A tribute to a comedy legend and some choice recommendations for celebrating his legacy…
I know, why aren’t more people talking about Robin Williams?! Whatever. And before you hit me with the hackneyed internet line of “If only half the people cared about the Israeli/Palestine situation as Mork from Ork” or some other contrarian response that you think is oh-so-very clever, but in reality no different from any other desperate attempt at psuedo-poignant retweetery piggybacking on the death of a celebrity, I have no problem saying that William’s death is actually just as important as that or any other current event or cause.
Look: The passing of a beloved entertainer is always going to ignite a firestorm of social media mourners these days, but I think we can all agree that we’ve seen nothing close to the magnitude of virtual grief caused by the idea of Robin Williams being gone forever. And I’m one of those people who, like many of you, had grown more than a bit weary of Williams shtick. By that I mean both his exhaustively-manic comedic appearances in family-friendly comedies and the Serious Acting he seemed to believe winning an Oscar mandated he do almost exclusively.
I probably even took a shot at him on occasion, and HOORAY, now a noxious mixture of tragedy and hindsight gets to make me feel like a real shitheel. Without a doubt, there are some terrible Robin Williams movies out there. There’s but a single Robin Williams performance I have enjoyed in the last ten years (sad to say, but I seriously triple checked), but I’m more than a little shocked that A) I never saw a single frame of William’s short-lived sitcom, and B) the world seriously rejected a weekly comedy starring Robin Fucking Williams?! Sure, I’d grown tired of the man and stopped following his career because he seemed like this unstoppable whirlwind of bufoonery that would happily dance for the mainstream masses until the earth fell into the sea, whether I was paying attention or not.
Obviously, I’m getting to the Robin Williams I did love, but its more than my personal nostalgia. Similar to my stupidly controversial thoughts on The Simpsons recently, there’s the older work that I’ll always cherish, but the fact that that phenomena is still going, still appreciated by someone, even if it isn’t me, brings me a tremendous amount of comfort. It’s simultaneously validating on a personal level, sort of like a cosmic conformation that what you look was worth liking, and also a beautiful reassurance to be found in further generations enjoying something for the same reasons you did. For comedy especially, that suggests a silly itch in all of us that needs to be scratched. And that there are a select few special people who can do it for us all. To put it out there more eloquently/cliched: It was always nice to know he was still out there… even if he wasn’t granting wishes or dressing like an old lady.
But here’s the thing we all should’ve realized: NOBODY worked harder for you than Robin Williams. Fucking. Nobody. Try and act like Robin Williams for ten minutes. I’ll wait… See?! It’s just as hard as it is fucking exhausting. You don’t even have to like Williams’ output to appreciate his dedication, or that the very things that may’ve turned some of us off about him were still the result of a tireless work ethic and an utterly inimitable persona. Regardless of his work over the last decade, and I seriously urge you not to think about horseshit like Old Dogs and License to Wed, I’m fairly certain we all liked to watch Robin Williams simply being Robin Williams.
Think about his Comic Relief performances, and man, if you were flipping through late-night TV and saw Robin Williams on a talk show, who the fuck is is changing the channel?! Much to the delight of us all, Williams’ flippant disregard for earnest promotion must’ve ruined the day of many a PR person, and that only made it exponentially funnier. How many people could even get away with derailing a plug for an Aladdin DVD just to work in 5 minutes of off-the-cuff blowjob jokes?! Don’t take my word for it, Conan showed the world his value in that regard with an unprecedented, abruptly sobering moment last night.
This never happens
I have to imagine that even the most cynical talk show employee either got a little giddy or breathed a sigh of relief with the knowledge Robin Williams was coming on. “Writers, take the day off. Camera dudes, point the cameras at Robin and take a long lunch.” As much as we may giggle at an anecdote from Louis CK or Kevin Hart, they aren’t jumping off the couch, singing, dancing, belting out impressions, fucking screaming at a million miles-per-hour. It bums me out to think that Robin might have been one of the a final fading vestige of last-gen entertainers, but the funniest people in the world right now can’t come close to operating at Williams’ speed (and that sentiment should sure as shit double as a reminder to show Martin Short a little more love before we lose him too.) And with all that said, the dude was also a fairly outstanding actor. Remarkable in a lot of cases, although I think the public became a lot less interested in watching him do that because… well, a lot of people are good actors. Only one person was good at being Robin Williams. And it looks as if that was a heavier burden than we ever could’ve imagined.
No matter how long you think Robin Williams has been popular, it’s actually 20% longer than that
I am neither famous, nor a comic, but the dark, dark places from which desperate attempts at gaining the approval of strangers is something I can definitely relate to. I used to find myself baffled by people who didn’t give a shit about being liked, crackin’ wise, or acting the fool in order to entertain others, but as I rapidly age, I realize that probably comes from a place of inner-personal acceptance I could probably do with understanding a little better. I don’t really want to know the specific reasons as to why Williams punched his own ticket, but there aren’t heartbreaking enough words to convey the notion of a void inside the man that so badly needed to be filled that… well, you see where I’m going? Did his interest in being Robin Williams only extend as far as the public being interested in Robin Williams? Did his eagerness to please stem from something he needed more than we wanted? Is that the trade off involved with a comedic force of Williams’ magnitude? Did he feel as if he fulfilled his purpose and just shuffle himself off into oblivion like the Mary Poppins of dick jokes because his services were no longer required? Thinking too much about this, in addition to all those stories of Williams being one of the sweetest, Zelda-lovin’ mega-celebrities on the planet, breaks my fucking heart. No, I’m not saying we killed Robin Williams, but I do wish we could’ve done a better job of letting him know his continued presence on Earth was still very much desired.
Enough dark thoughts! I don’t have any moral lessons, nor any answers. Just thoughts and feels that I felt like sharing. What I do know, with 100% certainty, is that Robin Williams was a gift to this planet. And the only solace we have right now is the evidence he left us with, the quality and volume beyond impressive by any standard. I’m sure you all have your favorites, and even though mine certainly aren’t Hook or Mrs. Doubtfire, I encourage you to revisit anything you felt the man made more magical this week. These are my picks, many of which are streaming-ready on services like Amazon Prime and Netflix. And thank God, because one of the only positive things to come out of this tragedy is seeing much of Williams’ work via physical completely out of stock within just 24 hours.
Robin Williams: A Night at the Met
Williams’ third album won him a Grammy, but more importantly, it was my very first comedy album. I’m pretty sure my parents had bought it for themselves, but once it was popped into our cassette player on a road trip, and by the time my parents realized their folly in introducing me to a glorious world were it was actually okay to curse, it was already to late. In A Night at the Met, Williams was the first person in the universe to confirm for me the pronunciation of the word “cum” which I’d only seen printed in the pages of a single Penthouse (pre-internet, younglings!) I’m sure you’d find an overwhelming amount of the material dated, but so did I, as pre-teen in 1992 trying to wrap his little head around ample Reagan and Khadafi references from 1986. Robin provided me with my introduction to stand-up comedy and made me more curious about the world around me. I can probably recite the whole fucking thing from memory. At the very least, it’s one of the clearest recordings showcasing the few positive effects of cocaine.
I love this fucking movie and there’s almost no better testament to Williams’ ability as a comedic performer than his feature-length Popeye impression. Williams played the same spastic character many times, but even though this happened early in his career, his superb portrayal of one of animation’s greatest icons is ironically one of his most subdued before heading into Oscar-caliber territory. Sad though it may be, I still love that this is undoubtedly the one Robert Altman movie most people will ever see. I’m not sure who made the bizarre decision to have him helm a Robin Williams-starring cartoon adaptation, but that led to so many other wonderfully bizarre choices, up to and including being one of the only musicals I’ve ever liked, building an entire weird ass city on a Maltese island (where it still stands today) and most importantly, allowing the whole thing to be treated as an incredibly sincere live-action cartoon origin story. There’s no real world grittiness, or winking at the camera.
World’s Greatest Dad
I’ve professed on many occasion that Bobcat Goldthwait has one of the best tracks records as a director. Yes, that’s due to a relatively short resume, but each and every one of his films are profoundly unique and so exquisitely dark they almost bend time itself. World’s Greatest Dad is Goldthwait’s best, IMO, and contains what’s quite possibly Williams’ finest performance. This is actually hard to recommend right now, since it’s for the best you go into it knowing as little as possible so as to better experience the sadistic blindside the film has in store for you. I can’t tell you what any of that entails, but it could be a helluva lot harder to watch given recent events. WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart right now, but when you’re ready, get ready for William’s best (only?) full-frontal nude scene!
I grew to love this movie on cable, where I desperately hope its still getting air time. Dead Poets Society and Good Morning, Vietnam already showed the world that Williams could easily blur the line between his hyper-kinetic comedic persona and serious emotional sincerity, but I honestly believe Cadillac Man proved just how versatile a comedic performer he could be. Tim Robbins, as a shotgun-toting, C4 strapped madman threatening to blow up a Cadillac dealership is the breakout comedic force here, yet Williams is the lady-juggling doofus who carries the whole film. I feel like this is the film that’ll get overlooked the most this week, so if you’re up for something outside the obvious, you’re in for a real treat.
Without a doubt, Disney’s greatest film of my generation, and most likely yours. Williams’ performance was so integral to Aladdin, the Genie is one of the only characters in Disney history that’s modeled after the person voicing them. But you already now of his magnificence in this movie, right? What I do want to express as a hardcore animation geek is that Aladdin, almost solely through Williams’ performance, changed fucking everything. Disney’s animation revival was in full swing, coming off of classical takes on fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, the latter of which was so well-received it became the first animated movie to EVER get an Oscar Nomination for Best Picture. You’d think this would be cause for the notoriously safe company to take a giant nap on its laurels. Instead, Aladdin has a remarkably different, infinitely more comedic tone (I’d say more so than any other Disney movie up to that point) and I think we all know who gave them the courage to move forward in that direction and it wasn’t Gilbert Gottfried.
Popular comic personas had certainly brought characters to life before in animated features, but you didn’t see John Candy in Rescuers Down Under or Buddy Hackett’s Scuttle receive anything close to Genie’s screen time, nor the resulting acclaim. Williams’ joke-spitting, shape-shifting Genie was literally, for better or for worse, the performance that launched a thousand comedic cartoon film characters. Despite unprecedented success in the medium of animation, Disney’s bigscreen characters rarely behaved like… well, cartoon characters at that point, and the medium had largely been used to create whimsical situations that were unfilmable in live-action. Williams changed all that (FOR VERY LITTLE MONEY) and in almost every animated film you see today, from Eddie Murphy’s Donkey to Despicable Me’s Minion thingies, having a fast-talkin’ comedic character to cut the tension is practically a prerequisite. The best thing that can come out of this is getting Disney to release Aladdin on Blu-ray, or any other platform for the first time since 2002.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
A lot of people are deservedly singing the praises of Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King this week, but I wanted to get at least one “pure” live-action Robin Williams performance on my list, and fuck, do I love this movie. Williams’ scene is little more than an extended cameo, but it doesn’t waste a second with his horny, headless Moon King. It’s truly Robin Williams at his most Robin Williamsiest. If you’ve ever had an inkling to check this film out, fucksake, now’s as good a time as any. If not, here’s the whole scene:
I seriously fought with myself over whether to include this movie. Yes, it’s essentially garbage and a complete waste of Robin Williams considerable talent. (Whoever decided that Williams should play the straight man to John Travolta should never stop being fired.) But I genuinely love watching this movie with friends. No shit, outside of Avengers and The Departed, this is probably the movie I’ve rewatched the most over the last decade. Like, at least seven times. The Room is the best worst movie of recent history, but it’s by definition an independent film from a first-time director. Shit happens. Old Dogs, however, is one of the failingest things ever created, and that’s in spite of having the budget, the cast, a crew of professionals who you’d assume would know better, and everything else any movie could ever wish for in order to emerge as palatable on even the most mediocre level. This movie’s so wildly inept and incoherent, there’s a rumor that the film was shot as an R-rated movie and chopped down to a family movie with the wonderful inclusion added fart sound effects. Implausible though that may sound, you’re inclined to believe it because it’s the only way final product makes sense. It’s like two seasons worth of a subpar CBS sitcom edited down to a breakneck 90 minutes. There are like 16 premises, many of which disappear out of nowhere as if the movie were a YouTube compilation of million-dollar Vines filmed over the course of several years. It’s an enthralling trainwreck I wholeheartedly recommend, and sadly, Williams had the pleasure of being part of it.
Feel free to share any and all thoughts in the comments below. It’s okay to have seriously heavy thoughts on the matter, even if your callous instincts tell you otherwise.
31 thoughts on “FUCK: Robin Williams…”
Best article I’ve read about Robbin since his passing. I also thought that worlds greatest dad was one of his best movies and it is now ruined for me like Paul Walker in FAST 6. Well not ruined but hard to watch. Not sure if it holds up since I saw it years ago but I remember enjoying his sci fi movie final cut. Worth a watch if it is on amazon or netflix and the amazing soundtrack still holds up but is an album only purchase on itunes. Out of respect fot the man, I am finnaly going to purchase it.
Out of all of the celebrity deaths that I can remember over the past few years this one may be hitting me the hardest. Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Jumanji. This man was an integral part of my elementary school years. Even outside of his acting roles he seemed like a genuinely cool guy.
thanks you for this, chris
I didn’t realize how much I actually enjoyed Robin Williams until he died, this is the most affected I think I have ever been by a celebrity death.
Also, am I the only one who can never take Will Arnett seriously?
I thought the same thing when he spoke on Conan. He looked as tho he was going to make a joke or like he knew it was a hoax.
Just one of those people I thought would live forever. I won’t name any others for fear of causing them imminent death.
His death didn’t hit me as heavy as some, but when I really think about it, Aladdin is probably my favourite Disney movie and a huge part of that is thanks to Williams as Genie.
He will be missed.
When I first heard about his death it didn’t really hit me till I started looking at his IMDB page, and then I realized he’s gone. So I’m going to rewatch The Birdcage, which is one of my favorites of his. I also plan to rewatch Bicentennial Man, I haven’t seen it since I was a kid but I remember loving his performance.
Robin Williams goes full frontal in The Fisher King boi!
Actually thought it was Robin Thicke until I got on the computer later.
You dont think this was because his show was canceled do you?
No, just speculating on things/coping with a weirdly profound loss. His energy, his tireless need to please, dare I say Williams’ SUPERPOWER, may’ve come from a dark, incredibly needy place most people can’t comprehend.
I don’t think there’s another entertainer on Earth who went to the lengths Williams went to just to put a smile on our face, and he really did succeed more than he failed. But there’s also the sickeningly sad chance he needed our approval more than we’ll ever know. If you think of public adulation as a drug, then there was not bigger addict than Robin Williams.
Maybe he couldn’t keep the energy up, or maybe the high wore off. Maybe I’m way off base, but thinking about in this light sends 100,000 volts of electric sadness down my spine when I think that we might of let Robin down in some way. That over the last decade or so, maybe we weren’t giving him a return on his investment.
Again, we the public are not responsible for his demons. Nobody is at fault, and I think that kind of ambiguity makes it all feel worse. The only people I have any remote anger towards are entirely theoretical: The dipshits in Hollywood who couldn’t be bothered to create comedic projects that challenged him in a way that only he could be challenged. Mind you, he is a professionally trained actor, of the Serious variety, but none of that brought him the acclaim of those earlier roles that properly utilized the considerable talent that ONLY he possessed. I bet somebody writes a script with Larry the Cable Guy in mind once a week, but I haven’t seen anything you could call “A Robin Williams Vehicle” in over 15 years.
Okay, calm down Antista. He was fun but lets not overrate him.
I think my favorite rolls of his were jumanji and aladdin.
I wish he had become more of a cameo character thatd pop up in movies.
That wouldve been …..neat?
Anyway yeah sad but yknow he chose to do it, its not shocking comedians are some very depressed people. I just wish he didnt go out of sadness or depression, but he was 63, maybe some health problems we didnt know about. But I cant condone suicide what with people robbed or short changed life all the time, he couldve done so much still and he had a family, hes not gonna get to see the third hobbit film with his daughter….
and thats my justification for the jokes I made at his deaths expense.
Ive no other way to grieve due to a very complicated and twisted empathy and maybe just maybe he wouldve liked them, and gotten just a little choked up.
Heres to you Rob
Until the last few years it was always greats like Katherine Hepburn and such dying, people you thought were probably already dead. Lately, it’s people who we feel like we knew, and grew up alongside.
I recently saw Club Paradise, directed by the recently deceased Harold Ramis, also starring the recently deceased Peter O’Toole (and the retired Rick Moranis.) It was pretty good, like the 80’s Tom Hanks movies, when he was fun. And The World According to Garp is very good, serious Robin before he went totally serious.
I’ve always loved Robin Williams, without having seen any of his big dramatic roles like good morning, or good will hunting or even dead poets society. so that leaves all the kids movies i love to death (aladdin, hook, fucking love hook, jumanji etc) and the complete opposite spectrum in insomnia, death to smoochy and one hour photo (highly recommended). He will be missed.
My personal favorite movie has to be Good Morning Vietnam. He was allowed to improv so much that the great comic genius in him came out. RIP Robin, I’ll miss you.
BTW, I’m also old enough to remember bugging my parents to buy me rainbow suspenders. Look it up youngsters.
Nice article Chris. Definitely gonna miss Robin Williams.
I met Robin Williams at an SF Giants game, he shook my hand and shared a laugh with my dad, it made my entire year. He had such a genuine and seemed to take the time to talk to anyone who approached him.
Cheers to Robin, may he rest in power.
I found out about his passing trough a forum post in this site, had to google it to make sure because my mind couldn’t accept it at face value.
It’s definitely true that he was someone I had taken for granted in the past decade or so, but he had such a tremendous influence on my childhood. I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved Mrs. Doubtfire when I was a kid, and I think I must have watched Jumanji like 5 times in less than a month. That film and The Mask were two films that I got so entranced with when I was a kid.
Then I also discovered and loved his more dramatic work, Dead Poets Society and What Dreams May Come are highlights for me. Like I said in the forums, the man was definitely incredibly talented, so full of energy, and it is so crushing and sad to think that all the work he put to make other people smile and laugh wasn’t enough to fill the darkness that he obviously was struggling with.
He will be missed, and remembered very fondly.
Chris, thanks for the recommendations and the article itself. I certainly took this man for granted in recent years. It’s high time I revisit some of his older stuff I fell in love with – as well as what I missed.
Aside from being a kind person and great comedian, Mr. Williams was active in all things gaming. I loved his involvements with the Zelda, CoD and WoW communities – he just seemed so down to earth.
Dude, am I right in thinking you may have cried while writing so much praise for the man? I teared up at parts. This was incredibly well researched and thought out (I didn’t realize Popeye was so fucking brilliant until you made me flashback to over 20 years ago).
This was very much appreciated. Your sincerity has bonded me more to this site than I had been when I started regularly listening.
I am sorry that I’m now but a lowly fucking janitor (custodian, DICK), and wipe women’s piss of the toilet seats (because they don’t trust my cleaning job, and hover, then piss on the seats, making it necessary to not trust the seats, hover and piss on them, making me need to clean the seats that were already very clean). I would very much like to donate, but it will be some time. After I have my shit in order (I spent 5 months in a salvation army), I will try to give back.
Thank you for your eloquence, thoughtfulness and humor. You helped me get through a few months of being homeless; days in which people I thought were my friends essentially abandoned me and left me for a lost cause, and working in a factory for less than minimum wage. Thank you so much, more than I’m capable of expressing.
Pretty awesomely written article Chris, it’s easy to tell you put a lot into this. Yesterday was such a mess for me, one of those days where you realize people end up dying someday. The only other actor that I think effected me this much in my childhood was Jackie Chan so it’s just so weird seeing this happen. Thanks for the recommendations, other than the kid stuff I’m not super aware of his acting abilities so I’ll make sure to check this all out.
First off, THANK YOU for this write-up, Chris; it was dang-near perfect!
Probably the most positive and life-changing thing that I learned from Robin Williams through his performances that I’ve been watching since I was a young child, was that you never and don’t have to lose or hide your goofiness, nerdiness, child-like wonder and your sense of humor when you become an adult (despite other people telling you otherwise). That lesson was something that FINALLY clicked in me at 17 years old about to head off to college, and that realization stays with me now at 29, 5 years after finishing graduate school. I recall his role as Peter Pan in “Hook” being a great example of that.
Thank you, Mr. Williams.
Great piece, Chris. If I’ve never seen either, should I start with dead poets or will hunting?
I’m not usually phased by the deaths of famous people, sad yes, but not enough to really bother me like I just lost someone I knew in, for lack of a better term “real life”. That being said I am legitimately bothered by this in a way I;m not sure I can grasp at this moment.
To die prematurely is always a dear heartbreaker but suicide? I had heard of personal issues before but even then, you don’t expect something from someone so full or energy and humor. I enjoyed many of his films, mostly for him and him alone. Even something really minorthat relatively recent Ocarina of Time 3D ad makes me even more sad now, can’t even imagine what his daughter is going through.
A great body of work and its great to see such an outpouring of appreciation and respect from all over.
We’ll all miss you Robin.
Thanks for the article Chris.
Thanks for the recommendation on World’s Greatest Dad. I haven’t watched any Bobcat Goldthwait movies, but this one was excellent. Great casting and incredibly subtle acting by basically no one I recognized outside of Williams. Thanks for the recommendation, and the great perspective.
We live in a world where Robin Williams ended his own life. I just can’t get past that fact.
Chris, thanks for your eliquent, well-written article you said everything I wished to say. But to expand on your thoughts I’d like to tell a story. A very long time ago, I was a kid in college working at times for companies that put on big events in San Francisco. Examples are the 100 anniversary of the forming of the League of Nations where I shook hands with Desmond Tutu because his security guard didn’t know where a safe bathroom was. To the reopening, of the Museum of Modern Art in S.F. To the re-opening of a S.F Library after a major remodel around 1994 or something. It was here that I watch Robin Williams read for a half-hour (though he had promised to read for 5 minutes) to 1st and 2nd grade kids. In my mind, this was just after Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji but my memory of the timing could be a little off. The point is he was the “most famous” person in the world at the time and here he was in a big tent reading to kids! For free!? I was backstage staff so I know he was there way early just waiting in a tent with water and other VIPs waiting for their turn on stage. I wasn’t supposed to bother him but it was Robin Williams and I loved him for so many memories I had of him in films and movies that I said ‘Mr. Williams thank you because I love your work like everyone else.’ I was sure any “star” would just blow off a guy who was wearing a back brace, walkie-talkie and event staff t-shirt but HE didn’t. He shook my hand and asked me how was I doing and started having a conversation with me before he interrupted by and agent or someone like that. He was so cool.
This next memory I will regret not sharing with him before his death. I have been telling myself for years that I should write him a letter sharing the impact he had on me this particular night. But I kept thinking he’s Robin Williams what is he going to care what I think?
There is an annual pool toss fundraiser but on by a neighborhood not-for-organization in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The Tenderloin district, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is an extremely impoverished part of the city. At the time, the neighborhood had a lot of drug abuse, crime and prostitution. It may still be that way now but I haven’t lived in area for over eleven years so I’m not sure. Anyway, there is a little motel that the local celebrities show up at and volunteer to be the subject of an auction. The auction winner gets to push this TV anchor or radio host or whatever into the pool. Robin Williams in the 1990’s was always last and always raised the most money. Again, my recollection is that this is at the height of his popularity in the 1990’s (post Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladin and Jumanji). So he’s scheduled to be the main attraction and behind the scenes several hours before the event even starts there are rumblings back stage that Robin Williams won’t be able to make it because he’s sick. Now I’m thinking he’s in the hospital but he makes it. It’s a while after the show has started but a couple hours before he’s scheduled to be auctioned. I’m told to stand at the parking lot and keep cars and people away until his car arrives, radio that he’s arrived and then security will whisk him to the green room. His wife is driving and I know that he’s in the car so I’m looking for his as the car drives by and he’s in the back seat doubled over clinching his jacket to his face. So Hollywood right? Got to avoid the paparazzi, right? No, cameras were shooting. No one was following him. But he looked pale as a hell. He looked miserable. I had never seen Robin Williams look miserable. Later on I got into the green room under some pretense just so I could talk to him. I didn’t talk to him it was clear to me that he was sick. Like I said I had seen him backstage before he’d talk to anyone around. This time though he was hunched over a bucket in case he threw up and covered in blankets. He was visibly shaking even under all those blankets. As far as I was concerned, he needed to go to the hospital as weak and sick as he looked. He’d done this event before many times. This just wasn’t the year that he’d be able to do a pool toss. ‘So sorry. I just can’t this year. I showed up but clearly I can’t do this. I’ll be here next year and two people can toss me instead of one.” That’s all he would have had to say. Everyone loved him and they would have just looked at him and known that he had tried. That would have been understandable. That would have been good enough for anyone.
I am in the green room when they are telling Robin Williams if you can’t go we’ll just have the local TV anchor (who’s been on local TV for thirty years and is beloved locally) who was supposed to go on before you be our last auction. About three people ahead of him we’ll announce that the TV guy is last auction and that you couldn’t make it because of illness and we’ll quietly get you in the car now so you can go home and rest. It’s okay you have done enough for cause in the past. Get some rest feel better. There’s always next year. They tell him they were positively sure they would reach their fundraising goal for the year tonight without him staying. His response was “how many more people can you help out in the neighborhood if I perform? No, I’m fine.” Robin Williams insisted that he would stay and do the auction that they shouldn’t change a thing. Keep in mind that this means he will not go on for another hour or hour and a half depending on how long the bidding takes. Cut to I’m now out of the green room and waiting with the crowd because Robin is up next. The folks who put in all their bids earlier or were just socializing start to crowd around the pool side to watch the bidding for Robin Williams. Now, I’m thinking this crowd of people in suits and gowns is in for a major disappointment because Robin looks like he’s at deaths door. I’m thinking Robin will stand there and let the host do his job and introduce him and start the bidding as soon as possible to end this whole thing quickly for Robin’s sake. Robin comes out like he’s a cast member in a Broadway musical. Arms stretched out to his sides. Big foot strides. Stretching for time and soaking up the cheers. He improvising jokes and playing/talking to the crowd. He’s playfully cutting down the ‘rich folks’ who are there in their finery to do there part for “charity”. They are eating it up. You know the classic joke in Spinal Tap about some amps are set to 11 instead of ten. Well, if you have ever seen Robin Williams improving then you’ve seen someone at 11, right? He came out at 11 and never dipped in intensity below 11. He never touched his own 10 which is like beyond anyone else’s 10 to begin with. At one point he saw someone’s golden retriever in the crowd and started riffing on the dog being there and it was so funny. Later on when he was tossed in the pool that dog jumped into the pool from the other side of the pool. Robin was swimming in the pool still performing for the crowd and playing with the dog in the pool for at least twenty minutes. I can still see this dog licking his face while they were both doggy paddling in the center of the pool. All this from a guy who was just deathly ill with the flu literally minutes earlier. This wasn’t Robin Williams turning up ill. This wasn’t Robin Williams doing an subdued appearance. This WAS Robin Williams being the best of himself for a worthy cause and for an audience. This memory of Robin Williams more than anything else is why I will miss him so much and be his fan for the rest of my life. Rest in peace, Robin. Thanks for the memories.
Brief fact check: Robin Williams also very much has a full-frontal nudity scene in The Fisher King, and it’s more extensive than that in World’s Greatest Dad. I won’t argue that that’s not his best scene of the full-frontal variety, though. Such a satisfying ending to a great film. Rest in peace.