Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Before Mork...

A buddy and I stopped at the Improv in L. A. many moons ago. Just a few people were in the bar. Owner Budd Friedman shooed us all into the showroom, insisting that we go in to see this comic.

Perhaps a dozen folks littered the showroom. Within a few seconds, the comic had us all mesmerized. Of course, it was Robin Williams. Pre-Happy Days. Pre-Mork. He careered about the stage, as manic as you've ever seen him.

I must mention race here, because it adds to his prowess. Right in front of the stage was a huge black guy with a white chick. Williams must have riffed on them for a good fifteen minutes—and had them both howling.

John Travolta sat across the room. The comic skewered the actor, with the same results.

He quoted Shakespeare, Roth, maybe Kafka. His energy actually made me feel tired. My jaws and sides ached. He seemed to pluck jokes from thin air.

Ask any comedian: To be a "nobody" and work a small, scattered house—it's nigh impossible. And Williams didn't just work it. He killed it.

Finally, due to the late hour, someone gave him the "cut" sign. He looked drained, defeated. I'm betting he could have done another hour.

He followed us into the bar and kept up the hilarity. He went to everybody, shook hands and introduced himself. He and I chatted for a few minutes.

Finally he said, "You're a funny guy. You do shtick?"

I deadpanned, "No. 'Fraid not. Roman Catholic."

Robin Williams howled. Clapping me on my back, he said, "Hilarious. Can I steal it?"

I said, "Sure."

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