Columbia Records, 2002
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/02/2003
Robin Williams is a fucking genius. Let's get that out in the open right here and now. Sure, in his career as an actor, he's had a few movies which could best be described as "forgettable", but at least they paid the bills and earned Williams time in the school of life - lessons he showed paid off when he finally won an Academy Award a few years back.
But maybe I should simplify my opening statement. Let's try that one more time: Robin Williams is a fucking comedic genius. When you boil it all down to the bare bones, Williams is a standup comic extraordinaire, taking the modern foibles of life and making us laugh at them, no matter how tragic they might be.
If you saw Robin Williams Live On Broadway when it aired on HBO, or you purchased the DVD, you won't have to worry about hearing the exact same show on this set. Honestly, I can't hear anything which came from the tour-ending show in New York - though I would have liked to have had that set included on the second disc, which features local bits from many of Williams's stops. (More on that later.) Same material, yes - though there are enough nuances in these performances which differ from the Broadway performance that will keep things interesting.
In the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks, Williams could have played things safe, but he dares to take the bull (or, in this case, Osama bin Laden, the anthrax scare and the numerous security crackdowns) by the horns and mocks it. The thing is, he does so with such skill that the comedy works - and undoubtedly produces some well-needed laughter.
There are no sacred cows in Williams's beliefs, whether it's attacking the Catholic Church and its recent scandal, mocking the Scottish accent and their invention of golf, or stating his views on Viagra and the Olympics. If you're easily offended - well, let's face it, you wouldn't even be on this site, much less be interested in listening to nearly two hours of Williams's often crude (but wickedly funny) humor.
The second disc is the most interesting, simply because it's material that hasn't been heard elsewhere - that is, unless you were at those particular performances. From the opening "rap" of "The Grim Rapper" (in which Williams pointedly takes a look at life and death, and how they all are interrelated) to the local bits, Williams sounds completely at ease in his settings - so much so that you don't have to be a resident of Milwaukee, Atlanta or Chicago to understand and appreciate some of the local news that Williams turns into humor.
Live 2002 is proof positive that you could take Williams off of the stage, but his heart has always remained in the spotlight. In the slim hope that Williams himself might be directed towards this review, I have only one question to ask him:
What the hell took you so long to return to stand-up, Robin?