Release the Video of Steve Martin and Robin Williams’ Controversial Stage Performance

We demand to see two guys waiting around for Godot
Release the Video of Steve Martin and Robin Williams’ Controversial Stage Performance

Following the release of STEVE! (Martin) A Documentary in 2 Pieces, a lot of fans may be tempted to revisit some of Steve Martin’s greatest films, such as The JerkDirty Rotten Scoundrels, and, well, pretty much any of his movies other than Shopgirl (I’d watch Cheaper by the Dozen 2 before subjecting myself to Shopgirl again). But, somewhat frustratingly, one of Martin’s most significant performances remains completely unavailable to the majority of the viewing public.

Despite being two comedy mega-stars of roughly the same age, Martin and Robin Williams never starred in a movie together. But they did share the stage for a production of Samuel Beckett’s existential “tragicomedy” Waiting for Godot, all about two characters who, well, wait for Godot. 

Directed by the legendary Mike Nichols, the 1988 Off-Broadway staging of Waiting for Godot was a “triumph before it started rehearsals,” according to Time Magazine, with its limited run in a 299-seat theater selling out well in advance via a lottery system. But Time also blasted the production’s comedic tone, writing that Nichols missed “the work's tragic austerity.” They also bemoaned Williams’ “inexcusable interjections,” which reportedly included jokes about the Oscars, and a moment that found him humming the Twilight Zone theme music.

A review in The Guardian similarly complained that Williams took too many liberties with the source material, noting that he broke the fourth wall by actually grabbing a program out of the hands of an audience member, and even deigned to make “a joke about the election.” 

Some reviewers, on the other hand, defended Williams and Martin from the complaints of Beckett purists. The Los Angeles Times wrote that “Martin’s and Williams’ terms are perfectly acceptable,” and they weren’t “clowning around at the play’s expense,” as others had suggested. 

While we would love to judge for ourselves, a recording of the play was never actually released. There are a few short clips on YouTube; if you can stand the “Zapruder Film shot through a vaseline jar” quality, they offer an intriguing taste of this unique theatrical project. 

The full play was recorded, and is available on DVD, but it is only available to researchers who make an appointment at the New York Public Library’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. The archive, which was established in 1970, isn’t a commercial endeavor, it was created purely with the purpose of “preserving visual records of live theatre performances.”

But given that this recording of Waiting for Godot is the only documentation of a unique meeting of comedy greats, surely the public demand would warrant some kind of wide release for those of us who don’t live near the New York Public Library and/or don’t want to ever go there because we’re still kind of afraid of that librarian-monster from Ghostbusters. Please make this video available to the public. We’ll trade you for Shopgirl.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?