At this point, we’ve all heard the tragic news regarding the passing of one America’s greatest comedians, Robin Williams. Anytime someone of his stature passes away, it stops the world for a few moments, leaving people wondering how to process the weight that seemed to just threaten their breath.
How do you mourn the loss of someone you never knew, yet who has been beside you your whole life? Someone who never let you down, unless, of course, you really hated What Dreams May Come.
I would need at least a third hand to count the number of Robin Williams’ films that had a major influence on my life. Not just films I saw once and thought, “oh that’s cute,” or “Huh? $5 for a used copy of Insomnia? OK, sure,” but films that I saw once and, for a second, considered never watching anything else again.
I’m going to just start listing films and you tell me when to stop: Popeye, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Good Morning, Vietnam, Awakenings, The Birdcage, Aladdin, Death to Smoochy, One Hour Photo, World’s Greatest Dad, Old Dogs … Yeah, probably should have stopped before Old Dogs.
However, if you’ve only ever seen Robin Williams in movies and TV, then you’re missing perhaps his greatest work. Because to me, his greatest performance came as the insanely dark, yet abundantly joyous character named Robin Williams. A character whose mind moved a mile a minute and dared you to keep up. Someone you could possibly confuse for your dad, if not for the fact that your dad was only looking into the TV, not looking out of it.
Come with us as we dig into some of Robin’s greatest off-screen moments. Moments where we get to peek behind the curtain, just long enough to see our hero for what he really was: a man. A funny motherfucking man.
Spend 10 seconds digging online and you’ll find a million clips of Robin on talk shows. And everyone of them is a stone-cold champion, but this one … this one is extra special. It’s not his first appearance on The Tonight Show, nor would it be his last. However, more so than any of the others I saw, it shows just how much Johnny Carson was in love with Robin Williams. He is a man genuinely enjoying himself.
And it’s this. This is what I think of first whenever I think of when I think of Robin. He was a man who was funny on TV, even more than he was hilarious in TV.
ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
In this clip, which seems to have been edited together for the staff of Mork & Mindy following the show’s first season, we see Williams at the absolute top of his game. When things go wrong, or there’s a few seconds of free time, Williams was never one to leave even a second of silence.
Don’t be fooled by this clip being labeled as “bloopers,” there’s nothing but gold here.
In recent years, Williams seemed to be seeking out fun at every corner. As his roles got more and more dramatic, he seemed to on the hunt for avenues to be silly.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve literally said it 7 million times, THANK GOD FOR DREW CAREY.
Not content to get his improv fix on national television, Williams has been known to drop into tiny comedy theaters in NY and LA just to play. In this clip from 2008, Williams sat in on at show at the Upright Citizens Brigade and manages to be himself, a world-famous movie star, while also being just one of the guys in a dark basement.
In this behind the scenes clip from one of HBO’s many Comic Relief specials, Robin sits down with Jim Varney of ‘Ernest’ fame. Nothing really happens.
Still, it is one of the most fun things I’ve ever seen.
Continuing with the behind-the-scenes peeks, check out this great clip from the making of Disney’s Aladdin.
It’s fun to see Williams at work, in the booth, and developing/improvising perhaps one of the greatest animated characters of all time. Honestly, you could lose all the animation, I’d love to watch an hour and a half of this. Hell, this would have been great on Broadway, and probably would have gotten him that elusive Tony he need for the EGOT.
In this clip for Amnesty International, Williams is, well, being Robin Williams. Trying to dissect how his mind works is a fool’s game. But holy shit, it’s fun to play.
ON FUNNY OR DIE
Last year, Funny Or Die was lucky enough to shoot a video with Robin. It’s short, sweet, and speaks volumes of the man and his many talents.
Man, you guys, we’re almost finished with this tribute and it’s just sinking in how much this whole thing sucks. If death is but a part of life, it is without a doubt the worst part.
So then what are Robin Williams the man’s own thoughts on life after death? Well, some of them are outlined in the final clip below. And whether or not you agree with his thoughts, or if you’re possibly by this point, just too sad to watch, it’s reassuring to know that his life will live on.
Not just his work in movies, for that was never in jeopardy, but his life as a person, as a gifted comedian, as someone I really wish I knew.