Review (2) for New York, NY

Performed on November 23, 2009 | Town Hall

Robin Williams at New York's Town Hall

Originally published on November 24, 2009 | Times Online | written by James Bone

The first rule of stand-up comedy is that everything, even the most personal misfortune, can become material--and inevitably does. Ribald Robin Williams returned to the New York stage on Monday night after seven years that included a relapse into alcoholism, a divorce and open-heart surgery. So much misfortune is a comic's dream.

In a 90-minute one-man show he calls Weapons of Self-Destruction, the star of Mrs Doubtfire and The Fisher King took an irreverent look back at his immoderate youth. "They used to tell me, 'Drugs can kill you,'" he confided. "Now that I'm 58, they are saying 'Drugs can save your life'. I realise my doctor is my dealer now. He's a lot harder to get hold of."

Williams, who co-stars with John Travolta in the new Disney film Old Dogs, began a 35-city comeback tour after his career waned with such flops as Bicentennial Man, RV, Patch Adams, Jack, Flubber and Robert Altman's Popeye. The tour was abruptly cut short in March when a heart problem was diagnosed after he reported suffering from shortness of breath. Doctors operated to replace an aortic valve.

The way Williams tells it, he was offered a choice of replacement valve: doctors said a pig valve would make him immune from swine flu, and enable him to root out truffles as well. Or he could choose a mechanical valve called the Apple iHeart with 20,000 pre-loaded emotions. But he wanted an equine valve so he could be hung like a horse. In the end, he had a cow valve transplanted into his chest--which has the added advantage that "I can now shit standing up".

The surgery certainly has not slowed Williams down. His manic energy--and speed-talking worthy of the Guinness Book of Records--exhilarated the full house at New York's Town Hall. More than the material itself, it is Williams' frenetic delivery and uncanny impersonations that make up his comic persona. Even if you can't keep up with what he is saying, you just know it is funny anyway.

Williams has updated his material with more than his personal ordeals. The show seems to be a work in progress, constantly incorporating jokes from different places and different periods.

He has already got a Tim Geithner joke--still a fairly rare currency. He jibes that the rapidly depreciating US dollar bills signed by the new Treasury Secretary replaces the hallowed motto "In God We Trust" with "Trust Me".

On the unfolding healthcare reform debate, he proposes that US senators should wear jackets like NASCAR speedway drivers "with the names of all the people who are sponsoring them".

The Guantánamo Bay detention centre should be shut down, he suggests, and transformed into an amusement park called "Muslim Mountain".

Like most comics, Williams struggles with the Obama era. Obama he describes admiringly as a mixture of "Martin Luther King and Dr Spock". His wife Michelle is a combination of "Jackie Onassis and Serena Williams". But he gets no more risqué than suggesting that "Obama is an old Kenyan name for Kennedy".

Indeed, Williams often seems nostalgic for George W. Bush, US comedians' favourite muse. He mocks the former president's new role as a motivational speaker as "like having Lindsay Lohan as a guidance counsellor" and calls Mr Bush's plans for a presidential library "like the Colonel Sanders Culinary Institute".

Tony Blair's relationship with Mr Bush, he laments, was "like a UN production of Rain Man". Williams even cracks some old Dick Cheney jokes. Does anybody remember him?

The saving grace is Sarah Palin. "If you need comedy, there's always Sarah Palin," he proclaims. "She's a self-opening piñata." Perhaps his funniest and newest line is his description of going to search for Palin's best-selling new autobiography, out last week. "I couldn't find it in 'Fiction' or 'Non-fiction'," he explains. "I found it in 'Fantasy'."

But large stretches of the show--which is to become an HBO television special--are standard American toilet humour, ranging from vaginal farts and "rectal ventriloquism" to ejaculating water bottles.

The finale is a sequence about the quirky design of human genitalia--a woman has "curtains" and a "doorbell" in case you need to know--that had the undemanding audience rolling in the aisles.

Robin Williams unleashes new 'Weapons'

Originally published on November 25, 2009 | New York Post | written by Frank Scheck

Robin Williams has endured a string of trials lately: divorce, a stint in rehab for alcohol addiction--even open-heart surgery.

But neither time nor tribulations have dimmed the 58-year-old comedian's manic comic energy, displayed with full force in his 90-minute show, "Weapons of Self Destruction," featuring his trademark free-associative style.

Kicking off Monday at Town Hall--he confessed to being relieved to be in New York after playing cavernous casinos--he delivered a consistently hilarious set to a rapturous audience that included his "Comic Relief" cohort Whoopi Goldberg.

Few escaped his blistering comic treatment, which included the usual suspects: Sarah Palin ("a self-opening piñata"); Barack Obama ("a combination of Martin Luther King and Spock"); George W. Bush ("W is now a motivational speaker... kind of like having Lindsay Lohan for your guidance counselor") and Joe Biden ("like an uncle who's on a new drug and hasn't quite gotten the dosage right").

Along with the one-liners came extended routines, one of which imagined a post-Viagra debate between his heart and an organ further south.

Supplying a seemingly endless variety of accents and impersonations--a raccoon, deer, coyote; Jack Nicholson, Schwarzenegger and Bob Dylan--he even skewered himself ("I went to rehab in wine country just to keep my options open").

While the jokes and bits were hilarious, they lacked the bone-chilling revelation that infused much of Richard Pryor's confessions.

No matter--you'll be laughing too hard to care. And if you can't snag a ticket, stay tuned: The show will be broadcast on HBO on Dec. 6.

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