Review for Washington, DC

Performed on October 17, 2008 | Charles E. Smith Center

Williams draws big laughs

Originally published on October 20, 2008 | GWHatchet | written by Ali Hoff

Tickets for Colonials Weekend headliner sold out in early July

"What the fuck is buff?" asked comedian Robin Williams during a sold-out show in the Smith Center Friday. "Supposedly, it's the color of George Washington's teeth."

Williams, who performed two shows as part of Colonials Weekend, incited near-continuous laughter from audiences with a routine peppered with sex and profanity. The 57-year-old comedian, best known for his roles in films like "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Dead Poets Society," covered topics including the ambiguity of GW's Colonial mascot, drugs in professional sports, Bluetooth headsets, Red Sox fans and the financial crisis.

"Foggy Bottom... sounds like a good name for the economy right now," Williams said.

"They say the economy is strong because people are considering buying things," he said. "That's like saying fat people are healthy because they might exercise."

Williams impersonated a wide range of celebrities from Truman Capote to Christopher Walken and engaged in improvised conversations with nearby sign language interpreters and photographers.

He joked about politics, noting that he thinks vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen through "Project Running Mate." He added, "After eight years under W, I was starting to think that electoral politics was like the Special Olympics."

The comedian said GW was a receptive audience.

"I'm having a lot of fun playing with my material for this crowd," Williams said in an interview with The Hatchet. "I'm learning more about the school. There's more to it than buff and the hippo."

During Friday night's encore, Williams encouraged GW's "future interns of America" to cast their votes on Nov. 4.

"This is our nation's most important and exciting time since its creation," he said. "It's a great time to be doing comedy, and this is a great place to do it. Most of the time, I have to tailor my act to my location, but here in D.C., my location can be the entire nation and I can address parents coming from all over the country."

Williams also referred to the "weird dynamic" between parents and their children during his performances.

"I make a lot of crude jokes," he said in the interview. "I'm sure there were a lot of kids looking at their parents and saying, 'Uhhhhh.'"

Assistant Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Peter Konwerski said Williams' brand of comedy--despite its wacky, often disconcerting flavor--came at an appropriate time for GW students and families.

"We want the weekend to be a chance for GW students and parents to have a good time," Konwerski said. "We want to create an atmosphere where--in between the stress of midterm exams and the challenges in our economy--we have created a situation where people can seek refuge from their stress and just sit back, relax and enjoy the weekend."

Williams said comedy provides him with a cathartic and creative outlet during uncertain political times. He said hopes that it has the same affect on his audiences.

"I see that people are scared about the government and about the economy and that they may not know what to think," he said. "But they really need to laugh, too."

Tickets, which went on sale July 8, sold almost immediately.

"The biggest indicator of how people feel about this show was seen in how fast the tickets went," Konwerski said. "We basically sold out both shows shortly after they went on sale. In my count, we probably sold about 8,000 seats in a matter of a week or so."

Despite the thousands packed into the Smith Center, Williams said he felt the size of the venue created a personal, close atmosphere.

"I've performed in front of crowds of 6,500, but this was much better," he said. "It felt really intimate. I really enjoyed the crowd."

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