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San Miniato Basso From the 8/20/14 Edition of the Platte County Landmark:

rw-live-620It was a crazy week last week, so I haven’t really had an opportunity to register and process the death of comedian Robin Williams until this weekend.  Like many of you, I was a fan of his work, enjoyed his movies and got a kick out of his lightning-fast wit.

But the tributes and homages I’ve seen are including movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams.  That doesn’t begin to touch when I started enjoying Robin Williams.

It was 1987 and and I was an awkward high school freshman. (Let me give you time to try to get your head around it since I appear so well adjusted now.)  I was looking for a ride home after band practice, and I piled into the back of a station-wagon with some upperclassmen.  This could easily be the point where I was offered drugs, or alcohol or cigarettes or Heavy Metal or dozens of other opening scenes to an After-School Special.  But, instead, the driver put in a squeaky cassette tape of Robin Williams: Night At The Met.

At first, it was difficult to hear his speech because it was so fast paced. He would start about one topic and then switch to the next.  But the rest of the car was rolling laughing and I did as well.  That weekend, I went out and bought my own copy of the cassette.  Through the next several years of high school, I probably listened to that tape a thousand times.

The comedy album was a master class in self-deprecating humor with a touch of heart and more laughs than you can imagine. It was recorded at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1986 and it remains one of the top five comedy albums ever. You can easily put it up against comedians named Cosby, Seinfeld, Rock, Carlin and C.K. (That’s Louis C.K. not Chris Kamler.)

Through the 53 minute album, Williams riffs on gay football, substance abuse (something he struggled with up until his death), Ronald Reagan, Childbirth and puking on your newborn baby.  The album was riddled with profanity and off-color jokes, but told from a first-hand account, from someone who has lived the stories he’s telling.  More importantly, the stories he told were funny. Genuinely funny. I would ride with friends and we would play Night At the Met. Later, when i had a car, I would play it for my friends. nearly 30 years later, I am playing it now and laughing furiously just like I had in that station-wagon in high school.

He did an impression of Ronald Reagan thinking that Congress was an old folks home for actors. He riffed on getting stoned and drinking too much and waking up with his car keys in his butt.  Towards the end of the album, he does about 15 minutes on childbirth and conception that, as a 14 year old freshman in high school, actually cleared up a few things for me. It was raw and honest and hilarious.

I am probably the millionth person to say this week that Robin Williams was a genius. He really was. For a person who has been lauded for his movies and television, take a few minutes to pull up Night At The Met on Spotify and appreciate where that genius started.

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