Steve Martin & Robin Williams Riff on Math, Physics, Einstein & Picasso in a Heady Comedy Routine (2002)

Back in 2002, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty math­e­mat­ics pro­fes­sor Robert Osser­man chat­ted with come­di­an and ban­jo play­er extra­or­di­naire Steve Mar­tin in San Francisco’s Herb­st The­atre. The event was called “Fun­ny Num­bers” and it was intend­ed to deliv­er an off-kil­ter dis­cus­sion on math. Boy did it deliv­er.

The first half of the dis­cus­sion was loose and relaxed. Mar­tin talked about his writ­ing, ban­jos and his child­hood inter­est in math. “In high school, I used to be able to make mag­ic squares,” said Mar­tin. “I like any­thing kind of ‘jumbly.’ I like ana­grams. What else do I like? I like sex.”

Then Robin Williams, that man­ic ball of ener­gy, showed up. As you can see from the five videos through­out this post, the night quick­ly spi­raled into com­ic mad­ness. They riffed on the Osbournes, Hen­ry Kissinger, num­ber the­o­ry, and physics. “Schrödinger, pick up your cat,” barks Williams at the end of a par­tic­u­lar­ly inspired tear. “He’s alive. He’s dead. What a pet!”

When Mar­tin and Williams read pas­sages from Martin’s hit play, Picas­so at the Lapin Agile Williams read his part at dif­fer­ent points as if he were Mar­lon Bran­do, Peter Lorre and Elmer Fudd. At anoth­er time, Williams and Mar­tin riffed on the num­ber zero. Williams, for once act­ing as the straight man, asked Osser­man, “I have one quick ques­tion, up to the Cru­sades, the num­ber zero did­n’t exist, right? In West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.” To which Mar­tin bel­lowed, “That is a lie! How dare you imply that the num­ber zero…oh, I think he’s right.”

The videos are weird­ly glitchy, though the audio is just fine. And the com­e­dy is com­plete­ly hilar­i­ous and sur­pris­ing­ly thought pro­vok­ing.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:
Steve Mar­tin Writes Song for Hymn-Deprived Athe­ists

Robin Williams (1951–2014) Per­forms Unknown Shake­speare Play in 1970s Standup Rou­tine

Lis­ten as Albert Ein­stein Reads ‘The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence’ (1941)

Ein­stein Explains His Famous For­mu­la, E=mc², in Orig­i­nal Audio

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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