I’m sure you’re already aware that we tragically lost Robin Williams this week. We here at The Main Damie are saddened by this unfortunate event. It’s been a tough year so far for immensely talented people, so unfortunately, here once again is a Number 1 list ranking our favorite performances by a late celebrity. You will be missed, Mr. Williams.
Dan’s Pick – Aladdin
2014 has been a rough year for my childhood. Earlier in the year we lost the beloved writer/director/Ghostbuster Harold Ramis, and on Monday the 11th we said goodbye to one of the greatest comedians of our time in Robin Williams. I know that for the sake of this article we are supposed to pick our favorite performance of his, but god how do you pick just one from a guy whose work spans four decades? I remember one of the first times seeing Williams on TV as Mork from Mork & Mindy and laughing my head off at his characters zany quirks and copious amounts of energy, but my very first experience of Robin Williams was in the Disney film Aladdin.
We all know that Williams played the the wise cracking Genie in the film and after I walked out of that theater I, as many other children I assume, would not stop imitating his character. He simply dominated the film in every aspect. From his songs to his impersonations he was brilliant, and he didn’t just nail down the comedic relief, he was also the heart of that movie. When Aladdin sets him free and Genie tells him no matter what anybody says he’ll always be a prince to him, it gets me every time.
More importantly, you can tell how much fun he had with that character. He jumps out of the screen and almost comes to life. I recently watched some behind the scenes footage of him doing the voice over work for the film and it was incredible to see him just run with the character. He was almost bouncing off the walls, and he was making everybody laugh. And that’s how I’ll always remember him, as that big blue lug who made me laugh as a five year old, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Mark’s Pick – Good Will Hunting
When I think of Robin Williams, the word versatile immediately comes to mind. He is from a dying era of actors who were able to both make us laugh and make us cry. Because of this his filmography reads as manic as his personality showed. People of my generation probably first discovered his talents in either Aladdin, or Jack. Whether you loved the genie or couldn’t stop laughing at a fart-in-a-can, the one thing you did know was that you wanted to see more. My desire to consume all things Robin Williams, lead me to my favorite performance of his: Good Will Hunting.
For those that have read my articles here or elsewhere, you know one of my theories is that a comedic actor always has the chance to be a great dramatic actor, but a great dramatic actor is less likely to be a great comedic actor. Williams, along with Tom Hanks, are the poster children of the theory, and it was first shown to me in this movie. There wasn’t a moment in his performance where it felt forced, and every emotional cue was hit to perfection. From the scene on the bench to the story about Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Williams made you feel those moments, and marked on of the first times I cried during a movie for a real reason.
Later, I discovered Dead Poet Society and was blown away by his performance in it, but my favorite will also be my first and I’m actually glad it was. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest that you watch as many of Williams’ movies as you can, not only because they are great movies but because his performances are the kind that should be shared and never forgotten.
Anthony’s Pick – Mork & Mindy
Here’s a history lesson for those that are interested. If you’re familiar with television comedies, than you’ve probably heard the term “three-camera sitcom”. This term describes shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and any other show that usually shoots in front of a live studio audience. The performances are done almost like a play, so it’s important for multiple cameras to catch all the action. The term “three-camera sitcom” is actually a misnomer, however, because most now shoot with a fourth, sometimes fifth, camera.
The reason is Robin Williams. For Mork & Mindy, Williams was given carte blanche just about every episode to improvise, making it difficult for three cameras to capture everything. Let me reiterate that: Robin Williams was so energetic, so physical an improvising actor that it could not be captured by three fully functioning TV cameras. Producer Garry Marshall thus added a fourth camera, the sole purpose of which was to capture Robin Williams’ performance.
I had trouble deciding on which performance I was going to pick; if I’m being honest with you, I’ve always been a fan of the man himself, but there isn’t a movie of his that I remember extraordinarily fondly. Sure, Jumanji is a decent 90’s kid film, but it’s not exactly a movie I would call a film that encapsulates what kind of a genius he was. Truth be told, I probably would have picked Aladdin, but my esteemed colleague had already chosen that one.
Flicking through the channels last night, however, I caught an episode of Happy Days that just so happened to be an episode with Mork. (Note: This was the second episode Mork was in entitled “Mork Returns”, which was basically just a clipshow and not the infamous episode that started it all.) It’s a setting like Happy Days that allows you to really see the kind of level that the guy was operating on. He’s all over the place, allowed to move every which way he can, while the others are restrained to the rules of normalcy. It’s the kind of freedom that you get when people recognize that you’re working on a different plane of talent and a freedom that never seemed to have been taken for granted.
Going further, we’ve really limited ourselves to three roles in a long filmography, but I think I speak for all three of us when we say that it only tells part of the story. You can go on youtube and find just about every appearance Robin Williams ever did on the talk show circuit. You can dig up his guest appearance on Whose Line is it Anyway? You can try to find his absolutely brilliant standup special Robin Williams Live On Broadway (2002), but none of it can really do justice to what exactly he meant to the world he inhabited.
This week, smarter people than me have written some really eloquent things about depression and the dark side of being the sort of entertainer that Robin Williams redefined; I won’t try to, simply because I don’t want to talk straight out of my ass. As a fan, I’ll just say that it flat out sucks. It sucks that he had to live with the demons that he lived with for so long, ultimately losing the battle at the young age of 63. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that maybe this puts a recognizable, joyful face on something that continues to get a blind eye turned towards it. Maybe it will give the courage for a single person, far less famous, to look into the mirror and acknowledge something they may have been ignoring and seek the help that could make all the difference in their own world. Maybe. Hopefully.