02/19/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
Robin Williams is about to do something he hasn't done for a long time: a concert tour. Some 15 years, in fact, the comedian and actor tells The New York Times, which sat him down for a Q&A to discover why he's doing it and what else is on his mind. Quite a lot, as it so happened. Basically, he's about to face live audiences because "I just want to find out what the rest of the country is up to. What is the middle like? What are they laughing at?" Also, he admits, now that he's 50, he thinks audiences probably want to get a look at him. "Maybe they think I will come out with a walker." His material, he says, will be drawn, in part, from what's going on. Of the current controversy: "Enron Hubbard, the church of profitology -- aliens came to this planet with the idea of selling energy. It's almost like, 'From the people who brought you the S&L bailout.'" On the Presidential pretzel: "I think they may be grinding everything up now. They have also given him a MedicAlert: 'I have fallen and I can't pass legislation.'" He also owns up to how the sentimental movie "Patch Adams" turned critics against him. "I never understood where all that anger and vitriol came from," he says. "Maybe . . . a bad experience with a doctor. Or a clown. Or a clown-doctor. I don't know. But I won't apologize for it."