It was warm today (well, it was 56 degrees, but that was still warmer than it’s been the past week). And when I went out to take the garbage over to the transfer station, I saw this bug on the side of my house. He was black and orange! A Halloween bug! Too bad Halloween’s over, but maybe he’ll come back in time for next year’s celebration.
Like most kids back in the 1970s, I got to know Robin Williams through Mork & Mindy. I loved the show, to be sure, but Williams wasn’t really on my radar then. He was just another celebrity in a sea of celebrities that kept washing up on the shores of our collective consciousness.
What really put Robin Williams on my radar was a stand up special that he did for HBO back then–I believe while he was still on M&M–where he did his own version of a Shakespeare scene by proclaiming: “The moon, like a testicle, hangs low in the sky….”
Well, shit, that just blew my mind. I couldn’t have been any more than twelve or thirteen at the time, and not only was I watching Mork curse like a sailor, but I was watching him unleashed, unchained, untethered by the restrictions of regular TV. And he was not only brilliant, but he was damned funny in a way that no comedian has ever reached me, before or since. I had become a fan. A seriously devoted fan.
I’ve made it a point to watch for Robin whenever he did another stand up special–and I even sat through the Comic Relief telethons that he did with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. I vividly recall one of these when Paula Poundstone had her bit interrupted by a heckler in the audience, and afterwards Williams came out and gave the heckler holy hell in that wild-eyed, manic manner that only he could conjure up.
Or course, I also watched his films. I sat through some great movies (Good Morning Vietnam, The Birdcage) and some bad ones (Bicentennial Man—ugh, sweet Jesus, Robin….) just because he was in them.
But I always enjoyed Robin Williams most when he just standing onstage, by himself, making up a wondrously weird little world right there on the spot. His imagination was as fierce as his sense of humor, and I marveled at his ability at giving us a new perspective on this inane world that we shared just through his stand up comedy.
Jonathan Winters, who was Robin’s friend and mentor, famously did a skit on a talk show where the host gave him a stick–just a plain stick–and Winters created all sorts of crazy-funny moments using it as a prop. While appearing on Inside The Actor’s Studio, Robin did the same thing, using a woman’s scarf as his only prop:
There were a lot of times when life really sucked for me–many of those moments were just within the last few years. But Robin always seemed to be around to remind me that if I just relax and keep laughing, the problems don’t seem as big as I thought they were.
So long, Robin. Thank you so much for all that you’ve given us. And I’ll remember your lesson; I’ll remember to keep laughing.