian Robin Williams shows he hasn't lost a step.

It's little surprise that Robin Williams became a major star.

The veteran stand-up comedian and Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winner is a fine dramatic actor who earned his chops at Juilliard in the early '70s, but his hallmark has always been a manic propulsion that threatens to sweep entire planets into his self-made tornado of sweat and hair. It's not a neurotic, self-centered energy but rather the rapid-fire, always-keep-them-laughing approach that has made him a legendary crowd pleaser. Watching him, he seems to be the life of any party, anywhere, anytime.

"Weapons of Self Destruction," his first comedy tour in six years, took no pity on the full house at the Landmark Theatre. The 57-year-old, red-nosed star had the crowd howling and wiping away tears throughout, as evidenced on two large video screens hanging above the bare stage. Even Bruce "That's Just the Way It Is" Hornsby could be seen yucking it up.

Dressed in a black shirt and pants, and sporting a small clip-on mic that allowed him mobility, Williams had a slightly raspy voice tonight that didn't slow him a bit. He came out of the gate strong with his usual bevy of locally focused jokes.

"You folks just coming in from Windsor Farms, come on down. Just park that Range Rover and sit yourself down." He then mentioned the former name of the Landmark ("The Mosque... shhhh") before exploding into a long, full-bodied scream of "ALLLAHHAkbaarrrr!" which had the crowd rolling. "Somebody's walking outside right now saying 'What the hell is going on in there?'"

On our city's Civil War history: "Walk down Monument Avenue: Those are a lot of second place trophies, way to go!"

On Thomas Jefferson and his cozy relationship with his female slaves: "He wasn't afraid to wade into dark waters, as they say."

Even West Virginia wouldn't be spared. "It's Virginia with no dental plan."

Simply repeating the jokes doesn't do them justice, as Williams is an effusive physical performer, stalking the stage with arms flailing while continually shuffling through pitch-perfect impersonations, be they Indian, Chinese, French, African American, Native American, redneck--or a grumbling, dying pope. He even knocked the fairly clichéd Christopher Walken imitation out of the park by placing him in a vivid porno scene ("I'm... in... you.").

Between occasionally brilliant bits about modern technology, drugs (a surreal sketch of Pittsburgh Pirates' pitcher Doc Ellis throwing a 1970 no-hitter on LSD), his own alcoholism, Sarah Palin ("What did she win, 'Project Running Mate?'") and plenty of raunchy sex jokes--particularly involving the anus--Williams chugged several water bottles that he squirted around the stage, often to simulate ejaculation.

A Marin County, Calif., resident, Williams made fun of East Coasters who continually rebuild in hurricane-prone areas ("Why don't you make it out of Styrofoam next time, so it just floats up and down?"). But he admitted that he shouldn't talk because of Northern California earthquakes: "I live on God's own etch-a-sketch."

There was little interaction with individual crowd members, with Williams sticking to the loose structure he has repeated on this tour. But the show was expertly paced and never boring, leaving many crowd members rubbing their jaws, exhausted after the 90-minute set. Following his well-deserved standing ovation, Williams returned for a brief encore, during which he was handed a small sign by someone in the audience celebrating his early "Mork & Mindy" television days with a "Na-Nu Na-Nu" comment and a request to "hug my wife." Williams threw a hug from the stage and remarked, "What a weird and wonderful night."

More like what a weird and wonderful comedian.

He left imploring the crowd to vote, adding, "There's a lot of shit to clean up."

Robin Williams is satisfying, frenetic at the Landmark

Originally published on October 17, 2008 | Richmond Times Dispatch | written by Melissa Ruggieri

Watching Robin Williams perform, one thing comes to mind: Can you imagine sharing a household with this guy?

Thirty minutes into tonight's howlingly hilarious, not-for-the-prude-minded show at the Landmark Theater, sweat trickled down the side of his face. Before the hour was up, Williams' black shirt was drenched.

Anyone who has seen him on the couch with Leno or Letterman knows that Williams is incapable of sitting still while expressing his comedic thoughts.

But between the arm flailing, the barrage of voices that accompany the acrobatic movements and the rapid-fire joke-segueing that barely slowed for him to swig water, Williams' performance was an exhausting exercise in sardonic humor.

For this "Weapons of Self-Destruction" tour, his first road show in six years, Williams touches on comedy mainstays--politics, sports, sex, side effects of prescription drugs--but also goes out of his way to localize his act.

He heckled a couple of late-comers slinking into the front row: "And here are the folks coming in from Windsor Farms. Just park that Range Rover and sit yourselves down."

Then, with barely a breath, "I walked down Monument Avenue. Those are a lot of second-place trophies! Way to go!"

For the almost two-hour set, Williams wore a clip-on microphone that sometimes muffled his voice, but it allowed him to stalk the stage and engage in such physical acts as pretend-riding a pommel horse ("Who invented [this]? Was it a cowboy with ADD?") and performing, as a scene from "Riverdance," the "restless-leg syndrome" warned about on prescription packages.

The sold-out crowd of more than 3,500--which included Bruce Hornsby--cheered when Williams inevitably pounced on the presidential campaign, striking first at Sarah Palin ("How did they find her? Was it a political show called 'Project Running Mate'?").

After noting, "Obama: Fresh Prince. McCain: Fred Mertz," Williams continued with another zinger. "Sometimes McCain looks like your uncle who's taken a drug and is wandering around the mall."

But the Democrats weren't completely spared, either.

In reference to Palin, Williams said: "Don't you think Bill Clinton is sitting at home going, 'Where was she when I was in office?'"

The 57-year-old Williams didn't shield himself, either.

A reformed alcoholic and former cocaine user, the comedian/actor joked that he went into rehab in wine country "just to keep my options open," before describing three unprintable ways to determine if you're an alcoholic.

Though most of Williams' recent movie projects ("Man of the Year," "License to Wed") have sputtered with feeble, lifeless plots, his stand-up act is a potent, charming display of manic behavior.

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