Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014
Sadly, today we learned that Robin Williams passed away.  He was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago and died today, August 11, 2014 in his home in California.  Per the New York Times, “the county sheriff’s office said in a statement that it 'suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.'  A further investigation was under way.”  His publicist said that he had been suffering from depression as of late.
       Robin Williams is best known for his high energy, frenetic delivery, rich with ad libs, that left everyone rolling in the aisles.  From my perspective, he burst on the scene on February 28, 1978 when he made a guest appearance on Happy Days as an alien known as Mork from a planet named Ork.  I watched that episode and was totally amazed by the antics.  I remember thinking that his performance was so strong there would most likely be a spinoff.  Clearly, this was a universal feeling, a spin-off sitcom, Mork and Mindy, aired on September 14, 1878.  
     I religiously watched the first few years of Mork and Mindy.   I am sure there were plots to the show.  Of course, I remember Pam Dawber’s lovely presence on the show.  But, the reason I watched the show was to see Robin Williams in action.  I am sure they had a script and I am equally sure that the dialogue written for Mork was but a suggestion upon which Williams ad libbed.  It was incredible how he could be a Scotsman one minute, an Orthodox Jew the next and then alternate between being a southern cracker and Russian.  He had an uncanny ability to switch between characters very quickly.  Not only was he deft at this staccato style but each switch raised the level of camera.  Even his Snickers commercial embodied this style and is hilarious.
     Robin Williams reminded me of Jonathan Winters in the way they both slipped into and out of other characters in the routines and the importance of ad libbing to both of their comedic styles.  It is no wonder that Williams and Winters were friends.  It is also no wonder that both suffered from bouts of depression.   It is almost as if one would have to be bipolar to have the frenzied highs both comedians were capable of.  It is almost as if they have to balance all the funny, frenzied, positive energy with equal portions of depression.  
     I loved his movies.  Specifically, I was amazed by The Bird Cage, Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, and, surprisingly, RV.  While I prefer his comedies, I was most impressed by his dramatic performances in Good Will Hunting and his very creepy role in One Hour Photo.  We will have these wonderful films as a legacy to this very talented man. 
     There are so many great moments for which Robin Williams can be remembered.  One of my favorites is this bit from a stand-up routine on golf.  I have watched it many times and never tire of it:  Robin Williams golf routine.  I am sorry for the loss of this immense talent that brought so many moments of laughter and happiness to so many.   The news of his passing had such an impact, I just had to write these words and express my sorrow and sadness for our collective loss.
     As we Armenians say, may God illuminate is soul.