In the San Francisco Bay Area, "Robin'' is universally understood to be Robin Williams. A Bay Area homeboy, Williams made it big on TV's "Mork and Mindy'' sitcom and pioneered innovative, risk-taking comedy in the 1980s, when San Francico produced some of the best and brightest stand-up comedians, improvisors and comic actors in the United States.
I interviewed Williams on the phone yesterday, in advance of two big comedy shows coming up next month in San Francisco. If you're visiting the city by the bay or you live nearby, don't miss these: Sept. 19's 30th annual free, outdoor San Francisco Comedy Day, in Golden Gate Park (http://www.comedyday.com/), and Sept. 25's Other Cafe 30th anniversary reunion show at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre (http://theothercafe.com/. Robin says he will perform at one or both shows "if I'm here'' - meaning if no movie or TV or concert plans intervene. Because it's not definite, his name won't appear in any advertising. But he makes it clear he's interested in appearing. Both shows will run 4 to 5 hours and feature dozens of comedians.
Williams is at his best on stage. I saw him work a lot in the 1980s and early '90s, when I covered comedy for the San Francisco Examiner. He is still cat-quick when he's riffing in the moment, breaking into characters, doing voices and accents and veering between being serious and being spontaneously funny. On the phone, he told a lot of stories about comedy in the '80s, a time viewed in the Bay Area as something of a golden age of fresh, edgy, live comedy. Most of those stories are going into two feature articles I'm writing for the San Francisco Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/). I'll post a heads-up here and on Twitter when the pieces appear.
For now, just one tale:
"I knew a comic who was working a club in North Beach that drew a rough crowd,'' Williams remembers. "There was a drunken biker in the audience. He jumped up pulled out a gun, yelled "You Suck!' at the comic and fired the gun. The comic just froze; he didn't know what to do. It's kind of hard to think of a come-back in that situation. You know, like "Is that all you got?'