One September evening in 1988, I was driving east on Thirteenth Street, when I saw a group of people coming out of a restaurant. AsI slowed down to see if they would be needing a cab, I saw that one of the men standing there was Christopher Reeve. As I was watching him, he looked up,caught my eye, and hailed me. He then held up one finger, indicating for me to wait one minute.
As I sat in the cab, I saw that Christopher was with another man and two women. The man had his back to me as he put on his coat. He turned around, and as the group of people started walking toward my cab I saw that the other man was Robin Williams.
Robin got into the backseat and sat between the two women,while Christopher opened the front door and sat down next to me. I couldn’t believe my luck! They said that we would be making two stops. Once they had given me their first destination, I started driving and asked them if they had heard any good jokes lately.
Robin asked me the question of a one-liner, and I gave him the punch line. Everyone in the car laughed, and then I asked Robin a one-liner, and he replied with the punch line. We entertained the other people in the cab like this for several minutes (I’m proud to say that I held my own with Robin––neither one of us could stump the other) and then one of us told a Dan Quayle joke.
This set Robin off on a routine about George Bush (it was the day after Bush had gotten the date of Pearl Harbor wrong during a speech to a veterans’ group). Robin’s main themewas about two veterans in the audience of Bush’s speech talking to each other.“September seventh, the day of infamy? Oh yeah, that was that weekend we took that shore leave.”
I couldn’t possibly try to recount his entire routine here,because it just wouldn’t be funny without hearing Robin’s rapid-fire delivery,including all the appropriate accents and sound effects. I will tell you,though, that is was as funny was anything I’ve ever heard him do on television or in a movie. The man is, without a doubt, a comedic improvisational genius.
A little bit later (fortunately, it was a fairly long far),there was a momentary lull in Robin’s hilarity, and I handed him a copy of myfirst book. “Check this out,” I said. Robin opened it up and started reading jokes out of my book to the other passengers, making them all laugh loudly.
At one point as Robin was reading the fifth or sixth joke, Ilooked over at Christopher Reeve laughing and thought to myself, “This isamazing! This has got to be one of life’s peak experiences! I have Popeye inthe backseat reading material out of my book, cracking up Superman on the seatnext to me!”
Robin then told me a very funny joke that he had heard thatwas at the expense of a certain bodybuilding comedian. After I stopped laughingat the joke, Robin said, “Don’t tell anybody I said that. I can just see the headlines: Man Who Works Out Kills Comedian in Hotel Room!”
After several failed attempts to tell Robin a joke that he hadn’t heard, I got him with a musician joke that I had heard from one of my teachers at the Berklee College of Music. He laughed enthusiastically, so I finally felt like I had upheld my honor.
When I got them to their first destination, I asked Robin to sign my book for me. He signed it, then he and his lady friends got out of the cab. Christopher Reeve went around and got in the backseat to sit with his woman friend, and as I was starting to pull away, I heard Robin shout loudly.
I stopped immediately, thinking that maybe he had forgotten something in the ab. I looked around, but he wasn’t even looking in thedirection of the taxi. I said to Chris Reeve, “Was he yelling to us?”
“Nah,” said Christopher, “he was just working the room.”
When we got to the final stop, I asked Mr. Reeve to also sign my book. He did, paid me, then he and his friend left. I opened up the book and saw Christopher Reeve’s autograph. Then I looked up at the top of the page and saw that Robin had signed my book, “You give great hack––Robin Williams.”