DVD Review: Robin Williams: Comic Genius (5 DVD Collector’s Set)



Last year the Robin Williams: Comic Genius 22 DVD boxset came out that covered so much of his time on television. While Williams had an amazing career in movies and even won an Oscar when he got serious in Good Will Hunting, it was on television that he was able to establish his whirlwind of comedy that swept across the screens. The boxset dug deep into his ability to seem like a human tornado who in mid routine would see a strange opening and head down that alley. Robin Williams: Comic Genius – 5 DVD Collector’s Set boxes together his five HBO specials along with several bonus features dealing with time from his stand up career.

The 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. Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction was his final HBO special from 2009. On stage at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., he comments on politics, drugs and thoughts people have while jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The five HBO specials allow Robin Williams to be in his natural setting without having to deal with a director with a vision of how Robin fits in his film. He can go off the rails and be dead serious without a care. He doesn’t have to follow a script or worry about stepping on other actor’s lines. He’s free to be whatever he wants to be and not merely Mork or a genie or a psychotic photo developer. He’s pure Robin Williams on these five stages at various points of his career. Since they were on HBO, he didn’t have to hold back on his language to appeal to network censors. Robin Williams: Comic Genius – 5 DVD Set is perfect for those wanting the essential joy of what Williams could deliver when left on his own.

The 5-DVD HBO specials boxset is available exclusively through Walmart currently.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame for a majority of the footage. There are 1.78:1 anamorphic features for the more recent specials and bonus features. The audio also varies from Dolby Digital mono to Dolby Digital stereo depending on the time. You can always hear Robin clearly on stage. The HBO Specials are Closed Captioned.

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

Time Life presents Robin Williams: Comic Genius – 5 DVD Set. Starring: Robin Williams, Frank Sinatra and Dick Cavett. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 841 minutes on 5 DVDs. Released: October 1, 2019.

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