A Tribute to Robin Williams
From his appearance as an unknown on Happy Days in February of 1978 guest starring as Mork the Alien until his tragic and untimely death yesterday, Robin Williams became a part of American culture. For 40 years he was part of our lives and for many of my ilk, we cannot remember life without him and are still reeling at the thought of him being gone.
Why did we love him so much? He was a man of many personal demons. Battled drugs, alcohol and depression most of his life. He made more than his share of mediocre (and worse) films.
But when Robin appeared on screen, the audience would all giggle in delight. You really never knew what to expect.
If you look his most famous roles – Mrs. Doubtfire, The Genie, Adrian Cronauer, John Keating – they are four wildly different men/women/entities. But they were all distinctly his. They all had his signature and they all worked.
In stand-up, he redefined the genre. In his early years, there was no-one like him, not even close. Hyper kinetic, stream of consciousness that could chase down any rabbit hole and find the humour. (Case in point, what 1982’s A Evening with Robin Williams and pay attention when an audience member gets up to go to the washroom).
Robin Williams could make anything funny – and perhaps that is what we liked about him. At the end of this article, I have some quotes from various topics and he could find the often-twisted humour anywhere. He even spoke openly about his own drug and alcohol problems and although there was a serious side, he let us all laugh along with him. Because sometimes, that’s all there is to do, right?
Robin Williams always found a laugh, especially where it didn’t belong. After 9/11, he said that the Statue of Liberty should be changed to holding a baseball bat saying “You wanna piece of me??!!”. He has biting political humour and took on everyone.
If you look at Robin’s 10 highest grossing films, they really summarize his storied and legendary career.
Mrs. Doubtfire (2), Patch Adams (7), The Bird Cage (9) and Good Morning, Viet Nam (10) are pure schtick. The Robin Williams stand up comic, let loose is a star vehicle.
Aladdin (3), Happy Feet (4) and Robots (8) are his brilliant, incomparable voice over work. Only Eddie Murphy can compare.
Night at the Museum (1 and 5) and Good Will Hunting (6) are supporting roles. As the world grew familiar with his brand of humour, he was content to take these secondary roles and bring movies to life, if only for a small amount of time screen.
He also made several deep and thoughtful films. What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, Awakenings, The Fisher King and Garp were all challenging films that explored themes of life, the after life, our purpose, marriage, love and friendship.
In total, there were 46 films with a total domestic gross of over $3 billion.
Although The Genie will rightfully takes its place in Hollywood legend, I will remember Robin the most for Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Viet Nam, the mercurial DJ on Armed Forced radio. This will full of vintage Robin Williams stand up, but also had depth and emotion to it that for the first time made me thing, holy crap, he can act!
Through all of this, Robin Williams maintained an accessibility and vulnerability to his audiences. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have over for a beer.
Although we will be denied Mrs. Doubtfire 2, Robin has 4 films yet to be released. So we will get a chance to see him on the big screen again.
Once shock of his death settles in and the tabloids leave him in peace, I hope we can remember Robin Williams as not just a funny man. A skilled actor, genius comic, all around nice guy and humanitarian.
If you want to celebrate his career, I encourage you to look beyond Aladdin or Patch Adams. Try What Dreams Will Come or World According to Garp. Perhaps Awakenings or his excellent work in The Butler.
Rest in Peace Mr, Williams. You’ve earned it.
Great Robin Williams Quotes
Ah divorce. From the Latin word meaning “to rip a man’s genitals out through his wallet.”
On His Home, San Fransico
“A place where ‘God Save the Queen’ has a whole new meaning”.
On The Arms Race
‘A woman would never make a nuclear bomb. They would never make a weapon that kills. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while’
On Drug Use
“Cocaine is God’s way to of saying ‘You make way to much money; “.
“Cricket is basically baseball on valium.”
‘In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say, “Stop, or I’ll say stop again”‘
“I went to rehab in wine country, to keep my options open.”
On the Amish
And, if you’re ever in Amish country and you see a man with his hand buried in a horse’s ass, that’s a mechanic. Remember that’
When Accepting his Oscar for Good Will Hunting
Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, “Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.”.
On Jonathon Winters
Jonathan Winters was my mentor. I told him that and he said, “Please, I prefer idol.”.