Monday, April 16, 2007

San Francisco Gives Robin Williams a Long-Overdue Award

It’s finally happening. The City by the Bay is honoring its greatest living comedian and actor, a man who started out at the City’s comedy clubs, made it on TV as a funny alien and eventually rose to the pinnacle of movie stardom.

The San Francisco Film Society is laying its prestigious acting prize on the city's biggest star and it’s long overdue. The fast-talking man with a mind like a steel trap, a creative force in everything he’s tried, is getting the ultimate film honor and no one deserves it more.
The Oscar-winning actor and stand-up comedian will get the Society's Peter J. Owens Award at an awards dinner May 3 at the St. Francis Hotel as part of the 50th annual San Francisco Film International Film Festival.

The award, named for cultural philanthropist and Film Society board member Peter Owens, is given to an actor whose work "exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.'' Previous recipients include Ed Harris (2006), Dustin Hoffman (2003), Sean Penn (1999) and Annette Bening (1997).

On May 4, Williams, 55, who polished his comedic talent in local clubs, will be interviewed onstage at San Francisco's Castro Theatre in a program featuring a retrospective of clips from his many films and director Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King,'' starring Williams.
When I was doing standup comedy in this town in the late 80’s and 90’s, I had the pleasure of meeting Robin on several occasions. He would come into SF comedy clubs like the Holy City Zoo and the Other Café late at night to try out new material and he always killed. There was an electricity in the air on those nights that you can’t quantify or understand unless you were there.

On one particular occasion, it was around 1 am and I was performing at a place in San Francisco called Cobb’s at an open mic. I was the very last comic to take the stage and halfway through my set Robin walked in. There must have been 10 people in the audience at that point, mainly drunks and homeless types. But Williams got up there and slayed them. He did 45 minutes of jokes and improvisational stuff that was absolutely brilliant. The next day I actually considered giving up doing standup forever.

Besides Williams, the 2007 SF Film Festival's other major award recipients, as previously announced, are all men: George Lucas, honored with a one-time only Irving M. Levin Award; director Spike Lee (whose Acts III and IV of his Hurricane Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke," will screen); and scriptwriter Peter Morgan (coming off a strong year with "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland").

Other award recipients include film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, to be honored at a screening of "The Iron Mask," a silent romp whose restoration he directed. The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award goes to Dutch documentary filmmaker Heddy Honigmann; her film "Forever," about the famous Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, will be shown.

The festival's first-ever Midnight Awards, a tribute to young actors, recognize Rosario Dawson ("Rent") and Daly City native Sam Rockwell ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind").
For information about the May 3 Film Society Awards Night, call (415) 551-5190. For tickets and information about the Williams tribute at the Castro, call (925) 866-9559 or go to

No comments: