CASINO RAMA--The question has been on the minds of Robin Williams fans:
Is Robin Williams still Robin Williams following his heart surgery?
Well, after seeing him at Casino Rama on Wednesday night, we can answer with a confident yes.
True, he probably doesn't stay out as late as he did in his younger days. And heart surgery always shakes a person, even if it goes well, as Williams' operation did.
"You get very emotional," Williams admitted. "I thought instead of a (bovine) valve, they gave me a tiny vagina.
"They offered me a mechanical valve: The Apple iHeart."
But Williams was his usual energetic, profane, drug-obsessed, penis-obsessed self at Casino Rama, entertaining a packed house of 5,200 that was relieved to see that at least on the outside, little has changed.
Wearing a poppy and dressed all in black, Williams never sat down, but rather paced for the whole 85-minute show.
The only time he looked tired was when he walked off the stage at the end.
"Greetings Canada from your crazy neighbours to the south," he began. "How come you have a prime minister that makes Dubya look charismatic?"
Unlike some comedians who come to Canada and don't bother to fine-tune their acts--you know, going on and on about traffic in Los Angeles or the Lifetime network, neither of which is relevant here--Williams peppered the first few minutes of his act with Canadian, and even specifically Toronto, references.
"What's the difference between the Maple Leafs and the Titanic? S--- goes down when they hit the ice," he said.
"If they ever win, THEN the tickets will be expensive."
Williams did talk about his California home, describing the earthquake-plagued state as "God's Etch-a-Sketch."
One criticism: The 58-year-old Williams hardly is the only comedian of his generation to still be too obsessed with drug humour, but there were far too many jokes about being high. The crowd grew noticeably weary of them.
Really, in 2009, a little of that stuff goes a long way.
Williams lauded Canadians for their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, but said recycling hasn't caught on so well in the southern United States, where he's looking forward to "the first Hybrid NASCAR race."
"I love the way some people say they watch NASCAR for the racing (and not the crashes)," Williams said. "Yeah, and I watch porn for the acting."
One of Williams' biggest laughs came when he related NASCAR to the U.S. Senate, with regard to the current health-care debate.
"You want to know how senators are going to vote on anything?" Williams asked. "Senators should have to be like NASCAR drivers and wear the names and logos of all their sponsors on their suits."
Like most comedians, Williams couldn't help but take a couple of shots at George W. Bush, even though he hasn't been president of the United States for almost a year.
"This is a family where the smart brother was named Jeb," Williams said.
"Dubya and Tony Blair was like the United Nations production of Rain Man."
But Williams didn't ignore the Democrats, commenting that vice-president Joe Biden "says things that even people with Tourette's go, 'What?'"
Williams also said that Chicago lost the Olympics because that city sent Oprah Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama to the final vote. "Rio won because it sent a pound of blow and 50 strippers."
Referring to his own battles with alcohol, Williams said, "Some people call themselves functioning alcoholics. Being a functioning alcoholic is like being a paraplegic lap-dancer. You CAN do it, just not as well as the others."
The one moment Williams drew some "oohs" from the crowd--as in, that might have gone too far--was when he talked about a powerful drug that he took after his heart surgery.
"Apparently Michael Jackson was taking the same stuff to sleep," Williams said. "That's like taking chemotherapy because you're tired of shaving your head."
By the end of the set, the crowd actually seemed more worn out than Williams did.
If you're a fan of Robin Williams, that, at least, is a good sign.
Four stars out of five for stamina. Three for material. Average, three and a half.
SUN RATING: 3.5 out of 5