DVD Review: Robin Williams: Comic Genius



Robin Williams was an overnight sensation. Do not confuse that with he just came out of nowhere and on his first try become a superstar. For years he toiled in comedy clubs. His stand up routines made him a human tornado as he just went into overdrive with punchlines coming an a mile and minute under various accents and physical self induced slapstick. He popped up on the short lived Richard Pryor Show and the revival of Laugh-In. But on February 28, 1978, Williams officially had that moment when his career exploded into superstardom. What happened? He played an alien named Mork who arrived on Earth and fights the Fonz in order to take Richie to his home planet Ork. The next morning, Mork was a sensation in school playgrounds across the countries. And a few months later Mork and Mindy arrived to stellar ratings. Even though Williams became an Oscar winning movie star, he constantly popped up on TV whether in specials, talk shows or Saturday Night Live. Robin Williams: Comic Genius is a 22 disc boxset that covers five decades of Williams whirlwind career.

The massive collection starts off with Williams’ daring HBO On Location: Robin Williams—Off the Wall special. This uncensored performance from Williams quickly let people know that Mork could work blue. This is not the usual stand up special as Williams skips entering from behind the curtain and pops out in the middle of the audience at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood. He reminds folks in the back that they now have the good seats and the people up front have the bad seats. The people in audience include many of his ABC sitcom superstars including John Ritter (Three’s Company), Tony Danza (Taxi) and most importantly Henry Winkler (The Fonz on Happy Days). People want to reduce Williams’ routines to just pure stream of conscious punchlines being spewed out. But Williams had jokes and routines. Most of this performance would end up a year later on Robin’s Grammy winning album Reality What A Concept that was recorded in New York City. But what made him special was his ability to just pause the routine and have complete fun with the audience. He climbs into the balcony which is something Jonathan Williams never did. He shows he has a flair for the dramatic as he wraps up the set doing an old man after the apocalypse bit that has the crowd in his hand. At the end of his set when there’s still time left in the hour, he drags John Ritter on the stage for a little fun. In one of the bonus features, it’s explained that Ritter and Williams used to attend the same acting class and this was no accident. What’s interesting is that there’s two specials recorded prior to the HBO solo night. The Second Annual HBO Young Comedians Show and The Great American Laugh-Off only features his segments. Both feature bits he’d use in the On Location special. The Dick Cavett Show has both episodes where Dick and Robin kinda riff for the full episode back in 1979 when Mork was everywhere and Robin was getting ready for Popeye with Robert Altman. There’s more HBO specials including An Evening with Robin Williams where he returns to the San Francisco theater from Great American Laugh-Off. Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met is just a solid time on stage in the prestigious opera house that’s part of Lincoln Center in New York City. Robin jokes that the secret to playing the Met is paying them a lot of money. He’s just loving being in such a classical venue. Robin Williams: Live on Broadway might have been his attempt to win a Tony since he already an Oscar, Emmy and Grammy. There’s a few previously unreleased elements including his concert from MGM Grand Garden Arena in 2007.

Proving Robin was willing to go to dangerous places to make people smile, there’s footage of his USO tours to Iraq and other places. There’s also three times that Robin hosted Saturday Night Live in 1984, 1986 and 1988. The episodes appear to have been edited for syndication since they average around 41 minutes and the musical guests of Adam Ant and James Taylor have been clipped. But the point of watching is to see Robin having fun with the cast. One sketch has an elderly Williams stuck in a dumpy apartment with his Mork loving son. The comic reflects on how he screwed up his career with bad projects including a Vanna White biopic. He does a great Reagan doing a press conference with an ear piece so he can be fed answers by his brain trust. We also get his time as a guest on SCTV.

Robin had the ability to take over a talkshow with his rapid fire antics. First we get three of his visits with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. The highlight is the time in 1991 when he and Jonathan Winters got to riff off each other. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has Robin sharing the stage with David Lee Roth. He’s on the Oprah show, Charlie Rose Show and The Graham Norton Show. There’s plenty of visits to the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live! including a memorable Matt Damon. There’s clips of Williams from various award shows where he’s either collecting hardware or passing it out. He moves beyond the usual banter.

There’s also plenty of episodes of Mork and Mindy. Co-star Pam Dawber gives introductions to let us know what’s special about the episode and reflect on things Robin did. Although a majority of the discs are not family friendly like the Mork and Mindy episodes.

Robin Williams: Comic Genius really gets deep into the things that made him such a sensation for so long. There’s over 50 hours of shows and clips in the boxset that really makes you feel the complete television impact of Robin. There’s a bit of a wrap up in Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. The documentary aired on HBO during the summer and gets deep into his life. Depending how you remember Williams, this might be the perfect place to start or a better place to end watching everything on the DVDs. Robin Williams: Comic Genius has so much of him that you don’t feel like he’s left us.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame for most of the specials. The transfer qualities vary with the age. This is 40 years of video. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono or Stereo. The levels are fine since it’s mostly Robin talking and the audience laughing. The episodes are subtitled.

Disc 1: Off The Wall

HBO On Location: Robin Williams—Off the Wall
Original Air Date: October 27, 1978

Featurette: Robin Williams—The Early Years

The Second Annual HBO Young Comedians Show
Original Air Date: September 24, 1977

The Great American Laugh-Off
Original Air Date: October 22, 1977

Robin Meets Mr. Sinatra
Original Air Date: November 2, 1977

The Dick Cavett Show
Original Air Dates: May 16 and 17, 1979

Interview with David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Disc 2: An Evening with Robin Williams

An Evening with Robin Williams
Original Air Date: March 12, 1983

Featurette: San Francisco—Where It All Began

Director Howard Storm Demo Taping with Robin
Taped 1982

Comedy Celebration Day
San Francisco: 1982, 1984, 1990

I Love Liberty
Original Air Date: March 21, 1982

Catch a Rising Star’s 10th Anniversary
Original Air Date: September 30, 1982

The Comedy Store 10th 11th Anniversary
Original Air Date: July 17, 1983

The Comedy Store 15th Year Class Reunion
Original Air Date: November 23, 1988

Robin Remembers the Comedy Store
Taped 2001
Disc 3: An Evening at the Met

Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met
With Introduction by Lewis Black
Original Air Date: October 11, 1986

HBO Press Interview

Promo Taping

“Beverly Hills Blues” with Bobby McFerrin
Taped March 4, 1986

The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion
Original Air Date: November 15, 1986

Superstars and Their Moms
Original Air Date: May 3, 1987

Interview with David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Interview with Lewis Black
Disc 4: Live on Broadway

Robin Williams: Live on Broadway
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Original Air Date: July 14, 2002

Interview with Robin and Director Marty Callner

Noises

Explicit Language

HBO Promos

HBO Promos Rough Cuts

Robin’s Promo Riff

E! Press Room after Robin’s LIVE 2002 Grammy Win
Original Air Date: February 23, 2003
Disc 5: Weapons of Self Destruction

Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction
With Introduction by Lewis Black
Original Air Date: December 6, 2009

A Backstage Pass

A View from the Director’s Chair

Local Highlights

Mrs. Doubtfire Toasts Richard Pryor
Taped 1993

People’s Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture
Original Air Date: March 8, 1994

People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture
Original Air Date: March 8, 1994

E! Press Room after Robin’s People’s Choice Wins
Original Air Date: March 8, 1994

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales—HBO Promos
Taped August 25, 1995
Disc 6: Robin’s USO Christmas

Robin’s USO Christmas
With Introduction by Lewis Black
Taped December 2007

American Forces Network Interview: On Tour with Robin Williams
Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
Taped October 2002

Bahrain USO Tour
Taped December 2004

Stand-Up in Al Asad, Iraq
Taped December 2004

Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan
Taped December 2007

People’s Choice Award for Favorite Funny Male Star
Original Air Date: January 8, 2008

Interview with Lewis Black

Volume 2
Disc 1: Mork & Mindy
The Best of Season 1

The Mork & Mindy Special (2-Part Pilot)
With Introduction by Pam Dawber
Original Air Date: September 14, 1978

Mork Moves In
Original Air Date: September 21, 1978

Mork Runs Away
Original Air Date: September 28, 1978

Mork in Love
Original Air Date: October 5, 1978

Mork’s Seduction
With Introduction by Pam Dawber
Original Air Date: October 12, 1978

Mork Goes Public
Original Air Date: October 19, 1978

Interview with Pam Dawber
Disc 2: Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

Original Air Date: February 11, 1984
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: November 22, 1986
Robin Williams, Paul Simon

Original Air Date: January 23, 1988
Robin Williams
Disc 3: The Oprah Winfrey Show

The Oprah Winfrey Show
Original Air Date: September 27, 1991

Oprah’s Memories of Robin

Featurette: Robin Williams—Comic Genius

Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor
Original Air Date: January 17, 2003

Volume 3
Disc 4: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Original Air Date: December 23, 1992
Robin Williams
With Introduction by Jay Leno

Original Air Date: November 13, 1995
Robin Williams, David Lee Roth

Original Air Date: May 6, 1997
Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Kevin Nealon, Barry Manilow

Original Air Date: October 14, 2004
Robin Williams

Featurette: Robin Williams—TV’s Best Guest

Interview with Jay Leno
Disc 5: Inside the Actors Studio

Robin Williams: Inside the Actors Studio
Original Air Date: June 10, 2001

Great Moments That Didn’t Make the Cut

Disc 6: Come Inside My Mind

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
Original Air Date: July 16, 2018

Volume 3
Disc 1: MGM Grand Garden Arena
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Taped May 27, 2007

SCTV Network
With Introduction by Martin Short
Original Air Date: November 26, 1982

Interview with Martin Short

Interview with David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Disc 2: An Evening of Sit Down with Robin Williams and David Steinberg

With Introductions by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager, and David Steinberg, Comedian/Director
Taped December 5, 2012

Interview with David Steinberg, Comedian/Director

Disc 3:
An All-Star Toast to the Improv
Original Air Date: January 30, 1988

20th Anniversary of Budd Friedman’s Improvisation
Original Air Date: February 12, 1984

The Whoopi Goldberg Show
Taped 1992

Funny Numbers with Steve Martin
Taped December 15, 2002

Disc 4: Mork & Mindy

The Best of Season 3

Twelve Angry Appliances
With Introduction by Pam Dawber
Original Air Date: February 5, 1981

There’s a New Mork in Town
Original Air Date: February 12, 1981

Mork Meets Robin Williams
Original Air Date: February 19, 1981

Mindy, Mindy, Mindy
With Introduction by Pam Dawber
Original Air Date: February 26, 1981

Mork the Swinging Single
Original Air Date: March 12, 1981

Interview with Pam Dawber
Disc 5: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Original Air Date: April 3, 1984
Robin Williams, Phyllis Newman

Original Air Date: January 10, 1991
Robin Williams, Steve Lawrence

Original Air Date: September 19, 1991
Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters

Disc 6: Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Original Air Date: November 30, 2004
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: February 28, 2005
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: July 19, 2006
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: October 12, 2006
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: June 29, 2007
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: August 26, 2009
Robin Williams, Bobcat Goldthwait

Original Air Date: January 24, 2013
Robin Williams, Matt Damon

Original Air Date: November 12, 2013
Robin Williams

Volume 4
Disc 1: Charlie Rose
Original Air Date: January 12, 1998
Robin Williams, Matt Damon

Original Air Date: December 10, 2002
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: December 4, 2009
Robin Williams

Disc 2: The Graham Norton Show

The Graham Norton Show
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Original Air Date: November 13, 2008
Robin Williams

Original Air Date: December 3, 2011
Robin Williams, Jennifer Saunders, Elijah Wood, JLS

Dame Edna’s Hollywood
Original Air Date: May 9, 1992

Parkinson
Original Air Date: December 2, 2006

We Are Most Amused
Original Air Date: November 15, 2008

Idol Gives Back
Original Air Date: April 9, 2008
Disc 3: AFI Awards, SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations

AFI Life Achievement Award
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Honoring Robert De Niro
Original Air Date: June 12, 2003

Honoring Al Pacino
Original Air Date: June 19, 2007

Honoring Mike Nichols
Original Air Date: June 26, 2010

AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs
Interview with Robin
Taped 2000

SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations
Taped January 6, 2003

Disc 4: And the Winner Is…

The Academy Awards
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

The 58th Annual Academy Awards
Original Air Date: March 24, 1986

The 70th Annual Academy Awards
Original Air Date: March 23, 1998

The People’s Choice Awards
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

The 5th Annual People’s Choice Awards
Original Air Date: March 7, 1979

The 33rd Annual People’s Choice Awards
Original Air Date: January 9, 2007

The American Comedy Awards

The 1st Annual American Comedy Awards
Original Air Date: May 19, 1987

The 2nd Annual American Comedy Awards
Original Air Date: May 17, 1988

The Golden Globe Awards
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

The 49th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 18, 1992

The 50th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 23, 1993

The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 22, 1994

The 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 18, 1998

The 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 16, 2005

E! Globes Press 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards
Original Air Date: January 16, 2005

An Evening with Friends of the Environment
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Original Air Date: September 13, 1990

The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Honoring Richard Pryor (1998)

Honoring Jonathan Winters (1999)

Honoring Whoopi Goldberg (2001)

Honoring Billy Crystal (2007)

E! Mann’s Chinese Theatre
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Taped December 22, 1998

E! Walk of Fame
Taped December 12, 1990

The 6th Annual TV Land Awards
With Introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager
Original Air Date: June 15, 2008

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards
Billy Crystal’s Tribute to Robin
Original Air Date: August 25, 2014

Time Life presents Robin Williams: Comic Genius. Starring: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Henry Winkler and Richard Belzer. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 22 DVDs. Released: October 16, 2018.

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