Twas quite a night for Hill Auditorium when Robin Williams and his raunchy brand of comedy came to town this past Friday. Having waited since March (after Williams postponed most of his tour in order to have and recover from open-heart surgery) with expensive tickets in hand, the Hill Auditorium crowd was edging to laugh and laugh hard. A sold-out crowd welcomed Williams, and the two jumbo screens streaming live video of his antics all night, with a long and loud ovation.
Early on, Williams showed he had done his homework. While many comedians have an established nightly routine, Willliams spent his first 20 minutes clowning on local issues. Among other topics, he commented on Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan football team (“Coach Rodriguez is having extra practice sessions – not that they’re really helping right now”), Detroit (Canada’s “neighbor with a meth lab”), as well as noting that “Kwame Kilpatrick makes Marion Berry look like Nelson Mandela”. This local flavor won the crowd over immediately.
From there, Williams physicality and character humor took center stage. As we know from his many roles in film, Williams truly becomes his characters. In his 90-minute set, he became celebrities (Gregory Peck reciting porno lines, Arnold Schwarzenegger failing to pronounce “California”, former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis who pitched a no-hitter on LSD, Joe Biden campaigning for “Barack America”, Walter Kronkite telling a sexual joke- to name a few), animals (Scottish raccoons protesting recycling, a cat antagonizing a dog, and more), and he was, often times, himself- speaking about his heart surgery, his alcoholism, his movies, and his family.
Unfortunately, Williams’s material lost its edge in the second half of the show. Gone were the local references or the riffs on current events. Instead, Williams took turns with “Fuck”, “Asshole” (usually referring to his actual ass hole), and “Rectum” to pull laughter from his audience. His especially vulgar set- a slightly uncomfortable scene for this 19 year old surrounded by the 50+’ers that could afford the tickets- relied upon material that, although consistently drawing a strong response, is no longer fresh. Along with his talking rectum, Williams continued to mock the already most-ridiculed person of the decade, former President George W. Bush, as well as prolonged rants on the 2008 presidential campaign and Sarah Palin, along with many other not-so-current events. Yes, Williams has not toured since 2003 so this is perhaps new material for him, but, in the meantime, the rest of the stand-up world, not to mention Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have squeezed this material dry.
Williams left Hill Auditorium to a standing ovation and a pleased crowd. He made funny faces, did impeccable impersonations, and shocked the crowd with his slew of obscenities and innuendos. However, despite his early success in commentary on local issues, Williams’s material failed to showcase his status as a master of modern culture.
Bennett Stein. Ann Arbor, MI. email@example.com. No Shirt, No Radio-Wednesdays @ Midnight-1:30am. WCBN.