“It’s okay, I don’t discuss Patch Adams.”
INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO: ROBIN WILLIAMS (Shout/Bravo, 2008).
Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
Get past host James Lipton's awkward preamble and this interview with one of the great comics of our time makes for appropriately gut-busting watching.
Williams, in manic free association mode, dominates the interview with cat impressions, a bit of interpretive dance and a slo-mo imitation of his Oscar acceptance moment. The set piece is an off-the-cuff bit inspired by an audience member's pink scarf. In five minutes, he morphs from an Indian filmmaker to an Iraqi woman to a gay rabbi to... just watch and find out.
When Williams calms down to answer questions, he delivers a few insights into the source of his humour (getting his mom's attention), how cartoons influenced his work and the effect drugs and parenthood had on his life. That he learned from Robert Altman (Popeye), Mike Nichols and Elaine May (The Birdcage) and Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society) isn't surprising; that he went sex-toy shopping in Times Square as Mrs. Doubtfire is.
The extra outtakes are revealing, even if each is annoyingly introduced by the gushing, hushed Lipton. (Why couldn't the producers have hired Will Ferrell-as-Lipton to interview Williams? Now, that would have been funny.) Among these are a good improvised Viagra routine, a fascinating anecdote about a truncated Waiting For Godot performance with Steve Martin and a touching anecdote about good friend Christopher Reeve, who was still alive when the interview was taped in 2001.