By ANDREW S. HUGHES
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
SOUTH BEND — Robin Williams lurched onstage Thursday night at the Morris Performing Arts Center, his back hunched over, and yelled, "Sanctuary!"
Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES
Robin Williams performs Thursday (Oct. 1) at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend.
After a pause, he said, "Uh-oh, wrong Notre Dame."
With that, the 58-year-old comedian launched into an uproarious 90-minute performance that demonstrated his wide range of accents and featured tightly-written material while leaving room for his signature free-association and improvisational skills.
He spent most of the show in almost constant motion, moving left-to-right and back again or pantomiming part of his routine, but this was more of a conversational Williams than the manic one who usually shows up for his appearances on talk shows.
He also, however, stumbled a few times with his rehearsed material, but each time, he recovered and demonstrated that his quick wit remains intact.
In one instance, for example, while discussing how his bowel movements were the last function to come back "online" after his open-heart surgery earlier this year, Williams meant to say he feared he'd need a "rectal exorcism" but instead said "rectal ventriloquism."
No matter, he forged on and improvised for two or three minutes about that and concluded that "ventriloquism" might work better as the punchline.
Williams also had material tailored for the local audience with jokes about the University of Notre Dame's "Touchdown Jesus," its parietals policy, and its football team and Charlie Weis.
Williams' most pointed local reference — various sources supplied his management with information in the weeks leading up to his performance — came while discussing some people's fears regarding President Obama's election: That "every white family in Granger would have to send an older relative to the west side to be a maid."
Multiple national politicians came under fire, with former Vice President Dick Cheney being compared to Golum from "Lord of the Rings" and former President George W. Bush's friendship with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described as a "United Nations ‘Rain Man," which led into a humorous dialogue between Bush and Blair.
Williams said comedians shouldn't despair at the loss of Bush for material: They have Vice President Joe Biden." ‘I'm proud to run with Barack America,' " he said in impersonating Biden. "He's not a superhero, you idiot."
And "whenever you need comedy, there's always Sarah," he said next, referring to Sarah Palin.
Former President Bill Clinton's recent trip to North Korea to free two American journalists seamlessly morphed into jokes about Monica Lewinsky to Hilary Clinton's bid for the White House and, finally, tough women who have been presidents or prime ministers in other countries.
On the subject of the federal bailout of banks, Williams said, "This is economic free-basing. … It's like they want us to pay for rehab and pay the bar tab."
Throughout the concert, Williams returned to the topic of drugs, sometimes at his own expense."
We just came from California, where it's forest fire season," he said, "and all the state parks have weed growing in them. … Smokey the Bear goes, ‘Only you' — long pause — ‘I used to know this.' "Later, he referred to U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' use of marijuana."
Poor Michael Phelps," Williams said. "He gets caught smoking weed, and they take him off a box of Frosted Flakes. That is a failure in marketing."
Williams' open-heart surgery this year also provided him with material, from the types of replacement valves he was offered to the medicines he's now on.
Much of the show also involved sexual jokes and situations, many of them unprintable, but all of them hilarious, equally for their content as for Williams' verbal and physical delivery of the material."
Erotic is when you use a feather," he said. "Porn is when you use the whole chicken."
Williams bemoaned the porn industry's appropriation of some of his film's titles and then imagined Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart and Christopher Walken as porn stars.
For his encore, Williams talked about knowing Walter Cronkite and knowing that the late news anchor liked a good dirty joke. He finished by telling a good — if corny — dirty joke for and in the voice of Cronkite.