Sunday, 31 August 2014

Does the name Custer mean anything to you?

When Robin Williams died a couple of weeks ago, Facebook and Twitter and all those other social-media-type-things were abuzz, mostly with clichés.  Hey, people in grief aren't that original and besides, everyone was in a hurry to post something.  You could tell how old the posters were from the nature of their tweets.  Since most people on Twitter are under 40, the most repeated sentiment was: "Part of my childhood has gone!"

Anyone who reads this blog - I know there are at least half a dozen of you - will have guessed by now that I'm not under 40.  When I think of Robin Williams, I think of his stand-up, and my favourite memory is a crack he made, several times, in 1986.  Well, I don't blame him, it was a classic. I first heard it when he was performing in London, some sort of Royal Variety thing, with the Prince and Princess of Wales in the Royal Box.  During his routine, he kept ducking under the balcony to hiss conspiratorially to the audience:  "Are they laughing?"

In a routine mostly about current events, he imagined Lester Maddox, the ex-governor of Georgia, being asked to intervene with then-South-African Prime Minister PW Botha:  "Mr Botha, there are three million whites and fourteen million blacks in your country.  Does the name Custer mean anything to you?"

For the full impact, you really have to hear it in a Georgian drawl.  I've search all over and can't find this clip, but I found Robin performing before Prince Charles and his current wife in 2008:  

After a long wait for a non-clichéd tribute to Robin Williams, Billy Crystal finally broke his silence and delivered this eloquent elegy at the close of the annual In Memoriam for the Emmy Awards last week.

I have nothing to add.  Clearly, unlike the rest of us, Billy Crystal actually knew Robin Williams.