What the Hell Happened to Robin Williams?

Robin Williams 2014

Note: This article was written prior to Robin Williams’ death on August 11, 2014.  At present, Williams’ death is believed to be suicide.  The purpose of this article is to review Williams’ career as an entertainer.  My sympathy goes out to Williams’ friends and family.  I am personally saddened by his passing.  I will update this article as information becomes available.  In the meanwhile, please view this as a celebration of William’s work.

At the peak of his career, Robin Williams was one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. He made the extremely rare transition from comedian to dramatic actor. What’s more, he was able to alternate between popular comedies and dramatic roles while winning awards for both. But eventually, Williams’ popularity waned. While Williams remains busy, his last starring role in a mainstream movie was in 2009.

What the hell happened?

williams and reeve

Williams was a quiet kid who came out of his shell when he became involved in his high school drama department.  In 1973, at the age of 22, Williams was one of only twenty students accepted into the Julliard School.  He and Christopher Reeve were the only two students accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year.  According to Williams, Reeve showed him kindness that he would one day repay.  When asked for his favorite memory of Reeve, Williams replied:

“Him being such a great friend to me at Juillard, literally feeding me because I don’t think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn’t come in yet, and he would share his food with me.  And then later after the accident, just seeing him beaming and just, seeing what he meant to so many people.”


williams - laugh in

Williams left Julliard in 1976.  In 1977, he started appearing on TV shows like Laugh-In (pictured) and Eight is Enough.  He was a regular on the Richard Pryor Show which last only four episodes.  Here’s a clip:

And here is a clip of Williams’ stand-up from 1977:

williams - happy days

Williams had a guest spot on the popular 50’s sit-com, Happy Days.  Williams played an alien named Mork who came to Earth looking for a human specimen.  He chose Richie Cunningham to take back to his home planet of Ork.  It fell to the Fonz to save his friend from a bizarre alien abduction.  In the end, the entire episode turned out to be a dream.

The story goes that Williams was cast as Mork after meeting with producer Gary Marshall.  Marshall asked Williams to take a seat and Williams immediately sat on his head.  Marshall later commented that Williams was the only alien to audition for the role.

williams - mork and mindy

Williams’ guest spot on Happy Days was popular enough for Marshall to launch a spin-off show, Mork and Mindy in 1978.

(This was an exceptionally common practice at the time.  Happy Days was a spin-off from Love American Style.    In addition to Mork and Mindy, Happy Days launched six other shows: Laverne & Shirley, Blansky’s Beauties, Out of the Blue, Joanie Loves Chachi, and two cartoons.)

The new show had Mork landing on Earth in the present day of the 70s.  Instead of abducting a human specimen, Mork’s mission was to study humans and report back to his boss on Ork.  Mork was taken in by the beautiful and kind-hearted Mindy played by Pam Dawber.  Hi-jinks ensued.

There was an episode in which the character of Mork met Robin Williams the comedian.  Williams portrayed himself as a desperately needy person who could never say “no” to anyone.  He was extremely sad and vulnerable.

The Mork character was extremely popular with kids.  It launched a slew of Mork-themed merchandise.  Williams’ grinning face was everywhere.  Speaking as a kid who was part of the show’s target demographic, I loved the broad humor.  I even went as Mork for Halloween one year.

mork_costume

The pictures isn’t of me.  But I had this exact costume right down to the creepy Williams mask.  Although I didn’t wear the mask.  Those things were extremely uncomfortable.  And what do you need the mask for?  Batman, sure.  But Mork?  Especially when they put his face on your chest as well.  What was the point of that?  It’s not like Mork had a picture of his face (along with his name and catch phrase) on his chest.

tdy-130412-ent-jonathan-winters-tease.380

Mork and Mindy ran through 1982.  In the final season, a number of gimmicks were used to try to save the show.  Mork and Mindy got married and had a son.  Because of his alien physiology, their son aged backwards which allowed them to cast comedy legend Jonathan Winters as a child in the body of an old man.

The gimmicks did not result in increased ratings.  The show ended on a cliff-hanger.  In the first two parts of a three-part story, Mindy’s apartment was destroyed and the family was on the run from a hostile alien.  The conclusion to the story was never filmed.

The final episode of the show to air was filmed before the cliff-hanger and did not resolve the dangling plot thread – much to the chagrin this particular Mork and Mindy fan.  (I spent years trying to figure out whether or not I had missed the conclusion.  Turns out, I hadn’t.)

32 years later, here’s a clip of Williams and Dawber reflecting on Mork and Mindy.

Next: Popeye and The World According to Garp

Posted on April 25, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 234 Comments.

  1. its gonna be weird seeing wordls greatest dad bar non his last good film in that movie he claimed his kid hung himself and he did it in real life. Its creepy watching it now. i did research and by box office success the top grossing actors on the list are eddie murphy ,robin williams ,jim carrey ,mel gibson ,nicolas cage stallone . With the exceptiton of cage and stallone all the actors i mentioned in the top 20 of highest grossing actors of all time i guess even if you are still a box office draw you career is still considerd dead

    Like

  2. alot of comeideans are depressed ironic

    Like

  3. he had enough going on in his life coke addiction alcohol problems the parkisons just made it worse but he could have dealt with like michael does by staying strong and helping other that have it robin had alot of problems the pressure of hollywood must made him depressed speaking michael j fox any chance u have articlee about him cause he went from hit show to hit movie then flops then tv show and now his career ended

    Like

  4. i laugh off the rumor that cancellation of crazy ones destroyed his career because he had four movies lined up he was still considered a bankable name that draws people in heck mrs doubyfire 2 was in the works so he could have easily been back to a list.Michael j fox is a different story if i heard he been depressed after the cancellation of his show i would believe it cause his movie career died in the 90s which is why he did spin city and since he has Parkinson there are not a lot of roles written or him unless its a guest spot

    Like

  5. My Tribute to Robin Williams:

    http://nostalgiarush.blogspot.com/2014/08/my-tribute-to-robin-williams.html

    We were all saddened at the new we received just about 24 hours ago (as I type this) regarding Robin Williams. Even more shocking than his death was how he died. At first, I wasn’t going to do a tribute article because, well, he was never my favorite comedian. Don’t get me wrong, he was a brilliant comedian and a genius at improve. But he was lower on my list when I grew up. But then I decided there were three things I had to talk about, and that is what we will do today.

    Before I begin I am only noting the works I have actually seen. Therefore some his great stuff (like Good Will Hunting or Dead Poet’s Society) will be absent. I am sure they were amazing but this is about the stuff I did see.

    1. Television

    I noticed in the tributes (and I would be lying if I said I saw all) they neglect the TV work Williams did. Robin Williams did a ton of television, and here is a list of my favorites:

    Mork & Mindy. Duh. No one is forgetting this one but I had to mention it. This was the show which made Williams a young star with his crazy improv.

    Happy Days. Of course, Mork was a spin-off of this show. If you’ve never seen the episode he first appeared, find it somewhere. It is one of the funniest half hours anywhere.

    The Tonight Show. Need I mention how many times he appeared and was always hilarious. And yes ge was also on Letterman, Conan, and pretty much everything else.

    Friends. Yeah this was a stunt to push for the new film “Father’s Day”, but Williams and Billy Crystal appeared in the teaser of one episode. It was probably the funniest thing in the episode.

    Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin. Oh my friends, you have to see this. This was a variety special hosted by Carol Burnett. The highlight being a funeral sketch with Robin Williams as an inappropriate mourner. The legend is they did the sketch twice, once as written and the second time letting Williams improve. It’s pure classic and won Williams an Emmy award. It seemed inappropriate to link to it considering what happened actually to Williams, but it is on YouTube if you want to check it out. It is Robin Williams at his best.

    Comic Relief. And how could I not mention these telethons? Williams along with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal did several of these to raise money for homeless. Of course it featured dozens of comedians but Williams was always one of the stand outs.

    Saturday Night Live. The younger folks may not remember this but Williams hosted this show several times. In fact I had the VHS copy of The Best of Robin Williams. It was great and I watched it many times. I could do a whole article just on this, and he also appeared in the 15th Anniversary Special.

    The Earth Day Special. You may remember my article on this last year and Williams was front and center as “Everyman”. In fact it was something he did here which made me dislike Williams for a time, but that’s another story.

    Dame Edna’s Hollywood. Anyone remember this one? I have it on tape if you don’t

    Sesame Street. Yeah Williams did a few these. One involved showing Elmo how many things you can do with a stick simply by using your imagination. Classic.

    The Golden Globes. In 1998 Christine Lahti won for Best Actress in a TV Drama. Why am I bringing this up? When her name was called at the awards, she was in the bathroom. No joke, and Williams took it upon himself to jump on the stage and stall with some improv. A small but brilliant moment.

    Who’s Line is it Anyway. I hated this show, but checked out the clips. An improv show and Robin Williams? Nah could never work. Hilarious

    Law & Order. I never saw this one, but wish I had. He is on this show and is not funny. It really shows off his dramatic side. Chilling.

    I am leaving a lot off, including his brilliant live show at the Metropolitan Opera, but we’ll be here all day. I also did not mention his cameo in the 20th anniversary but it’s one of my funniest Robin Williams moments and he talks about how much he did with Disney. Check it out here

    1. Films

    The second thing I wanted to discuss was the movies he was in that I have seen. Some were good, some were not as good. But Williams was always worth it. Again, only listing the films I have watched working from most recent down.

    Night at the Museum. Yeah I never watched it per se. I did see Film Brain’s review of the sequel. I felt I had to mention Williams awesome jot as Theodore Roosevelt.

    Bicentennial Man. Sadly I have say that this is one of the worst movies I ever saw. It is so boring, but Williams wasn’t bad in it. It’s about a robot who wants to be human…next.

    Patch Adams. Yeah this is an example of Williams trying really hard. The problem with this movie isn’t the acting, it’s the awful script which just turns this great guy into a goof ball.

    Flubber. Williams was perfectly cast in this role to bad he was once again the victim of a bad script.

    Jack. OK I promise we will get to the good movies! This one was awful, and I could be here all day with this one. What’s that? It was the director’s fault? I have no problem with that.

    Jumanji. Now we’re talking! This movie was just goody fun. Sure it made no sense really, but I enjoyed watching it.

    Nine Months. The movie everyone forget he was in. Including me. This was a Hugh Grant comedy and Williams basically has a cameo as the gynecologist. Know what? He was the funniest thing in the film.

    Mrs. Doubtfire. I really liked this movie. Does it have its problems? Sure. It can be a little heavy handed at times not to mention contrived and ridiculous. But the fun parts are a lot of fun and this is a movie I could watch over and over again.

    TOYS.When this was coming out Williams really pushed it, I think he was proud of it. Too bad it’s a confusing mess of a movie. I still have no idea what the heck was going on in it.

    Alaadin. Oh hell yes! Williams was pitch perfect as the Genie. We didn’t even care that most of what he said made no sense given the time period. It was funny as hell and the Genie is one of the best loved Disney characters to this day.

    Hook. Steven Spielberg directed and some would say that it really shows. I liked this movie and the way Williams plays Peter. You totally buy him when he is a jerk and then later when he rediscovers the kid inside. Just a very strong performance here.

    The Fisher King. Williams plays a homeless man who lost his sense after his wife was brutally killed in front of him. This movie has its funny moments but for the most part is serious. It is a very well told story and I’m glad that I finally saw it.

    Awakenings.Williams totally lost himself in this role, and his work here is just amazing. How someone who could be so funny can also do heavy drama will always fascinate me. Robert DeNiro is the star but Williams’ performance should not be ignored.

    Good Morning, Vietnam. I’ve talked before about how I got hooked by the ads which made this sound like a comedy romp. Not quite. But Williams is awesome here and handles the funny moments just as good as he does the serious one’s.

    Popeye. Finally, we end on one of his earliest films. And it’s not the best. It is quite boring. But give Williams credit he really captures the spirit of Popeye and I can find no fault in that.

    Whew. And there are plenty I missed because I’ve never seen them! I just know after I publish this I will remember five other appearances I’ll wish I had mentioned. What were your favorite moments?

    1. Depression

    The final reason for doing this article is to talk about how Robin Williams died. He had been suffering from bipolar depression for some time, and according to reports the depression had been very bad lately. I do suffer from depression, but it is mild. That doesn’t mean when I hit a low it doesn’t hurt, it makes me moody and miserable and hating everything. But it is mild so I don’t take meds and it usually fades. I can only imagine what it is like for people who suffer from Major Depression. The fact that Williams he had to take his life is beyond my ability to comprehend. However, if anything good can come from this I just hope that people will become more aware of what depression is. It is not a bad day, it is not someone being “negative”. Telling them to get over it isn’t the answer. It’s an illness, and even to this day many refuse to see it as that. I wish that would change so that the people who suffer from this condition can stop feeling ashamed, and get the treatment they need. Depression is a disease and we need to stop pretending that it is not.

    That’s my tribute to one of the finest actors/comedian’s I ever saw. He was around and for my whole lifetime which I am fortunate for. But he was one of a kind and it saddens me that I will never see him again except for his excellent legacy he left us. In fact, Larry King said it best last night. I leave you with the quote he paraphrased from Hamlet.

    He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again. (1.2)

    Like

  6. shame he died cause i think he had what it takes to turn it around at least he will night at museum as his last hit

    Like

  7. if anyone doubts his acting ability they should watch awakingis he does well without going over the top oscar snub

    Like

  8. With The Fisher King, Robin Williams shrugged off the burden of genius:

    http://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/709-with-the-fisher-king-robin-williams-shrugged-off-t/

    by Keith Phipps

    For a good stretch of his career, the word “genius” trailed Robin Williams, and not always to his benefit. In the introduction to a long 1988 interview with Williams in Rolling Stone, Bill Zehme wrote that the then-new Barry Levinson film Good Morning, Vietnam was “being hailed as the first big-screen project properly suited to the comedian’s genius.” In one sense, those doing the hailing were correct. Inspired by the war experiences of DJ Adrian Cronauer, the film’s on-air segments allowed Williams to drop the inspired, improvised routines that first made him famous as a stand-up into the middle of a dramatic story. It wasn’t the first time Williams had proven himself as a dramatic actor. The Juilliard-trained Williams’ dramatic abilities had been evident since The World According To Garp. Nor was it the first time he’d been able to draw on his improv skills, which had been the backbone of his star-making turn on Mork & Mindy. Yet there’s another side to that acclaim, a suggestion that Williams’ skills made him a freak, burdened with a talent that rendered him unsuitable for most roles. What made him a genius in nightclubs made him unconvincing as an ordinary person—or made it seem that when he did play an ordinary person, he was wasting his gifts.

    Williams’ best work as an actor suggested another option, synthesizing his faster-than-thought comedic gifts with soulful character work. It would be most evident in the years after Good Morning, Vietnam made him a bankable star, one whose successful films gave him the freedom to pick and choose his projects. He often chose well. Like Good Morning, Vietnam, his next big hit, Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society, found room for comedic asides alongside the drama. But Williams was just as good in the Penny Marshall-directed Awakenings, which forced him to bottle up his free-associative tendencies, and especially in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, in which he plays a man for whom flight into fantasy serves as both an escape and a trap.

    Williams’ filmography is littered with the forgettable (The Big Wedding) and the regrettable (Old Dogs). He had a habit of using his skills as a crutch, as in a painful improv sequence in the 2006 comedy RV that found him busting out a decades-out-of-date b-boy impression, or relying on a wistful man-child twinkle (e.g. Hook). But it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing Williams’ best roles, and The Fisher King easily ranks among them. I’m not sure that’s why it was the first Williams movie I thought of after hearing about his death, however. It’s often unwise and irrelevant to connect actors to the roles they play, and yet something about Williams’ suicide has invited it. He often played men struggling with darkness, sometimes without success, frequently men who used verbal agility and unbridled energy as weapons in the fight. Few movies put that struggle to the fore as prominently as The Fisher King.

    Williams plays Parry, a homeless man who happens upon Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a disgraced morning shock-jock bottoming out in the streets of New York, as a pair of thugs prepare to burn him alive. Though already on the verge of suicide, having tied weights his ankles and preparing to jump in the water, Jack welcomes the rescue and soon finds himself drawn into Parry’s rich fantasy world. Fashioning himself a modern knight, and receiving instruction from invisible little people, Parry is on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail, which, having spotted it in an architectural magazine while following the little people’s instructions, he knows to be located in the library of a Manhattan mansion.

    Written by Richard LaGravenese, The Fisher King gets its title from a medieval story about a wounded king and the search for the Grail, which will heal him and the land that’s gone to waste around him. The Fisher King story has taken on many forms over the years and gets recounted here in a version unique to the film, and one that parallels the action around it. Instead of Percival or other Arthurian knights, it’s a fool who unwittingly finds the Grail and heals the king. Like much of The Fisher King, the moment needs the performances and the direction to keep it from tipping over into mawkishness. Talking to The L.A. Times, LaGravenese recalled Gilliam asking him to put back “odd, weird stuff” taken out in the development process and noted “that is so important because the script to me could have been so sentimental that it makes your teeth hurt.”

    What did end up on screen is very much a movie- and metaphor-friendly depiction of mental illness that, had it veered off course, would have risked romanticizing both instability and homelessness. As it’s handled, however, it works: Growing calmer and more coherent as the story progresses, Parry almost slips back into sanity near the end. But sanity also means remembering losing his wife when a gunman, inspired by something Jack told him on the air, shot up a bar three years earlier.

    It’s at this point that the Red Knight, the film’s nightmarish manifestation of Parry’s worst fears about the past he’s trying to outrun, and the depression threatening to pull him under, makes an appearance, just as it does later, after a successful date with Lydia (Amanda Plummer), a woman he’d previously admired only from afar. Williams’ scenes with Plummer, particularly a long walk home after their dinner, are both heartbreaking and romantic. The thought of happiness grounds him, steadying his thoughts. And though Lydia’s portrayed as only slightly less eccentric than her suitor, Plummer and Williams make it seem plausible they’ll be able to balance each other out. Yet for Parry, experiencing happiness means fearing its loss, and soon the Knight chases him through the streets to the spot where Jack previously met the murderous thugs. Accompanied by his vision of the Knight, they return, and it’s almost as if Parry willed them there. As they attack him, his last words are, “Thank you.”

    It’s tough to watch this moment now, to see Williams play a man wishing for death, even though it’s consistent with the character Williams creates in the film. After a horrific experience, Parry has reassembled the world out of the shattered pieces of what’s been left to him—scraps left on the street, rags others discarded, medieval stories he taught as a professor, and memories of a time when a woman loved him. It’s kept him safe, but rejoining the world means confronting that loss, and finding happiness means understanding he could lose it all again.

    The figure of the Fisher King makes an appearance in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” but The Fisher King brings to mind lines from another Eliot poem: “human kind / cannot bear very much reality.” Gilliam’s previous films had made that a central theme, sometimes at a bit of a remove. Williams’ performance gives it flesh-and-blood form. Parry has the madness Williams brought to his comedy and the gravity of his best dramatic work, but nothing separates them. Williams the improv artist surfaces in lines like “Now that you know where we are, don’t be a stranger. Come back—we’ll rummage!” before vanishing as the character sinks down into muttered nonsense and conversations with unseen forces. The performance jumbles insanity, melancholy, and fragility together until they become nearly indiscernible.

    Parry finds the happy ending Williams couldn’t; it’s best to leave any other parallels there. Whatever resemblance Williams’ off-screen life bore to the characters he played, the work remains knowable in a way the man never will be, no matter how candid he was about his struggles in interviews. In his best roles, Williams conveyed a sense of despair and a need for connection, sometimes joining it to his comedic talents, other times muting that ability, but in his strongest performances finding a way to join the two, even if it was just to let a glimmer of his dervish energy peek out from behind his eyes. Williams’ best work, the stuff that will be remembered much longer than, say, The Big Wedding, didn’t clear room to accommodate his comedic skills. It allowed him to reinvent himself, to pound his gift into new forms to suit the screen. There’s genius in that, too.

    Like

  9. The death of Robin Williams, and a call to be better:

    http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/robin-williams/31778/the-death-of-robin-williams-and-a-call-to-be-better

    The tragedy surrounding Robin Williams’ passing was made worse by crass reporting in some sectors of the media, Simon writes…

    A week or so after the sad news broke, many remain in shock over the death of Robin Williams. The much-loved actor and comedian died at the age of 63, having taken his own life. I can’t begin to imagine the depths of despair that he must have fallen into in order to do such a thing, and for his close friends and family, the last few days must have been utterly unbearable. My heart truly goes out to them. I never knew the man, and I was shocked to the core. How they felt I can’t begin to comprehend.

    I can only dearly hope that the majority of them at least managed to avoid certain quarters of the internet on Tuesday 12th August 2014 though, and the tabloid headlines the following day. For amongst the genuine outpourings of affection, and expressions of loss, was what’s becoming a deeply uncomfortable race to the bottom, with a growing number taking part.

    Sadly, many of you will already be well aware where this is heading.

    I’m talking about a trend that’s repeating itself whenever someone famous passes away, and it’s one that’s almost unique to big news websites. Namely: how can they turn the death of someone famous into as many mouse clicks and screen taps as possible? Within hours of Williams’ death, the internet was awash with stories examining every possible angle, each vying for your attention. There’s something deeply unsettling about it, yet it now appears to be The Way Things Are Done.

    It’s not lost on many of us that the major names in reporting are leading the charge. And it’s a shame, because if you look deeper online, and you’ll find a host of websites with deeply affectionate tributes. That was certainly the case with Robin Williams’ death last week, where there were some genuinely moving articles posted.

    Still, even a decade ago, the loss of somebody well-known would, at worst, generally result in people putting together tribute lists and features. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with those, but I can see that the majority are done with genuine intentions, rather than being about garnering clicks for a website.

    What this piece is about, however, is a call for change, however futile it may be. Hadley Freeman, writing in The Guardian, put together a piece entitled ‘How To Cover Celebrity Deaths: the new rules’ earlier in the year, and I found myself reading it and nodding as I did so.

    She wrote it partly in response to Mail Online – the world’s most popular newspaper website, attracting over 100 million users a month – which had posted a video of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s partner in the days after his sudden death, as she tried to organise his funeral. But Freeman also makes valid points about the way columnists and fashion writers also make clickbait out of a high-profile death.

    The reporting of Robin Williams’ passing, however, seemed to excavate new depths. Within hours of the news breaking, once-respected names were falling over themselves to come up with appropriate clickbait. These are all legitimate screenshots taken just hours after news of Williams’ death was reported:

    It beggars belief that one of the first thoughts following news of Williams’ death would be over the status of Mrs Doubtfire 2, but Variety – once the premier name in film reporting, and a brand that’s supposedly meant to stand for something – took mere hours to get on the story. Variety is supposed to be the kind of film outlet we all look up to. Not last Tuesday, it wasn’t.

    It seems a whole bunch of reporters couldn’t get to Twitter quickly enough either, to amalgamate stories such as ‘Celebs shocked, devastated’. As for Mail Online urging us not to miss the story of Williams’ “utterly heartbroken wife”? I don’t know where to start.

    I’ll spare you the reposting of Wednesday’s tabloid headlines. Chances are you know what they are already.

    To put this into context: a man, who had been suffering (and that’s exactly the word) from depression, one of the least understood illnesses on the planet, took his own life. He was 63, was survived by a wife and three children, all of whom were left trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. They were greeted by stories looking at any possible angle from which to get traffic to a website.

    The widely-tweeted screenshot that seemed to encapsulate everything that was wrong, though, was this one. This was from ABC, a Disney-owned company and one of the major television networks in the US.

    To be clear: inside that house was a grieving family. Had one of them stepped outside, a live news feed would presumably have zoomed in, so the world could see them at one of the lowest moments of their life. ABC, I should note, has since apologised.

    But why do it in the first place? Where is the public interest in that? Where is the humanity in that? This may all sound a bit holier-than-thou and preachy, but seriously: doesn’t this have to stop now?

    It may also sound idealistic, even a forlorn hope, but surely, asking for reporters to remember we’re human beings at such low moments isn’t an unreasonable request?

    The death of Robin Williams brought out so much warmth and emotion in many people across the world, clearly touched by a man who had, for decades of his life, entertained millions of people in a manner few, if any, of us could. The reporting of his death from many major outlets, though, was absolutely shameful (and not shy of double standards. Nikki Finke penned a long warm obituary to Williams on her site, overlooking the fact that back in September last year, she wrote, “Someone get him back on drugs or alcohol or both”).

    They’d argue, of course, that if we didn’t click on them, then they wouldn’t be so popular. And unfortunately, that’s absolutely right. The onus, I’d suggest, is on both sides: on the people putting words on the internet, and the people choosing which ones to click on.

    It’s a plea that likely won’t work. I’m not naive. But I do know that Robin Williams’ family, and more before and many after, do not deserve a news helicopter hovering above their house in the midst of such a tragic day.
    ‘Competitive Grieving’

    While I’ve got my flame suit on, there’s another growing trend when the world loses someone famous, and the best phrase I’ve heard to describe it is ‘competitive grieving’.

    Again: I truly believe that the majority of people who posted on social media in response to Williams’ death were shocked, moved and upset. Their responses were genuine. But I’d also contend that there’s a smaller subset who, whether they see it or not, seem to be engaged in a game of grieving one-upmanship. The worst examples tend to be articles of the ilk of ‘the Robin Williams I knew’, as invoices are swiftly enclosed alongside articles that claim to have some insight others haven’t. Yet it’s the trend on social media to try and outdo other grievers, by recounting personal encounters, trying to show how some may be more upset than somebody else, or by in some way quantifying one person’s grief as more intense than another’s. I find it incredibly uncomfortable.

    I’m sparing some of the individual examples I’ve seen on Twitter over the last week, and in the week after Philip Seymour Hoffman died, so as not to point ire in the direction of a particular individual. But I found no shortage of examples.

    People react to bad news in very different ways, and I don’t for a minute think to dictate how each of us deals with shocks and tragedies. Conversely, I do think a modicum of respect, and a larger dose of ‘being a human being’ wouldn’t hurt.

    It’s been a terrible week, particularly for Williams’ friends and family. But if we’re looking for something even vaguely helpful to come out of the outpouring of warmth of grief, then hopefully, the shaming of some segments of the media, and their dealing with a sensitive issue, will have a positive ramification somewhere along the line. I’m an idealist, granted, but I can’t help thinking there really has to be a better way forward.

    Like

  10. we should remember robin for his amazing career but the mistakes he made with his personal life he made us laugh mr doubtfire cry good will hunting when robin died a part of our childhood died my first movie in theater was flubber

    Like

    • There’s a lot of material out there to remember him by; there has to be something for everyone of all ages and temperments.
      Sure, there are individuals who have struggles, some more than others (personally, I struggle a lot with much, but I write, so I’m alright:-):and you hope they can either break through, or make the most of the time they had. In Robin Williams’ case, he was of the latter.
      I found it interesting to hear that Robin Williams’ remains were cremated so quickly (if he was of the Jewish faith, then 24 hours would be routine), but then again that may have been his wish.

      Like

  11. i been depressed never once out about suicide though anyone who thinks of that should think of people they will hurt by doing it

    Like

    • That sounds great in theory, but someone who is so deeply depressed is only thinking about how painful it is to be alive. Yeah, some people leave notes and explain why, but others don’t. I mean, someone must be in a bad place if they lose the desire to survive, since self-peservation is a natural instinct of ours.

      Like

  12. i hope to god no one associates sheen of seymore hoffamn with there drug use. If charlie sheen dies (god forbid) they should remember for his amazing work in 2 and a half men and platoon which shows he could have been a big star and he is actually a good actor. Phillip semyore hoffman has passed i don’t want anyone to associate him with his drug use he yes he had a problem but he was a talented actor who was well respected treated his fans with respect and a good father despite the drug use.what i like about robin and phillip they didnt look stars not handsome in the traditional movie star way like brad pitt but still good actor they proved good acting trump hes over good looks

    Like

    • When it comes to Charlie Sheen, his highly publicized lifestyle will always be part of his narrative, and later (or lazier) in his career, I think he cashed in on the attention. I feel Charlie Sheen could’ve been so much more as a performer, but he chose a certain path, and he seems self-satisfied.
      I think Philip Seymour Hoffman will always be regarded as one of the best pure actors of his generation; in the film I’ve seen in which he is involved in, he ALWAYS crawled into the skin of the characters he played seemlessly. He could play anything from a stuck up society guy to a manager of a professional baseball team and it was all so natural to me. Besides, his addiction battles weren’t played out in the tabloid public.

      Like

  13. true suicide is irrational act u do out of impulse instead of thinking about how others would feel he should had more counseling .

    Like

    • Yeah, but sometimes there are no answers, and for some discussing how bad they feel could make them feel worse.

      Like

    • When you’re suicidal, you think you’re doing other people a favor by ending it. You feel like a burden on everyone. I find this comment extremely irritating. You speak with certainty yet you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about in this case. Quit talking so much and try listening for a while.

      Like

  14. i loved good will hunting i wish before robin died he had a chance to reteam with gus van sant or matt damon i always wondered if he ever met jim carrey i always wanted them to make movie if someone finds a pic of them together post it

    Like

  15. no they were not as talked about as sheen when a famous person dies sometimes there more remembered for their death if it makes a huge impact then there work.example phil hartman great actor but he was never a list or b list maybe c list the only thing people rember about him is his death. I know sheen didnt have the best resume but lets remember him for charismatic performance in 21/2 men he has great comic timing the show went down without him isnt that testament of his talent. he really did have good potential platoon got great reviews held his own against dafoe and bergenger he just choose bad material he should have went for drama roles like platoon instead of action crap

    Like

    • I agree that Charlie Sheen has good comedic timimg, but I’m looking towards the two “Hot Shots” films and even “The Chase”. The problem for me is that on “Two and a Half Men”, he is essentially playing himself. Was he good at playing himself? Yes. Was he funny? Well, yeah. But still, he wasn’t exactly stretching himself.

      Like

  16. iam sure his publicist thought his bad boy image would help his career but he should have stayed clean went for dramatic sad that since wallstreet no dramatic roles i dont know how someone who had a clean cut dad like martin ended up like that but i never think about actors personal life i think of his acting sheen is incredible 21/2 is my fav show or was anyways when he was on it. Iam sure he was dead people wont trash him out of respect and remember him for his good work hot shots made me laugh . from what i heard from william dafoe he was a nice guy very helpful. are we going to rember robin for suicide or his coke problem and let me tell his scandals were in the news just as much as sheen its just that sheen resume is no where on par with robin so its easy to lose track of it. No we will remember him for Aladdin

    Like

    • I really don’t feel that Robin Williams’ off-camera life was tabloid fodder as much as Charlie Sheen. I mean, Sheen had the Kelly Preston incident, His name in high priced madam Heidi Fleiss’ black book , His father publically having an impromtu press conference about how he turned his son in to the police to get him help, His “winning” phase, I mean, one can go on.

      Like

  17. in the 80s robin was in out of rehab his coke use during mork and mindy was all over the new in the 90s he made waves when he cheated on his wife with nanny plus there was tabloid about how he gave women herpes or sometinhg 06 he to rehab for his drinking problem ok maybe your right hes not in the news AS much as sheen but he was there quit alot its easy to forget this becase unlike sheen his movies made studios money. sheen is way different then his harper character then you think sheen dosent have harpers charm you can say robin plays himself alot too sometimes iam not saying sheen is better then robin because is a better actor then sheen iam saying dont diss sheens acting he is much better then the material given to him looks past sheens antics watch wall street.

    Like

    • I wasn’t aware of any Robin Williams related off camera news other than his addictions, sobriety, and divorces. I guess at the time of this news I was either too young or I wasn’t paying attention (A quick note: I liked that film he performed in which during filming he fell of the wagon, “The Big White”. It was like some of his darker material, except his character itself was more odd than dark).
      Oh, I think “Wall Street” is an excellent film (I like 1980’s ANYTHING, for the most part, but especially the films). Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox was strong. What I’m saying is that when Charlie Sheen just fall back into playing character that use his own personal life as a punchline is uninspiring, if occasionally amusing. He just could’ve been more than that, but again, I guess he didn’t want to be.

      Like

  18. i think sheen and michael j fox should have an article both actors had blossoming movie career then fucked it up with bad film choice sheens coke use didnt help either then went to tvs when there film careers failed both left there hit tv shows and there career dropped

    Like

  19. if seymore hoffman never died he would never be on the list cause his film career was he on fire 2 years before he died had an Oscar nom then before he died he appeared in hunger games he was doing good its sad he threw it away

    Like

  20. i had a friend who commited suicide i reaserached a bit on depression i never claimed to be the expert but i know a bit about it

    Like

  21. iam sure sheen turn to coke when his career died

    Like

    • Well, Charlie Sheen came into his own in 1980’s Hollywood, an era which was awash with cocaine. There were more concaine related controversies in entertainment and sports (I’m think the mid ’80 Pittsburg Pirates baseball team as the largest sports example) than can likely be properly addressed.

      Like

  22. true dennis qauid said coke was everywhere even in the movie budgets

    Like

  23. VMAs play strange 23-second tribute to Robin Williams, Twitter responds with outrage:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/08/25/vmas_play_strange_23_second_tribute_to_robin_williams_twitter_responds_with_outrage/

    The actor and comedian’s death jarred the entertainment industry, but this tribute was tone-deaf.

    Sarah Gray

    Last night the MTV VMAs paid tribute to departed actor and comedian Robin Williams. “Robin Williams’ death rocked the entertainment world,” MTV News noted, and the award show, dedicated to celebrity, took a moment to mark the passing of a bright star.

    It was well intentioned. The execution — photos fluttering briefly over a Coldplay track — however, was rather botched. And folks on Twitter noticed.

    The 23-second tribute to Robin Williams was decried on Twitter as too short, and oddly placed.

    Like

  24. he had been taking anti depression they r known to give chemical imbalance in brain

    Like

    • I think anti-depressent meds can be quite a rool of the dice, since the doctors are guessing on what will bebefit the patient as well. When my fathertold the VA he was depressed, whatever they gave him made him feel worse. I mean, for some people meds work, but others have an adverse reaction.

      Like

  25. true he has 4 movies coming out this year its gonna be weird seeing him on screen knowing hes gone he even has the night at musuem movie coming out out his last live action movie will also be his last box office hit

    Like

  26. leabeau would u say tommy lee jones ,billy bob thorton and robert duvall are all a list and i was thinking u can do an article about greatest comebacks ranging travolta in pulp fiction to brando in godfather

    Like

  27. I just finished watching Good Morning, Vietnam again for the first time in many, many years. The film was the perfect vehicle for Williams in a way. Finally, he could be both outrageously funny and serious in the same film. Watching the film again after all these years, I can still see why the Academy Awards gave Williams his first Oscar nomination. Actually, the film was just added to Netflix streaming, so if anybody hasn’t seen it yet, or if it’s been a long time since you’ve seen it, I’d recommend tossing it into your viewing queue. It’s one of Williams’ better films.

    Watching the film again also made me remember how much I loved JT Walsh’s work. He was teriffic as the Major that doesn’t much care for Cronauer’s “irrelevant tendencies”, a despicable character. I’m reminded of how much a fan of his I was from films like Sling Blade, Breakdown, Pleasantville, The Negotiator, Red Rock West, even when he had a small part he was always a compelling presence in a film. JT Walsh was, and still is, one of my all-time favorite character actors, I miss him the same way I miss Robin Williams in a way. Both great talents gone too soon.

    Like

  28. i wish robin and jim would have made movie togather

    Like

  29. its ironic he played 2 suicidal characters fathers day patch adams and a suicidal type movie worlds greatest dad i always wondered why he was so good at playing depressed unhappy characters i just wish he could have seek d counseling about his Parkinson i know Parkinson disease is a big deal but he could have pulled a michael j fox and used his star power to help people get more people more involved in fighting the disease michael j fox had it worse he was diagnosed in his late 20s the prime of his life he handled it well robin was in his 60s still relativity young but could have helped people with it like michael j fox

    Like

    • I feel that there are stark differences between someone like Robin Williams diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Michael J. Fox. Robin Williams relied on facial expressions and manic energy, something that would be seriously compromised by the onset of Parkinson’s. Also, Michael J. Fox received his diagonosis when he was much younger (not saying it was easy for Michael J. Fox, as he left “Spin City” back in the day due to the diseases effects) , which allowed him a transitional period. Furthermore, Robin Williams had so much on his plate to overcome to begin with; maybe he was just tired

      Like

  30. being diasoned with Parkinson at a young age is worse at a young age not being able to function is worse plus robin had perfomances that didnt relie on that like good will hunting worlds greatest dad michael j fox had a career despite his disease robin could have done it to

    Like

    • The truth is, Michael J. Fox has taken very few roles since his diagnosis other than his guest spots on “That Hot Woman” (I mean, “The Good Wife”) and his recent half-hour television series (I thought it was okay). Besides, they are different people; Robin Williams really liked to cycle, and maybe biking would have been out of the question later on for him. I’m still sticking with the thought that Robin Williams just had enough and wanted to check out.

      Like

  31. iam sure robin could have done guest role or bit parts in movies iam sure it wasnt just the Parkinson it could have been other things Parkinson was straw broke camels back he had alimony bipolar drug addiction he been depressed for years plus to be honest parkison wasnt the only thing that killed his career he made poor film choices his post back to future flopped which forced him to go back to tv so poor choices killed michael j fox career hes a underrated actor very funny however like charlie sheen he picked the wrong movies his movie career bombed tv was the work they can get

    Like

  32. Letting the posthumous halo fade:

    http://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/829-letting-the-posthumous-halo-fade/

    by Nathan Rabin

    When the news of Robin Williams’ suicide broke in August, my first thought wasn’t about the many blockbusters he made, or his signature roles. I thought about Bobcat Goldthwait’s wonderful 2009 sleeper World’s Greatest Dad, which commented smartly and subversively on a phenomenon Williams’ death quickly unleashed. In World’s Greatest Dad, a tender, restrained Williams plays Lance Clayton, a failed writer and single father whose ambitions to be both a great author and a terrific family man have gone unfulfilled. Lance’s 15-year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is human garbage, an abusive and bullying creep who kills himself in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation. If you’ve ever doubted Williams’ gifts as a dramatic actor, watch the scene of Lance discovering his son’s corpse, if you can. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

    Lance sees a silver lining to his son’s meaningless death, however, and he pours his grief into composing a fake suicide note for his son that gets published in the school paper, leading Lance to put out more of his own work under his son’s name. In the process, Kyle’s image is rehabilitated to a ridiculous, comical extreme. A jerk no one thought much of is lionized as a soulful exemplar of noble adolescent yearning. Kyle becomes a blank canvas that others can project their own aspirations and fears upon. He stops being a person and becomes a symbol, a saint.

    Something similar happens to celebrities when they die, especially under shocking or dramatic circumstances. A benevolent form of cultural amnesia develops over all their flaws. We forget about all the awful films and choices they made. Death washes away their creative sins and amplifies their triumphs.

    To a certain extent, this idealization and romanticization of the recently dead, a psychological halo effect, represents a purposeful act of radical simplification. Robin Williams was an extraordinarily complicated man with many different sides. There was the motor mouthed cokehead and the man who prized his sobriety, the manic improviser and the Academy Award-winning dramatic actor. There was the Williams who partied with John Belushi just before Belushi overdosed, and the Williams beloved by generations of children as one of them, a great big kid who was always around, in live-action or animated form.

    The halo effect reduced all these contrasting versions of Williams to an all-purpose, reassuring cliché: The angelic man-child who gave the gift of laughter freely, and with great joy. It’s mawkish and reductive, but sometimes those are necessary evils, because confronting the full force of artists’ darkness and complexity in the immediate aftermath of death would be too painful. It was bad enough that Williams died in such an agonizing, public way; who but the most ghoulish would want to follow that by rooting around in the downsides of his personal and professional past?

    Part of what made Williams’ death so shocking was how powerfully it conflicted with the Williams of the public imagination, who wrestled with dependency issues and mental illness long ago, but had seemingly become a sober, solid American institution. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an accidental overdose in February 2014, it came as a shock in part because the public knew relatively little about him. While Williams often seemed to be playing some version of himself in his films, Hoffman disappeared completely inside the roles he played. It was as if there was no Philip Seymour Hoffman in real life, just the art he created.

    The shock of Williams’ death was so extreme that people understandably wanted to bathe in the warm glow of nostalgia. And with Williams, there were a lot of great moments and good times to remember—but there was also a whole lot of dreck. The dead almost inherently engender respect, so it’s hard to concede now that while Williams was a smart, kind, talented dramatic actor with a lightning-quick mind, the vast majority of the films he acted in ran the gamut from mediocre to actively excruciating.

    Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and an insult to Williams’ memory. Pretending that everything, or even the vast majority, of what he did was great—an attitude that seemed to be epidemic in the weeks following his death—is dishonoring The World According To Garp and The Fisher King by lumping them in with the dregs of Fathers’ Day, Old Dogs, and the many films Williams made that are endured rather than enjoyed.

    Immediately after a death, the halo effect serves a useful, even essential purpose. I wasn’t a fan of Paul Walker’s acting, but I was relieved that when he died in a car crash in November 2013, he was warmly remembered as a generous, big-hearted man with a bright future ahead of him, not as a mediocre pretty-boy who lucked into some lucrative roles. In a pop-culture world so dominated by snark, there’s something refreshing about wanting to memorialize the recently dead in the most positive, flattering way—initially.

    The problem is that is if the effect lingers too long, it can dramatically and unfairly distort the actual worth of an artist’s career. There was a danger of that happening when Williams died, and the tidal wave of mourning that followed seemed to bestow classic status on everything he did that was halfway successful. It was as if the shock and awfulness of his death instantly elevated Mrs. Doubtfire to a universally adored masterpiece. Briefly, it seemed like agreeably schlocky Williams films like Jumanji had become sacrosanct not because they were great, or even particularly good, but because they were such a big part of so many people’s childhoods, and starred a beloved man who had just died.

    Thankfully, the effect is temporary. Sometimes you can trace the exact moment when it ends, and reality kicks back in. For me, it dissipated completely when I watched Patch Adams for the third or fourth or fifth time, as part of a forthcoming Career View on Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was dreading this particular film, in part because it represented the only collaboration between two men whose deaths profoundly shocked and traumatized culture this year, but also because I knew firsthand just how dreadful it is, how pandering, maudlin, and dishonest. Patch Adams is a popular comedic target—Futurama and Cecil B. Demented are among the institutions that have satirized it—but it’s so devoid of self-consciousness that it’s ultimately beyond parody.

    Patch Adams has a reputation in some circles not just for being bad, but for being the worst of the worst, the black nadir of rank, self-aggrandizing Robin Williams sentimentality. And does it ever live up to that reputation. I re-watched the film in a strange state of intense yet strangely liberating joylessness. Re-watching Patch Adams finally allowed me to see Williams as he truly was: a genius, and a good man, but also an actor who perpetrated some of the worst movies of the past quarter-century. Even Hoffman couldn’t elevate the material. Nothing could make Patch Adams anything other than an enduring abomination: not time, not even the deaths of two cultural figures whose significance it’s hard to overstate.

    It was somehow freeing being able to see Williams and Hoffman in utter garbage, in a film guaranteed to knock the halo off the loftiest acting angel. Williams was no longer a paper saint. He was just an actor who had made some really deplorable films in exchange for great deals of money, and that’s okay. There’s no crime in that—it’s what actors do. Even actors as beloved as Robin Williams. The halo effect helps us process and work through pop-culture grief, but I still feel like I made a breakthrough once I was able to laugh at Patch Adams, rather than with it. It was oddly comforting to feel a strong, honest, intense reaction to the beloved late comedian—even if it was one of extraordinary distaste.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,223 other followers

%d bloggers like this: