The very best moments from the funniest man who ever lived
I’ve been accused of being a big fat crybaby all week thanks to the untimely passing of Mr. Robin Williams. However, truth is I am one helluva man with the emotional fortitude of a WWII veteran who’s also a lumberjack, and I consider tears, in any form, to be solely the territory of queer baby girls. But there is one thing that broke me, and for whatever reason, I can’t stop watching it. This moment, the one where Conan cuts into his own talk show to break the announcement to his audience that Williams had died, and it happens in the first 15 seconds.
It’s that audible gasp from the audience. That’s the thing the separates the nature of Williams death and his legacy from the death of any other celebrity you’re likely to experience ever again. So, say Conan did something similar with the recent passing of Lauren Bacall (whom I wish I could apologize to for being so greatly overshadowed.) “Awwwww… she was so great in that old thing” would’ve been the audience reaction, but in the case of Williams it’s “Awww-WAIT, WHAT THE FUCK?! NO!” You can hear an instant and immediate unwillingness to accept it. That speaks volumes to me on Williams and his relationship with the public. Whether you loved him or not, it’s very difficult for anyone to see Williams as anything but a source of continued happiness. And don’t worry, this is gonna get funnier. At least Conan is, because the very next day he delivered an awesome story about Robin, one none of us have heard about from the period of O’Brien’s Tonight Show debacle, followed by some clips from Williams’ appearances throughout the years.
That’s one of the points I was getting at in this stupidly long piece (which I kind want to take down now that it’s been revealed Williams was suffering from the early stages of Parkinsons) and undoubtedly why Conan interrupted his broadcast in the first place: Robin Williams was FUCKING MAGIC on talk shows. When he wasn’t showing what a remarkably talented actor he was, he was an absurdly gifted comedian, and the gem that was his improvisational brilliance never shone brighter than on the various televised chat downs he graced with his presence throughout the last FORTY YEARS. Jimmy Fallon provided us with more evidence to that fact with a touching salute followed by Williams first appearance on the Carson-hosted tonight show.
Talk shows are almost an ancient relic of the past at this point, but I believe TV executives are still willing to put them on the air for the occasional moment a man like Robin Williams could bring to 5-10 minutes of unscripted entertainment. The man was a talk show tentpole, and more often than not, willing to go above and beyond for whatever the show in question needed. Here’s a great appearance from a Letterman, where he and Dave go and hassle audience members leaving screenings of Dead Poets Society. (This clip should also damn sure make you preemptively miss the wackiness brought to the world by the soon-to-be-gone David Letterman)
And I think the thing that makes Williams disappearance all the more tragic is, in spite of his success, age, and all those little ways a person grows and changes over the course of several decades, Williams could still comedically skull-fuck a couch as long as you were pointing a camera at it. Who else but Robin gets a full THIRD of a talk show devoted to him just being himself?! Find out why with this clip from Craig Ferguson, which I believe is less than a year old. Witness a +60-year-old man who has no problem talking about a the ancient sitcom that made him famous, as well as singing and dancing and behaving like a naughty, potty-mouthed child just to entertain an audience, all while perhaps silently suffering from a debilitating ailment we can’t even see. Fucking love this.
Obviously, I could disappear into a dangerous multi-day loop of these appearances, and I fully fucking intend to as soon as I can get some of this work off my plate. Until then, I strongly encourage all of you reading this to post your favorite Robin Williams in the comments below. I wanna come back to this.
BOOM: UPDATE! David Letterman has chimed in on the matter with a touching piece/clip package in attempt to encapsulate their THIRTY-EIGHT YEAR relationship. Really, really funny/touching