Grade: A-/B+
1978-2018, 1086 min. (22 discs), Color
Entire family: NO!!!
Comedy
Time Life
Not rated (would be R for language and some sex jokes)
Aspect ratio: Varies (mostly 1.33:1)
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Bonus features:  n/a (the whole set is “extras”)
Includes:  DVDs, booklet
Trailer
RobinWilliams.com

Time Life is known for their sets and collections, and this four-volume, four-DVD, 22-disc set featuring Robin Williams: Comic Genius is thankfully uncensored. Except for 11 episodes of Mork & Mindy, it’s one for the parents to watch after the kids are in bed, or for families with older teens—especially the ones who have ambitions of pursuing a career in entertainment. You walk away with an appreciation for how Williams went all out and wasn’t afraid of a joke or an impression bombing. He just quickly went on to another one and hoped for better results. He did his own thing.

Anyone who’s watched Williams perform knows that his 100-mile-an-hour mind and manic improvisations can’t be bridled. He says whatever comes to mind at such a rapid clip that to try to censor his performances would be like trying to stop a runaway truck with foam blocks.

Time Life has compiled a wonderful tribute to the talented comedian, who began in stand-up comedy, found instant fame playing Mork on episodes of Happy Days and the spinoff series Mork & Mindy, and showed he could act in both comedies and dramas by starring in such films as Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Included here are more than 50 hours of Williams that spans 40 years on television, including all five of his HBO stand-up specials, never-before-released performances and backstage footage, talk show and late-night appearances, archival family clips, and new interviews with the people who knew him best: Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Pam Dawber, Lewis Black, and son Zak Williams. Williams was a once-in-a-generation talent, and this set really does him justice. Note, though, that it’s only available through RobinWilliams.com.

You can watch this set any way you choose, but I recommend going straight to Vol. 2 and popping in the acclaimed 2018 HBO documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, which gives a great overview of the comedian’s life—both his strengths and his weaknesses. After that, I suggest watching Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met to get a sense of just how big this comedian was in his hey day, and how his humor wasn’t just for the masses. Audiences at New York’s fabled Metropolitan Opera House are as sophisticated as can be, yet Williams’ improvised one-man show was as much of a hit with them as it was with patrons of The Comedy Store in San Francisco, where Williams and other comedians tested and honed their material. It might seem shocking that Williams’ performance at the Met includes plenty of words that you just don’t say in front of children, unless you’re honest with yourself and admit that there are plenty of sophisticated and famous people who use such language. Crude language doesn’t just mean the material is for crude audiences. For the Met event Williams combined political satire with some of his standard improve topics and the result is a breathtaking display of non-stop crazy cleverness . . . or clever craziness.

After the Met special, I suggest watching Robin Williams: Live on Broadway, then to remind yourself that this comedian was also a patriot, watch the 1982 I Love Liberty broadcast, Robin’s USO Christmas, and clips from his other USO tours. After that, it’s like bellying up to a buffet. Load your plate with whatever strikes your fancy. There’s a lot more to choose from, including:

—More HBO specials across a range of years (1978-2009)
—Never-before-released concert specials, including Robin’s full MGM Grand Garden stand-up routine from 2007 and the Montreal stop on his last tour
—Hilarious talk-show appearances opposite Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Oprah, and Graham Norton
Saturday Night Live (1984, 1986, 1988) and Great American Laugh-Off appearances
—An interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio with outtakes
—Early stand-up and raw footage from various roasts and promo shoots
—Appearances on awards shows and backstage at the awards shows
—HBO promos and various interviews and
—Interviews with Robin and also new interviews with the people who knew him

Each DVD comes with an insert that lists all the contents for each disc and the details. Also included is a 20-page full-color oversized collector’s booklet, Robin Williams: Uncensored, with an introduction by Williams’ pal David Steinberg and quotes from Williams scattered among photos and photographs of Williams’ drafts. It wasn’t all improve; some of it was memorized.

The more you watch, the more you both admire his ability to keep talking and creating different voices and understand that while it all appeared to be pure improve there were certain topics he returned to in order to fill space and give him the time to generate new material on the spot. You could see, too, as he worked night clubs and walked through the audience looking for props that all it would take for him to recharge his battery and speed off in a new direction was a woman’s coat, a man’s hat, or a table centerpiece.

And yes, the more you watch of this 22-disc set, the more you admire Williams as a performer and wish he had not left us, as he did, on August 11, 2014.

Language: F-bombs away! Plus all manner of creative obscene language. The R rating is mostly for language

Sex: Plenty of sexual talk, penis talk, innuendo, etc.

Violence: None

Adult situations: Pretty much everything here is an adult topic/situation

Takeaway: This collection is aptly titled—Williams was indeed a “comic genius”

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