William Shatner of ‘Star Trek’ prompts laughter both uncomfortable, joyous at live event

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“Star Trek” icon William Shatner is as spry as ever, as any audience member could see at the first stop on his spring tour, “William Shatner Live.” On Jan. 11, Shatner paid a visit to the Flint Center for the Performing Arts at De Anza College in Cupertino. The Canadian actor is only visiting seven cities on his tour — but considering his age of 87 years, this is impressive enough.

The four-hour-long event started off with a screening of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The 1982 film stars all of the “Star Trek” originals, including Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei. The Q&A between Shatner and the audience following the film was guided by prescreened questions audience members had submitted before the show.

Part of the entertainment was watching Shatner’s mishaps and having audience members interact by helping him remember words — including “ultrasound,” “cotton gin” and several people’s names. Shatner’s quick-witted lines like, “I realized the universe didn’t give a shit” and “I’m too old to be a vegan” showed his more natural humor interspersed among his theatrical storytelling.

Shatner often got up from his chair to perform while he talked, using his hands and voice expressively. At the start of the show, he got stuck in a coughing fit, but used it as an opportunity to put his dramatic character to use. He joked that maybe the audience would get to “be there when William Shatner finally died.”

One of Shatner’s favorite subjects to speak about is his music career as a vocalist. While he already has material in his repertoire — including a country music album (“Why Not Me”) and a christmas album (“Shatner Claus”) — his record label is already planning for his next project: a blues album.

“I’m a white guy from Montreal, Canada and a nonmusical family,” he said. “I don’t know modern music… what a challenge.” While he’s shaky on the idea of doing a full blues album, he may pursue a documentary project on what singing the blues means for different musicians.

Shatner may have some years behind him but he still tries to keep up with what’s trending. “I do listen to rap music,” he said. “I can’t understand any of it.” He began talking about the new documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” that has kept people talking all across the globe — but his commentary on the subject was cut short when he mentioned that he didn’t really know who R. Kelly was.

Although the Q&A directly followed the “Star Trek” screening, not many of the questions led to conversation about the franchise itself. When asked if he kept any props from the series, Shatner ambiguously replied with, “They wouldn’t fit.” He then talked about the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which he runs every year and includes a silent auction. The transitions for nearly all of his stories seemed a little too boastful — relating them to his original points felt like a stretch.

This went especially poorly when an audience member asked about the legacy he wants to leave. His first thought led him to speak of his dear friend, Leonard Nimoy, who passed away in 2015. While he said Nimoy was like a “brother” to him, Shatner recounted how he chose to attend a charity event over his friend’s funeral. The conversation took a darker turn after that, with Shatner talking about how fame ends and people are forgotten.

“Fame and fortune (are) dust in the wind,” he said. “What does matter and what lasts ‘til the end of human experience are good deeds.” While this sentiment was nice, it seemed harsh to talk about his close friend’s death as secondary to his public appearance at a charity event.

The first show of the “William Shatner Live” tour went smoothly overall and was quite entertaining. But you have to be a hardcore fan to sit through Shatner’s tangents without wondering when he’s finally going to get to the punchline.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.