This was my first exposure to Robin Williams as a standup comic, and this "Live on Broadway" act certainly makes up for all those mushy sentimental movies that he had starred in before this special. He lets loose here in a sustained comic bout of Williams-style voice impressions and sharp observations and adult jokes that I've never had the pleasure of witnessing in any of his movies (except, maybe, in small spurts). As a standup comic, he might not as smooth a performer as George Carlin (my personal favorite) is onstage, but Williams' energy makes up for a lot, and even makes otherwise stupid jokes make you laugh hysterically. (You know how you can tell he is expending as much energy as humanly possible in this show? By the huge amount of water bottles he has on stage.) His material is not as focused as some of the best standup comics, but I rather liked his improvisatory style---he goes from one thing to another in record time, giving his performance a nicely chaotic feel. (A lot of his best bits, mostly dealing with politics, are delivered quickly and randomly and then dispensed with.) And yet all of it flows together nicely (even if some bits are inevitably better than others).
So what's the problem? I think perhaps 99 minutes or so of one man comically riffing about anything and everything is still perhaps a bit too long for its own good. I've watched this on more than one occasion, and by the hour mark I always feel myself getting rather exhausted by Williams' highly energetic schtick. It is not necessarily that his material starts to become significantly weaker or repetitive (although his French-bashing does get a little tiresome after a while), but while you still marvel at Williams' energy level...I dunno, I just kinda got tired of it on some level after a while. Williams' energy may not flag, but ours does...at least until he rebounds at the end with some good bits about American sports and then about sex, particularly Viagra. Believe me, when you see his take on Viagra, you will laugh hysterically in spite of yourself.
In short, for me, "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" is a mostly brilliant but perhaps overlong standup comedy piece (a standup comedy "epic" if there ever was one). It would have gotten five stars as a more focused hourlong show; instead, this one sprawls until we in the audience start feeling a little exhausted by his endlessly energetic (and highly profane) style. And yet there is enough brilliant stuff here---his riffs about the war in Afghanistan and homeland security rival the best, and overall there are plenty of small but great bits here and there that will grab your attention---so that this is definitely worth seeing. Certainly you will be amazed that Robin Williams actually pulls the whole damned thing off at all. Recommended.
NOTE: I have seen "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" as it first premiered on HBO, and for some reason it is slightly longer than the program that appears on this DVD. It is beyond me why CMV Home Video thought it necessary to make some small cuts to the program for this DVD edition. (For instance, it cuts out a lines during the parts where he cracks humorously about Michael Jackson and the Enron scandal.) At least, though, the program is not significantly cut (it's only missing about a few seconds worth of material from the initial broadcast), and overall it is very much intact. (Besides, HBO and its other channels have been showing this marginally-cut version of the program on its stations ever since, anyway.) Just thought people would like to know, though.