Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 8.12.14: Remembering Robin Williams in ’80s SF

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 9:20 AM

click to enlarge Robin Williams in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002)
  • Robin Williams in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002)

Stand-up comedy truly broke out massively in the 1980s in America, and living in San Francisco at the time I was lucky enough to witness many comedians who would go on to become big deals on stage and in the movies. I'm talking about people like Dana Carvey, Bobby Slayton, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Meaney, Tom Kenny, Jake Johannsen and others whose names you wouldn't recall but were so sharp and hip. And even though he was already a big Hollywood star at the time, Robin Williams was sort of the Big Dog of comedy in the city at that time.

Back then he lived in the Sea Cliff area of San Francisco, and would occasionally pop in at comedy clubs like the Holy City Zoo and Cobb's. People often talked about seeing him on a bike in the Richmond district (I saw him on a Friday night one time on Clement back in the ’80s. We made eye contact and he gave me a look like he knew I knew who he was, but I didn't bother him). He would often be the "surprise" guest at the end of the annual Comedy Day event in Golden Gate Park, a massive free show that featured a whole array of local and national comics. 

He would occasionally drop in on comedians playing  at local clubs, and the night I'll never forget was when he showed up on the Friday that Sam Kinison made his debut in San Francisco at Cobb's in 1985. Williams ended up joining him on stage very late that evening,  and the two appeared to be absolutely amped on what Jay McInerney called "Bolivian marching powder" in Bright Lights, Big City, the novel that we were all reading at that time. It was also the time and place (truth be told) that he forged a bad reputation for stealing jokes from other SF-based comics. 

Williams always lived in the SF Bay Area. He moved to the North bay in Tiburon a while ago, and that is where he was when he killed himself yesterday. The reaction in the media is immense today; it's probably the most stunning celebrity death in the U.S. since Michael Jackson died in 2009. I'm also reminded of the shock I felt when David Foster Wallace killed himself in the fall of 2008....

In other news...

In some Democratic strongholds in Florida, there can be no greater insult than calling someone a "Rick Scott Republican," but that's what occurred in the HD61 race in Tampa.

Democratic attorney general nominee George Sheldon is in a death match primary against House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, and the fact that Sheldon may have violated residency requirements to serve as the successor to Pam Bondi next year has definitely put a crimp in his campaign. So yesterday he followed fellow Democrat Bill Nelson's condemnation of an Obama administration plan to conduct seismic testing off of the entire Atlantic Coast, from Delaware to Florida. 

The battle over the Greenlight Pinellas measure is only getting hotter, with the leading group opposed to the Pinellas transit tax now calling for the ouster of PSTA's Brad Miller. Miller's transgression? Well, other than the fact he's an enthusiastic supporter of the measure, he recently had to return funds to the Department of Homeland Security after a series of Pinellas transit ads financed with those funds did not meet the requirements for an "anti-terrorism" campaign.

And Charlie Crist and Rick Scott continue to air ads slamming one another. Yesterday the Scott campaign released an ad called "Fiction," while Crist's campaign issued "Shady." Uplifting stuff. Not.

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