Once a comic always a comic
I don’t know how it is with other professions, but when a comic sees an opportunity to make your work better, they’ll give you a tagline to make your joke funnier. I mention this because Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams performed in South Lake Tahoe at MontBleu in July 2012 with another great comic, David Steinberg. It was an evening of ‘sit-down’ instead of stand-up, where David asked Robin a series of questions. However, it seemed more like a stand-up routine as Robin delivered punch lines and laughs throughout.
A comic interviewing a comic gives the audience a special insight into the working mind of a comedian. When Robin was on my radio show, I knew it would be fun but more importantly, I knew I wouldn’t have to do a ton of research because hey, it’s Robin Williams. Oh, there were several questions I had planned, but once things got started they took on a life of their own.
Robin and I talked about the basic art of stand-up. I told him a comedy club is the last bastion of free speech. He agreed and replied, “That’s why I can’t understand why somebody would want to videotape and then post it on YouTube when they should just be enjoying the moment.”
Robin went on to say when he was doing a play on Broadway it was rather annoying to see folks holding up their phones recording the show. It’s true - especially if you’re trying out a new bit on stage when it’s still a work-in-progress. That’s why I enjoyed watching David Steinberg ’sit-down’ with Robin. Everyone was hearing the questions for the first time so Robin’s answers showcased his art of improvisation.
On a personal note, when I last performed at The Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley, Calif., Robin came to the show. A good friend of ours, Mark Pitta (also a comic) books comedy there every Tuesday and the place is always packed. Dana Carvey and the legendary political humorist, Mort Sahl are usually seen there.
While I was performing, Robin invited my wife Nancy (fiancée at the time) to watch my set with him from the balcony. On the way home, Nancy told me Robin liked my set. That’s a huge compliment coming from a comedian as well-established as Robin. When I mentioned it to him live on the air, he said, “You didn’t just have a goof set, Howie. As I recall it, you killed it.” You know I've looped in his reply over and over between the music on my little radio show!