Plot: Robin Williams was a force of nature, a comedic presence like the world had never seen and his career is a deep, rich archive of beloved material. Williams was a master of stand up comedy, a television star, voice over performer, and international movie superstar, in addition to his other creative avenues. He was on top of the entertainment world for decades, so this five disc Collector’s Edition just scratches the surface, but it is a remarkable selection of Williams’ work. I like that this serves as both a good primer for those new to his stand up performances and a treasure trove of content for those who already love his comedic style. So this is a release that serves all of Williams’ fans well, as it offers such timeless, beloved material.
Entertainment Value: This five disc collection has an assortment of content to peruse, but the centerpiece is Williams’ work for HBO. All five of his HBO stand up specials have been included in this special release, each one packed with his signature, kinetic comedy and brilliant, offbeat improvisations. Robin Williams: Off the Wall is up first, a 1978 special recorded at the famous Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, followed by 1983’s An Evening with Robin Williams, which was performed live at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. Next up is Robin Williams: An Evening at The Met, which finds Williams live at the world famous Metropolitan Opera House in New York, filmed in 1986. After that special, it would be many years before Williams returned to HBO, but in 2002, he stormed back with Live on Broadway, where he delighted the audience at The Broadway Theatre in New York. His fifth and final HBO special was Weapons of Self Destruction, which takes Williams and his comedy to Washington, D.C., filmed live in 2009. I had a great time revisiting these specials, seeing how Williams evolved as a comic, while also staying true to his roots. I think it is always fun to watch how artists change or fine tune as the decades pass, so this is a wonderful chance for Williams’ fans to do just that.
As this is a five disc set, it allows the hour long specials ample space and that ensures terrific looking visual presentations. The shows look quite good here and fans should be pleased, some likely even look better than when first broadcast, since they’ve been remastered for this release. While having Williams’ complete selection of HBO specials in one place is great, this collection doesn’t stop there. You can also browse an archive of Williams’ early stand up material, which gives you an even deeper look into his art and how he rose to success as a performer. The HBO specials represent Williams at his most polished, but his less refined stand up is often just as hilarious, so this archive is a welcome inclusion. The HBO vault opens even more, with raw footage from promo shoots and press interviews. As Williams was always on and looking to get laughs, even these promotional appearances prove to deliver some humorous moments. You can also watch the People’s Choice Awards tribute to Williams, footage from the E! Press Room, a newly created featurette about Williams and his legacy, and exclusive new interviews with Lewis Black and Williams’ manager David Steinberg. In other words, a loaded set of Williams’ stand up that should delight fans of all kinds.