Yesterday, we were met with the shocking news that Robin Williams died at 63 of an apparent suicide following struggles with depression. A comedian with boundless energy, he also excelled in dramatic roles as well as those that straddled both worlds.
Williams burst onto the scene in the 1970s with one of the decades most original characters – Mork from Ork, a distant planet – for two appearances on Happy Days. His stint was so popular he starred in his own series, Mork & Mindy, where he settled into suburban Boulder, Colorado trying to understand human behavior – especially that of roommate and eventual wife, Mindy (Pam Dawber). Mainstream audiences got their first taste of Robin Williams’ humor, and understood that he wasn’t just another sitcom star, earning two Golden Globe nominations (and a win) for his role.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Williams moved to film and became an accomplished actor who earned four Oscar nominations and nine Golden Globe nominations. He was hysterical as Vladimir Ivanoff, the fish-out-of-water Russian who defects to the U.S. in Moscow on the Hudson (1984); he was on fire as Andre Cronauer, the irreverant DJ during the Vietnam War in Good Morning, Vietnam; he was inspirational as Professor John Keating, who seized the day in Dead Poets Society; he was hopeful as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, bringing catatonic patients to life in a nursing home in Awakenings; he was moving as Parry, the homeless man who befriends a despondent Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King; he was delightful as Daniel Hillard, who donned a wig and transformed himself to a British housekeeper to be near his kids in Mrs. Doubtfire; he was vulnerable and motivational as Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting; and he was beloved by audiences (more so than critics) as an unorthodox doctor who treats patients with humor in Patch Adams. He earned an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and five Golden Globes: for his performances Good Morning, Vietnam, The Fisher King and Mrs. Doubtfire, his voice work in the (regrettably out of print) Aladdin, and a special Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2005 for his body of work.
For many fans, though, Williams is most beloved for his stand-up comedy. You can listen to A Night at the Met from 1986, for which he won a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance, or watch him in 2002’s Emmy-nominated Robin Williams Live on Broadway.
Perhaps the best way to remember Williams is from his interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. His boundless energy, irrepressible improvisational skills and thoughtful analysis of his comedic and dramatic roles made this the first two-hour episode in the series’ history, and viewers all-time favorite. Watch this clip to find out how he answered the question “if heaven exists, what would like to hear God say to you”, and you’ll never underestimate the range he had and the legacy he has left us.
Rest in peace.
~posted by Frank