The PII Factor, Speaking of Comic Genius
by Selena Forsyth
In the early 1970s I met Robin Williams when I was working on the late night TV show Ninety Minutes Live. Someone had sent us a tape of him performing at the Improv Club in LA. He was brilliant, so we booked him. Twice. The first time was before he did Mork and Mindy and the second was after.
Mercifully, after his first visit we booked him for the second. We never would have got him again if we hadn't because after Mork and Mindy he got to be so famous.
Robin did not repeat the material in the show that he had rehearsed so we, the production staff, got to see him in four shows in total - two rehearsals and two shows. Then, after the second show, we took him to Yuk Yuk's (they had asked if we could get him to go down there after the show and he agreed to) where he did 90 minutes non-stop stand-up - all different stuff again.
It was pure magic for all of us working with Robin Williams. He's a comedic genius and we were all grateful for the opportunity. It's one of those experiences you tell your grandkids about.
I had a similar feeling the other night when I met Lorne Elliott. Pure comedic genius.
When comedian Lorne Elliott came to the Capitol Theatre a couple of years ago he didn't play to a full house by any means. Last week it was practically standing room only for his show The Collected Mistakes II. That's because he's now famous, as a result of his absolutely hilarious CBC show 'Madly Off In All Directions'. And because he is very, very funny. And brilliantly clever.
He reminds me a bit of Robin Williams - I told him that when I met him backstage - because he talks a blue streak, takes ordinary situations and makes them extraordinary, probably never does the same show twice and just generally goes madly off in all directions.
He is an absolute hoot and I was in agony when the evening was over from laughing so much. His talent has no bounds: he sings, he plays the guitar better than most, (especially some mean jazz) he writes jokes and plays and prose and, on top of all that, he's a marine biologist.
Lorne was born one of seven children, 47 years ago in Montreal. Seven kids who all inherited their bright, crisp, high intelligence from their parents. Lorne went to University in Newfoundland to study marine biology. He did stand-up in bars to pay his tuition, realized that he was really good at it and decided that was eventually the route he would follow. So he did.
There are several reasons why he is so successful - in my humble estimation. He's very bright, articulate, achingly funny and is a master of good timing. But I think the main reason is because he has a profound respect for the intelligence of his audience.
Anyone who can tell the story of saving a place in the supermarket check out while his wife goes to get more stuff and who can render his audience paralyzed with laughter and at the same time make the story sound like a Ph.D. thesis is a genius in my book.
Lorne and his wife Francoise, who was born in France, now live on a farm just north of Montreal. That is when they're not travelling around the country to the ever increasing engagements his talent is inviting.
It was a wonderful evening and I really didn't want it to end. Dear Capitol Theatre people, can we book him again soon?