"Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" is an instance of a performance that, while not perfect, can still be appreciated for the effort. For a little over two hours straight, Robin Williams stalks the stage, going through a scripted (but not staged feeling) montage of jokes about politics, sex, and pop culture. The energy level has been kicked up a notch over the comedian's already intense film work - Williams goes through what looks like a case of bottled water that's been put up on stage and appears to be sweating so much that I'm surprised he doesn't slip clear off the stage at some point.
As for the flaws, there are a few throughout the performance. Williams curses up a storm throughout stretches of the show, but for every instance where its effective and hilarious, there's another one where it seems rather pointless and tiring. Given the rapid-fire delivery of the various bits, there's also a rather inconsistent quality to the material; there are stories (material about the Winter Olympics, light joking about President Bush) throughout this two-hours that are some of the funniest things I've heard all year. On the other hand, there are moments that fall flat. One of the most amusing small bits is a moment where Williams screws up and says "skiler" instead of "skier" and constructs an additional little bit to make up for the error.
A few flat jokes on topics covered a bit too much already aside, Williams is in top form here, riffing on a series of topics and coming up with some unexpectedly hilarious gags. His library of accents are also incredibly entertaining and is worth the price of admission alone.
VIDEO: "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" is presented by Columbia/Tristar Home Video in 1.33:1 full-frame, as it was when originally broadcast on HBO earlier this year. The image quality is excellent, as the full-frame presentation appears crisp and well-defined, with only a few shots here-and-there that seem a little softer in comparison.
Problems are pretty minor - edge enhancement is rarely apparent, while pixelation and other artifacts are kept to only trace amounts. There's little in the way of colors with the basic stage backdrop, but colors still look nice throughout.
SOUND: "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is really one of the finest concert soundtracks I've heard in ages - it's a truly great recording. While there's nothing particularly aggressive about it, Williams' dialogue is clearly and crisply heard from the center channel, while the surrounds kick in with some extremely detailed crowd noise. There's a PCM 2.0 soundtrack included as well, but the 5.1 track is certainly the prefered presentation here.
EXTRAS: Taped specifically for the DVD is a 17-minute interview between performance director Marty Callner and Williams. The two provide an honest and funny recollection of the night and the kind of problems that occur when you're trying to tape an over-the-top Robin Williams. Although there's plenty of funny moments scattered throughout, there's a lot of interesting little tidbits (the strange set's lack of purpose) about how Callner structures a taping of a live performance. Also included is a little piece that has a camera following Williams trying to psych himself up backstage before the performance starts. A pointless montage of noises from the various bits throughout the show also can be found in the features section, but it's really not worth clicking on.
Final Thoughts: Although there are a few jokes here and there that fall flat, Williams often works magic during the two-hour show, throwing out some superb bits with an almost ridiculous energy level. Columbia/Tristar's presentation is quite nice, with good video quality and a great Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Highly recommended.