The comedian makes his Broadway debut in an existential drama about the fallout of the war in Iraq
Robin Williams can be hilariously funny, and deadly serious. His characters have made us laugh and cry and think for years now. No role seems beyond him, as Harry Smith now shows us:
Robin Williams has never failed to make an impression. First as a manic extraterrestrial in “Mork and Mindy,” to “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” to “Good Will Hunting.”
Williams has loomed large in our on-screen consciousness. Yet, we never not think of him as a stand-up comedian.
And now, at 59, the Juilliard-trained Williams is making his Broadway acting debut, playing the tiger in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”
And, though the play and Williams have received strong reviews, it’s not “an easy play,” said Smith.
“No. Not meant to be,” Williams said. “If they’re coming to see Mork … wrong night!”
The tiger bites off the hand of an American soldier, gets shot, and comes back as a ghost – a ghost in an existential crisis.
“He starts off and get awareness, and a consciousness,” said Williams. “And then a conscience, and then bitterness, and then nihilism – and then he returns to primal, feral Buddhism, so it’s not a bad journey!”
And though there is dark humor, it is, after all, a play about war … its chaos. Its fallout.
“Sometimes it touches very deep in people,” Williams said. “Sometimes I finish the play, you know, you’re devastated. And yet, you have to go now, take a bow – ‘Thank you all,’ laugh, ‘Thank you, this has been wonderful, you like me, you really like me, you know?’ But it’s that thing of, sometimes it hits you.”
It is territory Williams knows all too well – He’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan numerous times with the USO to entertain the troops.
“Why do you do those shows?” Smith asked.
“They’re the best audience in the world,” Williams said. “You don’t get any better ones.”
“They’re happy to see you, I bet,” said Smith.
“It was kind of shock, then happy,.” He replied. “And they all said, ‘You want to fire off a gun?’ I went, ‘No , I’m OK!'”
This past Christmas, he traveled to an outpost deep in the heart of Afghanistan.
“And they were like, ‘What’s Mork doing here?’ It was kind of fun. You flew in on an Osprey, which – that alone is kind of wild. It’s a helicopter! It’s a plane, it’s a helicopter! What is it? make up your mind! And you land, it’s like, ‘OK, thank you,’ and then we’re here. Get off the plane, go, ‘THAT WAS VERY NICE!! It was a touch loud.”
Robin Williams can’t help being funny. His brain runs non-stop. Name a subject, he will find the humor.
Donald Trump: “He wants to see Obama’s birth certificate? I want to see his hairline. I mean, my theory is the hair is actually The Donald. That it’s like some alien creature than landed years ago – ‘Who’s the bald guy?'”
The royal wedding: “Big time, it’s almost like the United Magic Kingdom now. ‘Welcome everyone, hello, please stay with your group, don’t be afraid!’ All that money and no dental plan? How sad!”
Muammaq Qaddafi: “I’m thinking they should open a club, like a resort, called Club Fled, for all these dictators who leave and they will have a place to go, you know? Hello, my name is Muammar. Welcome, Muammar. I’m feeling powerless, not really, but 12 steps to where? What are you doing? I mean, it’s been 12 days since I killed someone!”
“Who would be his sponsor?” Smith asked.
“Charlie Sheen,” Williams laughed. “At that point even he was going, ‘I’m not that nuts!’ I don’t know; Tiger’s blood? You are nuts!”
We’re lucky Robin Williams himself is still around. Several years ago he went to rehab and had major heart surgery. It saved his life.
He turned the experience into a special for HBO called “Weapons of Self Destruction.”
“How is your heart , by the way?” Smith asked.
“Going well,” said Williams. “I mean, the cow valve is very interesting. It’s crazy, I don’t each much meat, because all of a sudden, my body’s going It’s one of us! Don’t do that!”
On the cusp of 60, and still going strong. Williams is happy, and thankful.
“Do you look at the world differently at 59?” Smith asked.
“A little,” he said. “I just take it a little bit slower. I’m travelling at the speed of life right now. It’s just nicer to say, ‘You got the gig. You know, you got the play, a wonderful, wonderful fiancée, I have a great life. Just enjoy it, you know? There’s no rush.”