Comedian Roger Kabler brings laughs as “Robin” and reflects on Williams’ life
By Chris Cameron The Morning Call
“It’s kind of like ‘Field of Dreams’ with fart jokes. The audience doesn’t know if he’s possessed or if he’s nuts. Sometimes I wonder am I crazy or is it a real manifestation?”
Comedian Roger Kabler needs Robin Williams and perhaps Robin Williams needs Roger Kabler.
To hear Kabler tell it, it’s like Williams is sitting in the room with him telling him that he wants a second act. In some ways, Williams has given Kabler a second act in comedy.
“I can’t get too loud,” Kabler said during a recent phone call. “I’m in a nursing home.” Kabler who lives in Massachusetts was visiting a relative.
It quickly became apparent that he slips into Williams’ manic, stream-of-consciousness persona as fast as Williams delved into his own impersonations. “I’ve got to be quiet or they’ll think, ‘Well, we’ve found another one for you,’” he said in a funny Williams voice.
Kabler brings his “Ultimate Robin Williams Tribute” to the Sellersville Theater at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 17.
Kabler thought that he had retired from comedy in 2003 and began to focus on a career as a painter, a passion that he yearns to get back to after he’s done playing Robin Williams. After Williams passed away in 2014, people began to ask Kabler if he was going to do a Williams tribute.
“I told them I was retired,” Kabler said. “My career in the business had crashed and burned. But then I started feeling Robin all around me going, ‘Let’s get back to work.’ I thought ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I’m out walking in the woods doing his voice saying things like ‘Tanya Harding put the limp in Olympics.’ I kept hearing him tell me he wanted to get back to work.”
For the past three years Kabler has been bringing his show to audiences around the country, and his experience has led him to write and star in a new independent film titled ‘Being Robin’ about a guy who begins to portray Williams.
“I’m playing a version of myself,” Kabler said. “It’s kind of like ‘Field of Dreams’ with fart jokes. The audience doesn’t know if he’s possessed or if he’s nuts. Sometimes I wonder am I crazy or is it a real manifestation?”
The stage show celebrates the comedic style of Williams and Kabler says it feels like a mix between a stand-up show and a play in two acts. “I explain to the audience what it feels like to play Robin and towards the end of the play I come out playing an older version of him delivering a heartfelt message.”
The first act is all about Williams, as Kabler runs through the late comedian’s various characters. Act two is a mashup of other celebrities that Kabler impersonates in a piece he calls “Overactors Anonymous.”
“It’s like 12-step meeting for actors and I do Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Joe Pesci and an assortment of other actors.”
Kabler has been in showbiz for decades appearing on a variety of late night shows during the 80s and 90s. He was a regular on the last Carol Burnett series in 1991 and starred in a short-lived NBC sitcom, “Rhythm and Blues.” He served as spokesman for Zima in national television commercials and wrote, produced and starred in a film about a guy who gets lost in his impersonations called “Who the Hell is Bobby Roos?”
He has been impersonating celebrities on stage since he was a teen, but his Williams impersonation started when he was 17 while watching Williams star in “Mork & Mindy,”and he has been refining his impersonation of his idol ever since.
Williams was a versatile comedian and actor, starring in films such as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Morning, Vietnam,” to name a few.
Kabler delves into the physical aspects of his characters as much as he practices their voices, mimicking their movements on stage.
“The tricky thing is that I have to do all of Robin’s impersonations,” Kabler said. “For instance, his Jack Nicholson impersonation is different from my own. But I try to channel Robin’s mentality. Something comes over me and I get jokes in his voice. It’s exhausting, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Kabler said thathis Ultimate Tribute and his film “Being Robin” were both inspired by his desire to bring Williams’ genius back to audiences.
“The first thing everyone seems to think about when they remember him is the way that he died,” Kabler said. “But he had 30 years of hysterical comedy and brilliant acting and I think that’s what he wants to be remembered for—how much fun he had with people. I personally enjoy playing him because I love him. Maybe I’m doing this for him, but I’m doing it for myself, too. I’m working now more than I ever did because of Robin.”
Kabler’s fascination with impressions began as a child after his father introduced him to The Kopykats impressionists on the “ABC Comedy Hour.”
“I’d go around the house impersonating Richard Nixon and Columbo then it evolved into all these other celebrities,” he said. “I probably look like De Niro the most out of all of them.”
Kabler’s main focus for the past few years, however, has been portraying Williams. He said that playing Williams inspires him to write new jokes, jokes that he couldn’t write without the influence of the late actor.
“The show is like a séance,” he said. “Once people start to laugh the show begins to take on a life of its own and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Although Kabler never met Williams, he swears that he wrote the standup show with him.
“I don’t know where humor comes from, but I can feel him laughing as I write. He gets away with naughty stuff because it’s funny. I watched hours and hours of him and read about him. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘It’s exhausting being you.’ He’ll say, ‘Do you know how exhausting it is to be in your schleppy body? You put the manatee in humanity. Get to the gym.’”
Kabler understands Williams’ sensibility and his wordplay. His tribute is really a high-speed recreation of his hero that celebrates the joy of Williams’ work….
Read the full article on: The Morning Call By Chris Cameron