Reality...What A Concept

Robin Williams

Casablanca Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I grew up watching Robin Williams go nuts for 30 minutes a week on television, and spent a good portion of my teenage/early adult years laughing at his comedy routines he performed onstage. I remember my dad taking me to see Popeye, and us all watching The World According To Garp on cable. No one cheered louder than me (well, at least in my household) when Williams won his first Academy Award earlier this year, an award I thought he should have won for Good Morning, Vietnam.

But I also remembered that Williams had released three comedy albums based on his stage routines. (Actually, I had forgotten about the second album, Throbbing Python Of Love, until I started writing this review.) The first of these albums, Reality... What A Concept, captures an early edition of Williams's manic stage act and improvizational skills. Unfortunately, a hacked job of editing ruins the sequence of this album, and the comedy routines suffer.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Williams very much is a comedian who relies on his physical appearances - he can say more with one funny face than some comics could in an hour's routine. The problem is that this doesn't translate onto vinyl, meaning characters like the toddler in "Kindergarten For The Stars" and "Reverend Ernest Angry" lose a little bit in the translation.

Oh, there are some hilarious moments on Reality... What A Concept, such as Williams contemplating what chairs think about all day and Mr. Rogers sending a hamster into nuclear meltdown in the microwave. Even though this album is almost 20 years old (and having worn out a taped copy I made from the library when I was a kid before adding it permanently to the Pierce Archives), it has lost very little of the punch. Even the jokes about then-president Jimmy Carter and references to the Three Mile Island disaster still evoke laughs from me.

The problem with this disc is in the editing. You can easily tell where snips in the tape were made - the sound is incredibly uneven within even one particular sketch. (C'mon, how do you explain Williams's improv Shakespeare jumping from Studio 54 to Three Mile Island?) Sketches, thus, are created using material that never was supposed to be related. Some sketches, like "Kindergarten For The Stars," sounds like it ends way too soon, while "A Touch Of Fairfax"'s only understandable reference is to drugs, and isn't that funny.

The final result of this album makes it sound like it was pieced together at random - and that, kids, isn't funny. Williams's style of comedy has always been "shoot from the hip," going in whatever direction his mind chooses at the moment. As a result, whatever he was working on at that time has its own unique flavor - and mixing such flavors rarely works well.

If you really want to get a good taste of Williams's stage routine, turn off your stereo, hie yourself out to the local video shack, and rent both of Williams's performance tapes. Then, put them in, laugh your ass off, watch them again, and repeat as neccessary.

Reality... What A Concept is no longer available, except at some used record stores (and you may have to search for this title). But the sad reality is, this concept isn't worth searching out unless you are a diehard Williams fan.


Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Casablanca Records, and is used for informational purposes only.