Steve Allen to Robin Williams: Vulgarity Not Necessary to be Funny

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Robin Williams is a gifted performer who has no need to resort to barnyard humor like he did Wednesday night in front of President Clinton and the first lady at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, says fellow comedian and actor Steve Allen.

"Many small-time comics would get no favorable reaction at all without the shock laughs that are, sad to say, the automatic response to four-letter-word material, but Robin is richly, naturally funny," said Allen, who founded the original Tonight Show during television's golden age in the 1950's. Allen is the National Honorary Chairman of the Parents Television Council, a division of the Media Research Center, the parent organization of

At the DNC fundraiser, which garnered $26 million for the party and was carried live on cable television's C-SPAN, Williams used foul language and resorted to mild scatological humor that a Clinton adviser described later as "rather unfortunate."

It was also unnecessary, said Allen, who compared Williams to the greatest wits of the 20th century - Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, and Charlie Chaplin.

But those great funnymen, plus Williams' admitted comedic role model Jonathan Winters, who, like Williams, is a master at off-the-cuff, improvised humor, never resorted to profanity or vulgarity, said Allen.

"None of these beloved gentlemen were personal saints," said Allen. "But in addition to their comedic gifts they also had good manners. Comedians generally address audiences as 'ladies and gentlemen.' Somehow we must impress upon them that most true ladies and gentlemen do not appreciate tasteless and vulgar humor."

And not all audiences are alike, added Allen.

"What might be acceptable - to some audiences - at a comedy club midnight show is not necessarily suitable in the nation's capital where high government officials, their wives and children are present," stated Allen.

According to Williams, children were present at last night's affair. At one point the hyperactive entertainer joked, "Whoa, there's a child in the front row; he's learning new words."

C-SPAN officials said that the event was carried live, but will probably not be rebroadcast.