60-minutes: King of Comedy

Australian Tour

Originally published on August 25, 2010 | The Daily Telegraph | written by Andrew Fenton

Robin Williams - let's face it - is not normal.

He's quite certifiable.

Maybe that's why he's 'the funniest man on earth.' He sees the world through warped and wild bi-focals.

I know, because I've done a couple of interviews with him over the years, when he was out in Australia flogging "Good Morning Vietnam" and "The Bird Cage".

I think he's hilarious. I also found him to be generous in our interviews. So, why was I filled with trepidation in the days leading up to our latest chat in Beverley Hills?

Well, for one thing, in the past I'd always talked to him in front of an audience - for Midday or a network Special. (It's amazing to watch entertainers lift in front of an audience!)

But, this time it was just him and me - and a camera crew - under lights in a corner room off the bar, at the prestigious Montage Hotel.

He chose the venue, which I feared might be a bit artificial. (Unlike a tv studio, with five cameras, a director, a floor manager, sound recordists, set crews and sundry hangers-on!!)

With Williams coming off a recent divorce, a recent stay in rehab for alcoholism and an even more recent heart attack, I wasn't sure what to expect. He's also about to hit the big SIX O, after thirty years in the comedy game. Was he getting tired, I wondered?

I shouldn't have worried. He was manically brilliant as usual.

I remember talking to Paul Hogan in LA once, the morning after he'd seen Robin Williams appear on the Letterman Show. Hoges - who's a pretty funny bloke himself - said that watching Williams' ad hoc, free-wheeling comic anarchy had him rolling on the floor.

" Don't ask me what he talked about," Hoges said, "because I have no bluddy idea. I just know it was side-splittingly funny. And mad."

Robin Williams is a sort of manic, super-charged, verbal frog - who leaps from subject to subject, quite out of control.

As an interviewer, it's impossible to catch him and calm him down. (You just have to let him fly. He's worse than Dame Edna, and that's saying something!) When you think he's finished, he'll erupt again, with another machine-gun-like hail of verbal bullets. Nobody's safe.

Besides, it's really hard asking questions when you're laughing.

Robin Williams elastic tongue' n 'tonsil repertoire stretches from his astonishingly-real sound effects, to rampaging cartoon characters and the familiar voices of famous celebrities. And just 'noises'. Coughs and wheezes, grunts and farts, animal hoots and hollers.

Then, of course, there are the impeccable, unmatchable Robin Williams accents!!

No one in the world of show business comes close to him. Not even Meryl Streep. As Australians, we always cringe when an American star - even the Poms - try to mimic the Aussie accent. (It always ends up lost in space, somewhere between Cockney, South African or some naff nasal twang!)

But, as you'll see on 60 Minutes, Robin Williams has nailed it.

He's also hammered a few small tacks into Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and our favourite sports, too. He's a very funny man and, as I found again, an absolute delight to interview. I hope you enjoy his off-the-wall madness. It's about time we had a laugh!

u
Wall of Tributes >