3 Thoughts on Robin Williams
Posted Aug 13, 2014 in Words
He never performed here at our theater, but that would have been the comedic equivalent of winning the lottery (some very lucky and happy people have done it) and doesn’t mean he didn’t have his influence on either Jet City Improv or the Seattle comedy landscape.
In fact, every comedian in the world today – be they stand-up, improvised or otherwise – had their tastes and talents formed by the late great Robin Williams.
For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts gathered from three of our current cast members, all from very different comedy backgrounds which turned out to all have one thing in common.
First, from Phill Arensberg:
Looking out the window this morning, it seems odd – everything is different and nothing has changed. Robin Williams was such a rock-solid part of our cultural geography for so long, his sudden absence feels traumatic and personal. It’s like a mountain disappeared overnight. I feel about Robin Williams the way my grandparents felt about FDR. Since 1977, no one else could replace or precede him.
He landed big with a hit TV show and a screamingly successful HBO special and never really went away. His style of highly improvised humor connected hard with generations of young comics and improvisors. In his acting and his standup, Williams allowed an audience to plug into the electricity of his comic brain and experience the stream of consciousness. There was a distinctive essential honesty in his performance that could transcend any film’s shortcomings. He was unabashedly off script and naked on a high wire with total abandon. As improvisors, we strive for that level of play. And he always made it look effortless.
Robin Williams’ death is one of those hard to quantify things. Why is this loss so profound? I think ultimately it’s because he was so constant and so connected on a basic level, yesterday felt like bad news about a friend. Williams always peered out from within his stand-up and his characters. He made us feel like we were all in on the joke.
Next, Alison Luhrs, with a different timeline but all the same feelings:
Robin Williams’ Live on Broadway in 2002 was the set that made me want to do comedy. I remember sitting down with my family to watch and laughing from start to finish. I was floored. All I wanted was to someday be able to think THAT FAST, to be THAT FUNNY.
So I grew up. And I did it. I became a professional comedian. And now my social media feeds are filled with all my comedy friends from all over the country repeating the exact same words. That they wouldn’t be where they are if it weren’t for him. I would never have made the choices I have and meet the people that I did if I hadn’t watched Robin’s special when I was 13 years old and decided right then and there that I wanted to do what he did.
That special changed my life. The past few hours have made me realized how many other lives he changed as well. As performer and comedians, we have the ability to reach out and touch peoples’ lives in a way no other profession can. Theatre and performance are powerful.
Finally, from Dartanion London, who spends his free time away from improv doing stand-up:
Once, when the Beatles were studying meditation in India, the Maharishi asked if any of them wanted to accompany him on a helicopter ride. There was only one seat available. John Lennon immediately jumped up and claimed it. Afterwards, Paul asked why he’d been so eager. John said “I thought maybe while we were up there he’d slip me the secret.”
I always wanted the chance to improvise with Robin Williams, for the same reason.
It’s worth noting that The Birdcage, Hook, The Fisher King, and a few other titles are streaming right now on Netflix.
Thank you, Mr. Williams.