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Stand-Up Sunday: Robin Williams

November 11, 2012

“It’s the idea of trying the other things that people wouldn’t do.”

This is Robin Williams eventual answer to the initial question posed by James Lipton on an episode of his famous Inside the Actors Studio.  Eventual because it is given 7 minutes and 30 seconds after the “start” of the interview.  What transpires before is one of Williams’s most memorable performances, posted here.

The question posed to Williams by Lipton seemed almost superfluous.  “There is a phrase that you have used on various occasions to help us understand you and that phrase is legalized insanity…what is legalized insanity?”  He already had his answer.

The clip is not technically stand-up comedy but Robin Williams is not technically a stand-up comedian.  At least not in how stand-up comedians tend to be characterized.  What fascinates me most about his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio is that he had effectively demonstrated his brilliance and skill as a comedic performer before the interview even began; with an improvised solo performance that would have been legendary in any stand-up comedy club, let alone an introduction to a basic cable interview show.

By now everyone should be familiar with the career of Robin Williams.  One need not spend much time on IMDB to know he has provided some of the best performances, comedic and otherwise, in some of the greatest films and television shows of all time.  Yet with all the Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe awards his work as a stand-up often takes a back seat.  Many remain shocked to find out that he has turned in some of the most iconic stand-up comedy specials as well.  It is no small feat to have created six highly regarded comedy specials over the span of 30 years, and yet be more well known for movie roles.

This clip encapsulates much of Williams’s trademark manic, improvisational style.  Complete with material that strikes as relevant more than 25 years later.

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