Robin Williams: Comic Genius (5-DVD Set) Review: A Retrospective of the Brilliant Comedian

A collection that Williams fans will return to time and time again.
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Time Life, in conjunction with the estate of Robin Williams, has released Robin Williams: Comic Genius as a 5-disc DVD collection. This set, which chronicles his career as a stand-up, features over 15 hours of comedic performances, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, interviews, and material that has previously never been seen by the public. This collection arrives five years after Williams’ suicide. A loss that is still being felt by his family, friends, and fans alike.

This collection is for both the fan and the superfan. Although some of the content can be a little repetitive, the overall collection is strong. And while some people may only want the main performances of Williams and his comedic gift, the interviews and promos that are included in this collection offer more vulnerable sides of the man that many people never got to see. You get a more holistic picture of the performer both on stage and off stage. There are also interviews with some of his comedic colleagues, his manager, and his family that also help fill out the picture of this incredible performer. 

Disc 1 begins with material as Robin Williams ascends to superstardom after Mork and Mindy debuts in September of 1978. In the subsequent discs, the collection moves through the major comedic events in Williams’ career. A number of the recordings in the collection come from Robin William’s personal VHS library. 

Robin Williams: Comic Genius contains the following material:

Disc 1

HBO On Location: Robin Williams - Off the Wall (1978)

Featurette:Robin Williams -The Early Years

The Second Annual HBO Young Comedians Show (1977)

The Great American Laugh-Off (1977)

Robin Meets Mr. Sinatra (1977)

The Dick Cavett Show (1979)

Interview with David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Disc 2

An Evening with Robin Williams (1983)

Featurette:San Francisco-Where it All Began

Director Howard Storm Demo Taping with Robin (1982)

Comedy Celebration Day (1982, 1985, 1990)

 I Love Liberty (1982)

Catch A Rising Star’s 10th Anniversary (1982)

The Comedy Store 10th 11thAnniversary (1983)

The Comedy Store 15th Class Reunion (1988)

Robin Remembers the Comedy Store (2001)

Disc 3

Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met (1986) with an introduction by Lewis Black (You have the option to play this with or without the introduction)

       HBO Press Interview about his appearance at the Met

       Promo Taping for his appearance at the Met

“Beverly Hills Blues” with Bobby McFerrin (1986)

The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion (1986)

Superstars and Their Moms (1987)

Interview with David Steinberg, Robin’s Manager

Interview with Lewis Black

Disc 4

Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002) with an introduction by David Steinberg, Robin’s manager (You have the option to play this with or without the introduction)

         Interview with Robin and Director Robin Williams: Live on Broadway Marty Callner

         Noises (A compilation of noises made by Robin during the special)

         Explicit Language (A compilation of explicit language from the special)

         HBO Promos for Robin Williams: Live on Broadway

         HBO Promo Rough Cuts for Robin Williams: Live on Broadway

         Robin’s Promo Riff

 E! Press Room after Robin’s LIVE 2002 Grammy Win (2003)

 Disc 5

 Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction (2009) with an introduction by Lewis Black (You have the option to play this with or without the introduction)

          A Backstage Pass

          A View from the Director’s Chair

          Local Highlights 

Mrs. Doubtfire Toasts Richard Pryor (1993) Robin prerecords this from the set of Mrs. Doubtfire and there are a few takes.

People’s Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture (1994)

People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture (1994)

E! Press Room after Robin’s People’s Choice Wins (1994)

Shakespeare: The Animated Tales - HBO Promos (1995)

While I really enjoyed all of the promos and outtakes featured in this collection, the two standouts for me are HBO On Location: Robin Williams - Off the Wall and Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met.

In Off the Wall, we get to see Williams early in his career where he is not as polished, but truly electric as a performer. And towards the end of that performance, he brings up John Ritter from the audience and the two improvise together for a while. It is a truly special to behold. 

An Evening at the Met is a much more polished Williams later on in life, but he is no less electric. From moment one, he takes hold of the 3,800-person audience at the Metropolitan Opera House and never lets go. 

What also becomes evident as you move through this collection is the incredible influence that Robin Williams had on so many comedians throughout his entire career. He broke down structures and allowed for more freedom in comedy instead of just standing behind a microphone. He performed with his whole body and his whole being. Williams forever changed the landscape of his art.

Robin Williams, Comic Genius could definitely be binged, but this collection deserves to be savored. And it is a collection that fans will return to time and time again. 

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