Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Presence of Greatness

You know that feeling where you don't remember something until you're reminded of it?  I'm not talking about getting the milk at the grocery store or remembering to pick up your prescription at the pharmacy.  I'm talking about those memories that are up on the top corner in the back of the closet of your mind, that, until you're reaching for something else, don't get dusted off and opened up.  I had one of those today.  I was curling up with the day's TMZ for a little light read, when I saw this little nugget about Robin Williams.  It seems Mr. Williams showed up at some small comedy club in L.A. last night and did his schtick.  This is par for the course for good ole Robin -- which I know because, years ago, I was in a small comedy club myself when he did just that.

It was 1999 and I was living in New York (more on that here), working for a promotional company.  We used to give away tickets to this comedy club and tell our clients, "Yeah, Robin Williams goes there sometimes to perform."  Never mind that nobody in the company had ever actually seen Robin Williams perform at the club -- but it sounded impressive, and we were in promotions.  One weekend my parents were coming for a visit, so I got tickets to the club for us and a friend of mine.

We went to dinner downtown (the club, of course, was uptown), and had mere minutes to make it to the show on time.  On a Saturday night. In Manhattan.  Fortunately, we were riding with my friend who can only be described as driving as if she were driving Marty McFly's DeLorean in Back to the Future.  I'm not sure how, but amazingly we managed to make it 60 some-odd blocks uptown and find parking and get to the club in what I'm pretty sure was 7.8 minutes.  With seconds to spare, we snagged the last four available seats for the 10:00 show. 

The comedians came and went, each doing their 10 minute set.  We sat, enjoyed our two-drink minimum and noticed that the evening was stretching on longer than it was supposed to.  Around 11:45, the emcee came on to announce that a special guest was on his way and emplored us to be patient for a few more minutes.  A little more schtick from the emcee and then.it.happened.  "Ladies and gentleman, I want you to welcome to the stage someone you all know, an Oscar-winning actor and an incredible comedian . . . Mr. Robiiiiiiiin Williaaaaaaams!"

I think my dad nearly had a stroke.  We all sat there, our mouths wide open, stunned.  Robin Williams did at least an hour of stand-up.  It was amazing and hilarious and the most natural thing in the world.  Even though we had been watching professional comedians for the past 2 hours, he made them all look like hacks.  It was the epitome of being in the presence of greatness.

And as quickly as it happened, it was over.  He wrapped up, after at least 10 minutes of standing ovations and an encore.  And with that, we climbed back into our Honda DeLorean and headed back downtown.  So I know just how those lucky folks at that little club in L.A. last night felt.  And I'm glad TMZ reminded to dust off the memory and enjoy it.