Monday, November 12, 2007

Let's Clutch Those Pearls and Roll Our Eyes

A very catty take on some pretty standard Robin Williams schtick:

Robin Williams, One-Man Band

Robin Williams was in rare (okay, typical) form last night at the premiere of his new schmaltzy caper, August Rush. In it, he plays a Fagan-like proprietor of an abandoned theater home to a gang of musical orphans (really). We asked him if he ever played a musical instrument in real life. “Yes,” he said, “and I've been asked to stop.”

Turns out he spent some time playing the sax: “I did a black blues-player set,” he said; then he turned into a black blues player: “Man, you just gotta relax! You gotta make love to it, don't hurt it, you know?” But his favorite music, he said, is the music of New York. "Look around you," he exclaimed. "It’s like Gershwin flowin'! It’s got music, girl, everywhere. Uptown, downtown” — he turned into a feisty Latina. "Hola, mira, Mami. You got this thing, and it just keeps you movin’, ju know? You gotta have it, Papi. You know, leesten, leesten. Iss all crazy! You got to have music! And then you have the Russian clubs in Brooklyn" — with this he made some Russian-seeming sounds — "and Jewish music, Vhot, music!? It’s klezmer, what! Music to flee by! That’s why we take the skin off our penis — you gotta move! You can’t travel with that! Then you get in a cab" — he made some high-pitched wailing sounds — "Can you turn the radio down? Osama, please."

At this, the publicist began pulling him away, either because she felt enough was enough with the ethnic stereotypes, or the screening was about to begin. In his wake, however, there was a chorus of laughter.

Now, it's interesting to see the celebrity promotion machine start to eat itself in a frenzy of self-congratulatory self-importance. The writer is clearly--clearly--ignorant of the fact that Robin Williams has pretty much been doing this act since the early 1980s. Williams does the black voice, the Jewish voice with the obligatory reference to circumcision, and he either does a Chinese, Latino, or German reference before or after going snooty in his uppercrust British accent. This is the standard fare when the opportunity to go ethnic presents itself for Williams.

So the writer closes with a reference to the publicist intervening--a real indeed moment if there ever was one. And, quite likely, there wasn't one. Kudos for letting us know that you didn't think he was all that funny. The only people who could care less what your take on the subject amounts to are the ones who aren't really interested in the next Robin Williams movie.

But it reminded me of why I don't particularly pay much attention to Robin Williams these days, nor am I surprised to hear him doing his schtick whenever I land on some channel where he's doing something or other that all just sort of bleeds together.

In case you didn't know:

"My hatred for Mr. Williams goes back to my days in the mid-80s doing stand-up comedy. At the time, Robin was a big star in stand-up. But every big-time comedian that I worked with said the same thing about him ... he was a comedy thief and everyone in comedy hated him. It was common knowledge that he would frequent comedy clubs, sit in the back and write down all the jokes that guys used that got laughs. Then he'd present them as his own "wacky improvisations" on television and garner all these accolades as being a comedy genius when NONE of his material was original, it was a hodgepodge of various young comedians best work. I used to hear stories about comedians who would get fired from clubs because they REFUSED to go on stage when Robin Williams would show up in the crowd. So...I was bred to hate the man."
--author unknown

I guess if you're not paying attention, you wouldn't know that Williams has essentially built his career on being able to steal jokes, deliver them, get paid, and then pay the people who have had their jokes stolen in order to keep them from kicking his ass.

At some point, someone's just going to nod politely and say, "hey, Robin--is that new material?"

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