SAN FRANCISCO -- "WHHAAAAAAA!!"

There's a plastic Do Not Disturb sign on the door and a strange high-pitched braying noise coming from the other side. It's either Ethel Merman wrestling a pit bull or Robin Williams giving another interview.

"NNRRRAAAAAA, WHHAAAAAAA!!!"

"You won't need an hour," the PR woman says with an icy smile. "A half an hour with Robin is like an hour with anyone else. He talks fast."

Williams is the first stop on a cross-country Hollywood mini-marathon that will also feature Dan Aykroyd, with John Hughes, Burt Reynolds, Bill Murray, Joe Mantegna, Barbara Eden, Claude: Baby Sitter to the Stars, the Polo Lounge, Paramount Studios, the Bob Hope Building, Oscar de la Renta, the Carlyle Hotel and a flotilla of flustered flacks in supporting roles.

It sounded good in the news room last week. Williams is plugging his new film, "Good Morning, Vietnam," in San Francisco; Aykroyd's doing press in Los Angeles the next day for his just-released "The Couch Trip." And hey, whaddaya know, they're both comedians (Hollywood's hottest properties these days), they both play zany disc jockeys, they both grew out of the same bad-boy fast-lane culture of the 1970s and they both need a hit.

"We might be able to get Burt Reynolds, too," says the news aide who sets up interviews.

"What movie?"

"Don't know. Probably another turkey."

Two days later, after dozens of calls to the Coast, the one-on-one with Williams is still a maybe, Aykroyd is holding, Burt is bye-bye and the news aide is on the phone.

"We can definitely get Mantegna."

The acclaimed stage actor ("Glengarry Glen Ross") has had two films back to back, "Suspect" and "House of Games," and he's ready to bust out. He's in L.A. and wants to talk. He's nixed in favor of John Hughes, the Cecil B. de Mille of the Clearasil set. Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a smash; his latest comedy, "She's Having a Baby," opens next month. Besides, there's an Aykroyd angle: Hughes also wrote the script for "Big Country," which Aykroyd is shooting in Los Angeles opposite John Candy.

Extended negotiations ensue. Hughes can do it Monday morning. No good. That's the only time for Aykroyd. How about Tuesday? The phone rings. "Hughes can do it Monday at 11." Won't work. After lunch? Three-ish? Call back. The PR people are anxious. He really wants to do it, they say. He's really excited. He'll meet us at the front gate. "Hughes can definitely do it Monday at 1."

Back on the Williams front: What about a screening of "Good Morning, Vietnam?"

"You have to see it Saturday night in San Francisco," his PR woman says. "We're not doing any screenings." Word comes that the studio wants press to see the film with other mortals in the theater, usually a bad sign. Word also comes that a one-on-one has been arranged.

Videobusters

CUT TO: Interior of video store. A salesperson scowls as the tapes are piled on the counter, the collected works of Williams ("The World According to Garp," "Popeye," "The Survivors," "Robin Williams Live," "Club Paradise," "Moscow on the Hudson," "The Best of Times"), Aykroyd ("1941," "The Blues Brothers," "Dr. Detroit," "Neighbors," "Ghostbusters," "Trading Places," "Spies Like Us," "Dragnet") and Hughes ("The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful" Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). Classics, every one.

Time to start watching, taking notes, reading from the clips, swilling Maalox in preparation for the flights.

Williams, the son of a Ford Motor Co. executive who grew up on the west side of Chicago and then moved to Marin County when his father retired, has always been an enigma: How do you turn a brilliant stand-up comedian and improvisational whiz into a cinematic property? So far, the material has never been quite right ...

"He moves too fast," Steve Allen once said, "and is so slippery, so perpetually 'on' that it is almost impossible to pin him down."

"He's a terrible interview," another journalist confides. "You spend two hours with him, laughing hysterically, and then come back to the office and play the tape. There's nothing there."

Aykroyd seems to have the same reputation. Known as a withdrawn eccentric, he rarely gives interviews. He also has webbed toes, which proves, he says, that he's a mutant.

Always in John Belushi's shadow, Aykroyd was shattered by his friend's death in 1982. A brilliant conceptual writer, he invented the Coneheads on "Saturday Night Live" and cowrote the smash hit "Ghostbusters." "The Blues Brothers" and last year's "Dragnet" with Tom Hanks (which earned $57.2 million at the box office), also did well, but otherwise he's had uneven luck on the big screen.

The PR guy calls. A screening of "The Couch Trip" has been arranged. Nontherapeutic comment: turkey city. Aykroyd -- bigger and slower than his days on SNL -- does his shtick as the escaped mental patient who takes over a successful Beverly Hills psychiatrist's practice and lucrative radio show. Donna Dixon costars. She is Aykroyd's wife in real life. She is blond and greatly endowed, but seems to have a cork stuck in her mouth.

"Well THAT was fun!" says a woman in the screening room.

Saturday Night Jive

CUT TO: Interior of Regency Theater, San Francisco. It's Saturday night and the sellout crowd for the sneak screening of "Good Morning, Vietnam" is roaring with laughter whenever Williams does his manic disc jockey number. He's a sort of Cousin Brucie on fast forward, a juiced-up Wolfman Jack.

"GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD Mornin' Vietnam ... President Johnson, why did you name your daughter Lynda Bird? Because Lynda Dog would be too cruel ... Dedededededede now the news ... Great Britain recognized the island state of Singapore. How do you recognize an island? Oh wait, don't tell me -- Didn't we meet last year at the Peninsula Club? ... Dededededede ... Here's a news flash. President Johnson signed a Highway Beautification Bill today. The bill said basically that his daughters cannot ride in convertibles ..."

The film is not great, but it does showcase Williams' talents. The audience can't stop screaming, obscuring half of his lines. Search out PR woman for press kit.

"Oh," she says, "I forgot it. It's back at the hotel."

On the Carpet

CUT TO: Interior, Four Seasons Hotel, the next afternoon. It's 1:30.

"Oh. Robin is running a little late. Can you come back at 2?"

At 2:15, the PR lady leads the way to the suite. There are sounds of raucous laughter coming from behind the DO NOT DISTURB sign.

Time to stare at the ugly design in the carpet and rehearse interview strategy.

1. Tread lightly on the Belushi/drug stuff.

2. Avoid mention of marital problems until the last leg of the interview. Work it in subtly, something like, "So, you and the missus are splitsville. What gives?"

3. Do not ask if being so hairy has hurt Robin's career as a sex symbol.

The minutes tick by. Your minutes, stolen by the short geeky guy in glasses who, when he finally exits, does so shaking his head, still laughing. The bubble over his head reads: Gee Mr. Williams, you sure are a funny dude.

Three-on-One

CUT TO: The pastel-padded interview room. Along with the PR woman, there's a beefy, bearded guy in the corner. The one-on-one has turned into a three-on-one. The photographer's camera clicks and whirs. Williams wears a plaid shirt, string tie with silver clasp and the beginnings of a middle-aged paunch. His face is tan, his eyes are brilliant blue, his hair is thin and brown. He appears worn out from the weekend, looks anywhere from 20 to 55. He talks fast, as promised, dodging questions with blinding energy in what seems a crazed, almost hysterical attempt to short-circuit reality.

The One-Minute Interview.

He speeds through topics including his son Zachary, aged 4 1/2, San Francisco life, Jamaican housekeepers, his new movie, money, the death of John Belushi, all the while slipping in and out of characters, voices, personas. At one point he picks up the tape recorder and nearly swallows it.

"THESE ARE THE PRESS JUNKET SEX TAPES!"

His Spandex skin stretches into a wide, distorted Gomer Pyle grin. Just like his Adrian Cronauer in "Good Morning, Vietnam." Director Barry Levinson ("Diner," "Tin Men") encouraged Williams to do what he does best: improvise. The result, he says, is one of his favorite roles. "It's me, basically," he says, temporarily calm. "There's no character, really. It is myself. It is 5 percent character and 95 percent me so there's maybe not that effort to keep this character going. When you perform, you are like that. It's BOOM, then you're down."

Is he a good actor?

"Yes. I think I've got a lot to learn. I have instincts. It's funny. Look at {Jack} Nicholson now. He's in full stride. He did all those B movies where he really said he learned. Did about 10, 12 of them. He said he just sat back and learned. Mistakes are so much harder now. You don't have B movies anymore."

Williams, a supernova who made the cover of four magazines by the age of 26, has never had the luxury of failing in private. His first mistake was a big one, he says. " 'Popeye,' $20 million right off the bat."

Flashback time. An only child who was also on the chunky side, Williams says comedy was a way of making people, especially his mother, pay attention to him. "She was very funny. My father was very dry. But the way to get to her was to be funny. And she loved that." His mother was a Christian Scientist. "My father used to say, when she was going to church, 'She's going to see the Smiley People.' "

He grins.

"When I was at Juilliard I'd see these ballerinas and think they were goddesses. You'd see these women and you'd think they were formed like the most beautiful porcelain and you'd go, 'Excuse me, I'm only an actor and I'm studying at Juilliard but I think you're a goddess' and they'd go" -- here he becomes a tough gum-chewing broad -- "YEAH, GETOUTA MY FACE."

He returned to San Francisco, began performing in clubs and later moved to Los Angeles, appearing regularly at nightspots like the Comedy Store. He was discovered there by casting agents and given a shot at Mork on "Happy Days," which later spun off to "Mork & Mindy" with Pam Dawber.

From the moment he donned those rainbow suspenders in 1978 and started spewing extraterrestrial lines like "Nanu Nanu" and "Shazbat," Williams has been a celebrity. When the show was canceled in 1982, Williams lent his voice to the Saturday morning cartoon version and eventually took his act to the big screen.

"Where am I going to make $50,000 a week?" he says. "EXCUSE ME, I DON'T THINK SELLING FULLER BRUSH!"

The money was loaned to other comics, invested. "Some of it flew up my nose. We had the Colombian College Fund at one time." Years ago, Williams was quoted as saying cocaine was "God's way of saying you're making too much money."

He took to the nightlife with a vengeance. Not surprisingly, he was at the Chateau Marmont with Robert De Niro the night John Belushi died. He was known for dropping in to late-night comedy clubs to perfect his act, heavy on the male genitalia jokes, while younger comics gazed with envy and admiration. So what if Williams was sometimes accused of borrowing their material? He was Robin Williams. He was a star. He was the embodiment of the late '70s and 1980s -- irreverent excess.

But times have changed. Belushi is gone. Chevy Chase is hosting the Oscars. "Pee-wee's Playhouse" is funnier than "Saturday Night Live" and cocaine is out. Yet Williams, while still brilliant at 35, can't seem to shake off some of the stale bits from the '70s.

Comedy, he says now, "is a way of diffusing anger sometimes. It's a way of diffusing fear." His greatest fear is mediocrity. "Of just falling back. And failing."

The flack gives a silent signal. The 30 minutes are up. There's another reporter staring at the ugly design in the carpet outside the door.

Williams falls back on the sofa, feet up, finishing up an answer. Since he separated from his wife Valerie, he has gotten into therapy. His father died several months ago. The light of his life is now Zachary; he shares custody 50-50.

"I think he's a good soul," Williams says, eyes widening. "He doesn't want to know about anything negative. He's like a little Mormon."

He says goodbye cordially. There is a possibility of seeing him again, in New York. He'll be in town to do "David Letterman" and "Saturday Night Live." His people will call.

'Are We Rolling Here?'

CUT TO: A public relations office in West Hollywood, the following day. The fog and rain of San Francisco have dissolved into a sunny 65-degree L.A. morning. And here he is, Dan Aykroyd, standing on La Cienega Boulevard, smiling frostily for the camera.

One small request: Would it be possible to take a walk? Get away from the madding crowd? Aykroyd frowns. "I've got ET and CNN" ...

Not to mention ESPN, PBS and BLT ...

He doesn't smile. The flack looks harried. "You only have 30 minutes," she says. "But don't worry, he talks fast."

A half an hour with Danny is like an hour with anyone else?

"Right," she says, depositing you in a dank, airless room the size of a dressing room.

Aykroyd's beefy baritone can be heard through the wall. He still has the faint residue of a Canadian accent. "I" comes out "Oi." "Hi" comes out "Hoi."

"Hoi, Pat? How are ya. You got the 1040s?"

More interview rehearsal:

1. Try not to ask what a sexpot like Donna Dixon is doing with a lug like him.

2. Bring up Belushi, but not until the end.

3. What the heck -- try the webbed toes if all else fails.

The star strolls into the room. He is smoking a cigarette, dressed in dark gray suit, shiny silver tie, heavy black shoes and red and black socks. He wears a watch on a chain and his face looks like the Sta-Puft marshmallow man. He has a nervous habit of pulling his neck back like a turtle and popping his eyes. Almost like he's doing Nixon all the time and can't stop!

"My life's pretty dull, really," he says, pulling back his neck and popping his eyes.

He seems nervous. He starts twisting his socks, resting one ankle on his knee. He crosses his legs. "I'm just a fortunate working actor. Are we rolling here?" He looks at the tape recorder and clears his throat.

He is serious and earnest. He was always more of a writer than a comic. Now, at 35, he's a very rich, well-fed, all-American, Mercedes-owning Hollywood ham.

He has more to lose now, he agrees, than when he was Not Ready for Prime Time, "but that's never stopped me from bringing along a sense of risk taken from the past. To do this role in 'Couch Trip,' I had to go up there and be really loose and really free and get into specific sexual references that I would not normally write for myself. My humor on 'Saturday Night Live' was never the vulgar or never the scatological. I stayed away from that. I've never been a stand-up."

But he was a brilliant mimic. The characters he assumed (Tom Snyder, Richard Nixon, Leonard Pinth Garnel, one of the wild and crazy guys with Steve Martin) were among the show's most memorable. And of course, as Elwood, one half of the Blues Brothers, he was Abbott to Belushi's Costello.

But that was a decade ago. Now he makes movies and still dreams of opening a nightclub. "I've always been a master host." His fantasy, he says dreamily, is "wearing the tux, greeting people at the door, going in behind the green padded door with the buttons in it. Sitting behind a walnut desk, counting the receipts."

He and his wife ("We're linked psychically and spiritually") winter in Los Angeles and summer in Massachusetts. He'd like to have children. "The desire's there, but we're both working ... We just really haven't had the time to focus on having a family."

Get up the nerve to mention Belushi and Aykroyd brightens. "I think about him all the time," he says. "It's going to be five years this March." (Actually, it'll be six.) Aykroyd, who was never really part of the heavy drug scene, tried in vain to get Belushi to go straight.

He wore his leather jacket to the funeral and drove his motorcycle to the grave. He got up in front of a stunned group of mourners in a Manhattan cathedral and played a tape of the Ventures' "The 2,000 Pound Bee." He started wearing John's clothes. He split the country and went to Paris to see an old girlfriend, and then to England for three months. He wasn't recognized much. "Only when I wore the sunglasses." He lost some hearing in his right ear, a casualty of rock 'n' roll.

Yes, he says, he still dreams about John.

"It's hard to resolve, hard to rectify. Naturally I'll always feel I was a little deficient in bringing John into the straight light. You can't really put that guilt on yourself, you know? We tried the Betty Ford confrontation approach a couple of times, but he was very much the master of his own helm. But I think about him all the time. And I talk about him all the time. I remember things that were funny, his attitude toward people."

He knows he's in danger of canonizing his friend. "One likes to remember the good things only. I don't like to remember those black ugly nights when you had to chase him around."

Aykroyd says he was never "a fan of coke." He was known for his fondess for the Hell's Angels, guns, beer and sleeping on the floor.

Marriage to Dixon, who hails from Alexandria, he says, "saved me. I was into the beers, the wines, the late nights. The lonely path of the single man in North America. That can produce stress. Donna has certainly relieved all of that."

He says he saw a psychologist in grammar school "because I was the youngest kid in class and had certain things to adjust to. I was different from the kids, in a sense. And younger, and all that. I guess I was smart, but lazy."

He was nicknamed Dan Astroid or Dan Android.

Yes, he was a troubled teen-ager. "A ringleader. Everybody felt they could follow me into trouble and when the trouble started, they'd split and I'd get caught. Because I was slower than everybody else."

Was he big?

"Not as big as I am today, dear." He laughs self-consciously and rubs the socks again. "Back then I was tall and pudgy and squeezable."

Humor, he says, was a way of diffusing things. If they laughed, they couldn't hurt you, right?

"Right, right, right. It's also simply a way of getting attention. It's kind of like you've got a caldron bubbling there. One feels the lid has to come off a few times. Let things pop out."

The current crop of comedy films seems so incestuous; Billy Murray and Danny Aykroyd, Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito, Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy. Take two of them, write a script, make a movie.

"Everybody's being teamed up now ... There are very few single stars that are left up there. Eddie is obviously one and Billy Murray's obviously one."

And comedians are the new superstars?

"There's no doubt about it. Comedy is king in this industry," Aykroyd says.

He seems to be loosening up. Ask him about "Wired," Bob Woodward's best seller on the life and fast times of Belushi, and he says, "I just thought there were so many inaccuracies. ... Come on, let us now question the credibility of a man who claims to be the gentleman who walked in and sat at William Casey's deathbed. COME AWN, GIVE US A BREAK!"

He says he never read "Wired."

"I banned it from my property in Canada. My parents had a copy, I took it off the bookshelf and burned it ...

"I don't read anything that's written about me. Never read interviews, never read reviews, never read the books. I live it. Why should I have to read it?"

He yawns.

"I'm a worrier in real life. I've got these three lines in my forehead that will be there forever." He says he worries about his friends, how "they're progressing in life," getting shot driving on the freeway.

"I worry about EVERYTHING. People say, 'Lighten up, lighten up. But I can't lighten up. I feel like I'm shouldering responsibility, the work that I'm in, the way I should conduct my life. I want to set a good example for people. I don't want to appear to be a reckless, violent sort of flake."

Like Belushi.

"I've never gone backwards," he says finally. "I've always taken that step ahead. It was kind of like being in battle, to see your friend go down, but you've got to move forward, you can't stop."

The door opens. The PR woman sticks her head in.

"Can I have another smoke?" Aykroyd bellows.

"Sure, you also have a camera crew here."

"Okay. Tell them to set up and get ready," he says testily.

"They're set up."

"Okay."

"We're just waiting for you."

He stands up, extends a hand. "Say hello to Hughes."

'Welcome to El-lay'

CUT TO: Exterior, Paramount Studios on Melrose Avenue, one hour later. Taxi pulls up to gate. "John Hughes? Okay, go around here to the Bob Hope Building."

The maze of pastel buildings flanks the asphalt driveway. Just past the Lucille Ball Building is the Bob Hope Building. Hughes' office is on the second floor, a pop-art, retro sanctuary, all pink and black with tiled floors. The receptionist looks exactly like Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." In fact, there's a poster for the movie on the wall. A young woman walks in, back from lunch. She looks a lot like Molly Ringwald.

Hughes' press assistant appears.

"There's a problem," he says, very seriously. "We didn't know you'd be bringing a photographer. Hughes doesn't want his picture taken."

The photographer is sent away. Twenty minutes go by.

"There's another problem," Hughes' flack says, "He's running a bit late, but he'll be here. He really wants to do this."

Another 20 minutes go by. The flack reappears, crestfallen.

"It looks like he's still tied up in the dubbing room. He can't break away."

Flashback to the day you flew to New York to interview Mickey Rourke and his manager said he couldn't interrupt his nap.

"Welcome to El-lay," the flack says, grinning.

Baby Sitter to the Stars

CUT TO: Interior, Beverly Hills Hotel. Long shot of writer in the Polo Lounge, waiting for a call from Paramount on rescheduling Hughes. The phone call finally comes, back in the room.

"Look, we're really sorry. Could I make it up to you? How about Billy Murray?"

He probably talks fast. Ten minutes with Murray is like 20 with anyone else.

Barbara Eden spotted in the hallway. Wonder if she has a new comedy coming out. Wonder if she talks fast.

Make plans for dinner. Find Claude, Baby Sitter to the Stars, to stay with 2-year-old. She comes with impeccable references.

"I've baby sat for the children of Julio Iglesias and Peter Frampton," she offers, in a thick French accent. "And that actress who is on 'The Best Days of Our Lives.' She won an Emmy."

Claude orders room service coffee and charges $32 for four hours.

An hour with Claude is like two hours with any other sitter.

The news aide is on the phone. "You should have done Joe Mantegna."

William Shakeman Presents

CUT TO: Interior, the lobby of New York's Carlyle Hotel, on Madison Avenue, five days later. A tall, tan, good-looking man walks to the elevator. It's Oscar de la Renta.

Wonder if he's appearing in a new comedy.

Wonder if he's also going to Robin Williams' room.

"Come in, come in." It's the same beefy man who was in San Francisco. He sits at a desk. "I've ordered coffee and tea." The PR people have set up another hour with Williams, who appears wearing a long-sleeved white T-shirt and blue pants. The bright blue nylon waistband of what appears to be running shorts peeks from underneath. He wears sneakers.

He is calmer, less frenetic. His eyes are still the same brilliant blue, and he seems like a very sweet, slightly pixilated boy-child.

Are comedians the new sex symbols?

"Yeah, but they also have their comic instinct that can't accept that. It's like" -- here he poses momentarily like a matinee idol, then crosses his eyes and sticks his tongue out -- "Right, BBLLLP." He makes an obscene gesture.

But do men like funny women? "They're threatened by them, I think," he says.

He crosses his legs.

"Maybe because they think it's a domain all their own."

Comedy, he says, "is a defense. When you drop it, people are like 'What?' If you're not manic, they all go" -- he looks sideways, eyes narrowing. "You see people literally going, 'Something's wrong.' That's one of the reasons I used to do drugs. So I wouldn't have to answer to people." His voice drops to a whisper. " 'He's on cocaine.' I did it so I wouldn't have to talk to them."

He's given up the drugs, but they remain a source of humor. "When you're in the middle of it, it's a source and when you come out the other side it's a source because you realize the stupidity of it. I haven't done anything for five years, so I don't actually remember it."

He seems more comfortable with himself these days. Fitter, trimmer, almost handsome. "Yeah, because I'm not drinking," he says with a laugh. "You know, you bloat up, you inflate like a balloon."

He kicked everything cold turkey. Was he an alcoholic? "I don't know what I was. When you combine it with the cocaine, you're on the roller coaster. The Colombian Roller Coaster. You're doing one, then the other." He waves his hand in the air, first up, then down, "Cocaine, Jack Daniels, cocaine, Jack Daniels." He scrunches up, his face a mask of narcotized pain. "I'm hungry, I'm not, I'm hungry, I'm not."

He stops, suddenly quiet. "You look over, you literally see an edge." Zachary, he says, "was the major impetus" to clean up his act.

Yes, he says, he was in danger of burning out.

"Till you're frazzled to a crisp. It's like Jonathan (Winters), " he says. "At his best, he was having a nervous breakdown. I never had a history of that. He has some very painful stuff in his life."

What was the pain in Williams' life?

"There wasn't any real pain in my life. It was actually wonderful. Certain things now I go into in therapy, I go, 'Hmmmm.' "

Suddenly, the topic shifts. He is Adrian Cronauer, at the mike, doing Ronald Reagan. "Camptown races, sing that song. Mammy. I was just thinking of the whole South African problem. Let them put on white face and do some mime and we'll sing some of their spirituals. Mr. Botha? ... Thank you, I've got to go.

"I did that royal benefit," he says, referring to his recent London appearance for the Prince's Trust. "Chas and Dee Dee," he says. "Chuckles. She is exquisite. She is porcelain. She has that look, 'Move your head to the right' " -- he does a hilarious imitation of the doe-eyed future queen of England -- "like some incredible cocker spaniel. It's beyond coquettish."

Conversation turns to Renaissance England, to past lives. Williams, who never graduated from Juilliard, says he might have been Shakespeare's agent.

He spins a five-minute shtick, talking faster, more furiously.

"Will, we love you, seriously, we gotta lose the ghost, though. Will, this whole play's too Jewish. The whole Mom thing, what are you saying, what are you saying? Love it. You've got a black man here, the concept of a white family with a black child we'll buy, but a black man married to a red-haired white woman? Come on, Will! That's about 200 years off. The interracial thing, Will, the queen's really worried. Not that she has her own hair, but we'll talk about that later."

He is picking up speed, out of breath, a one-man, zonked-out, Stratford-on-Avon stream of consciousness:

"Fairies, fairies, dancing in the woods ... Will, let's pursue ... Instead of 'Hamlet,' let's call it 'Bobby.' I know it's not a popular name in England , just call it 'Bobby, a Boy from the Boroughs.' Keep writing, Will, I like it ... Finish up the play. Can you write a musical about the Armada? Something like ... "

He stands, breaks into a Broadway chorus:

"Burning ships, burning ships, there they go, from the slips, while our men are at sea ... " Big finish. "YOU AND ME FOR ENGLAND! How about that? No, you just want to stay with the poetry? Personally, thanks for that letter. What do you call it, a sonnet? ... We all know you're Jewish. But we can't put, 'By William Shakeman.' Vat? To be, you nut, get out. Vaddaya think? Whether it's nobler to sit avound. 'WILLIAM SHAKEMAN PRESENTS, 'HAMBURG!' He's a boy, a mensch in Denmark ... "

He leans back on the sofa, spent but happy. "I think the coffee just kicked in."

There's a point, he says, "where you just let it go. I don't know. I never tried to break it down." Usually he wonders, "Where's that coming from?"

The interview is over. The PR man asks, "Did you get everything you need?" Williams stands up, stretches and walks to the door.

Suddenly, he is singing. It's an Ethel Merman tune. "WE'VE GOT A LUUUV THING, A LUUUV THING." The door closes.

Robin Williams is still laughing.