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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 09:57 P.M.

Comedy Review
Comedy icon delivers impromptu Seattle shows

By David Bowermaster
Special to The Seattle Times

Robin Williams gave a sold-out Showbox crowd of 500 Tuesday night a continuous run of laughs.
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Robin Williams does few things quietly.

But Tuesday night, the frenetic performer with the rat-a-tat-tat style snuck into Seattle and transformed the gussied-up Showbox into a wild comedic thrill ride.

From Williams' opening jabs on Seattle weather to his withering, closing account of the history of golf — the creation of a drunken Scotsman chasing an errant pool ball with a broken cue — the fortunate 500 people in attendance could do little but hold on and remember to breathe.

He apparently does surprise club dates in San Francisco, but rarely does one in other cities. Humbly dubbed "Working on Material," the impromptu show — announced Saturday, sold out Monday — could have turned into an unpolished rehearsal of hit-and-miss humor.

But it is hard to imagine Williams any funnier, or any sharper, than he was at the Showbox.

Demonstrating the stream-of-consciousness wit and boundless energy that have made him famous, Williams hit a boggling array of topics as he bounded around the stage in a one-hour, 45-minute set.


Tuesday night, the Showbox, Seattle.
From the Olympics to the presidential campaign to eco-friendly cars, few issues or ideologies escaped Williams' outrageous, raunchy, rapier-sharp wit.

He celebrated the success of Iraq's Olympic soccer team — "It's amazing what you can do when you won't be killed for losing" — but cast a skeptical eye on the accomplishments of 6-foot, 6-inch swimmer Ian Thorpe and his size 17 feet.

"The Australians said '[Forget] drugs, we'll go straight to genetic engineering,' " he said.

An unabashed liberal with an activist streak, Williams took inevitable jabs at the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

"The Iraqis are trying to write a constitution," he deadpanned. "Take ours, we're not using it."

Discussing the ongoing Republican National Convention, Williams took issue with comparisons drawn between George W. Bush and Winston Churchill.

"Churchill was a major alcoholic and could still speak better," he said.

Three decades removed from his TV debut as Mork from Ork and subject to, as he put it, a "Grizzly Adams" beard of white if he fails to shave, Williams, 53, spoke of the perils of aging and the humiliations of trying to stay hip with his 15-year-old daughter.

Those punch lines resonated with the many graying baby boomers in the carefully-coifed crowd, which included local celebs such as the Gates Foundation's Patty Stonesifer and hubby Michael Kinsley, and world-renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.

But age was never a limiting factor in Tuesday's performance.

Williams still has the energy of an 18-year-old barista who's been sneaking too many lattes. Indeed, it would be hard to find a comedian of any age who could match the spark, intelligence and relevance Williams displayed.

Apparently he enjoyed himself as much as his intimate audience, who sat around tiny cocktail tables that gave the Showbox the feel of an intimate Las Vegas showroom.

Indeed, Williams performed again last night, and not long after Tuesday night's show recipients of the Showbox's e-mail distribution list were alerted to a third performance tonight, which is sold out. Proceeds went to the West Seattle Food Bank.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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