Review for Boston, MA

Performed on November 24, 2008 | Orpheum Theatre

Making the grade with old-school jokes

Originally published on November 27, 2008 | Boston Globe | written by Katie Johnston Chase

Like any master comedian, Robin Williams knows how to win over a crowd: location, location, location. He started off his show at the Orpheum Theatre Tuesday night with a double whammy about Boston weather and the mob (something about a certain body part joining the witness protection program), then took a swipe at Tom Menino: "Where did you find your mayor?... He makes Bush look like Churchill." From there it was straight to former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson's "stuff and run" bribery scandal; "my Beacon Hill folks" sitting in the expensive seats; a quick segue into plastic surgery, followed by a shout-out to Southie and Red Sox fans, who, he said, "make Oakland Raider fans look like Buddhists."

Five minutes in, the audience was eating out of his hand. "This is too much," a guy in the crowd said between convulsions of laughter.

Say this for Williams, he throws it all out there as fast as he can: clever stuff, cheap stuff, political humor, physical humor, poop jokes, dirty jokes, rehab bits, frantic impressions, even a few Mork references. On the second sold-out night at the Orpheum, he danced around in sneakers and a loose-fitting black shirt and pants, sweating and splashing bottled water all over himself.

He was working hard, no doubt, but he wasn't above going for the easy laugh. Some of his jokes have been told by elementary schoolers since the dawn of elementary school. Why are African runners so fast? Because they're chasing after food, of course.

This is Larry the Cable Guy material--immature, slightly racist--and the audience couldn't get enough. Why? Because he's Robin Williams. He could tell an elaborate tale about a car that runs on farts and people would roar. And they did.

Williams had plenty of smart, creative bits, of course. He turned Putin and Medvedev into a ventriloquist team and hypothesized that Arnold Schwarzenegger is sucking the Kennedy out of Maria Shriver: She's getting thinner, he's becoming more moderate. But he has a fondness for the old set-'em-up and knock-'em-down--"Restless leg syndrome--what the [expletive] is that? A tendency to break out into Riverdance?"

Like many comedians, he's glad Obama won the election but sad to see "God's gift to comedy" leave office. The president-elect will surely be more difficult to make jokes about; Williams's were mostly racial stereotypes: Obama telling Hillary to work her big booty, for instance.

He ended the show with another grade-school bit, tucking his head inside his shirt to "birth" himself through the collar. The crowd erupted. It was almost too easy.

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