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He was of English, French, German, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry.
- I would like to do for you now, a Japanese science fiction movie: "Attack of the Killer Vibrators."
- Before I go on, I want to ask if there are any Hell's Angels here tonight? [no response] … Those pussy-whipped faggots!
- Performance at the L.A. Improv (1977)
- I would like to do Shakespeare's only unknown piece, That's the Way I Lick It ... It's a bleak night my Lord. Look! The moon like a testicle hangs low in the sky. This bodes not well. ... Anon, post-haste, let's get a larger crowd in here. Free Cocaine! There's no luck. Does anyone have drugs to ease my pain? My Kingdom for a Quaalude! … It is the end! I must go, for I cannot come here, and yet, it has been brief, 'tis over, and the lights do turn bright. I'm melting! Help me! Help me!
- Performance at the L.A. Improv (1977)
- You're only given a little spark of madness and if you lose that, you're nothin'.
- A Night at the Roxy (1978)
- Death is nature's way of saying, "Your table is ready."
- As quoted in The Fourth—And by Far the Most Recent—637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1990) edited by Robert Byrne, p, 518
- Parry is a man with a previous life that was so damaged that he had to create another personality. … It's like post-traumatic stress syndrome: Some people respond to traumatic or tragic events by withdrawal; some even create other personalities. Parry is a creation — somewhat Don Quixote, somewhat Groucho Marx — but he's a creation designed to avoid a past event.
- On his role in The Fisher King (1991), as quoted in "Dreams: The Fisher King" (2006) edited by Phil Stubbs
- Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma.
Reality...What a Concept (1979)
- I'd like to start the show by showing you something I'm very proud of. You'll have to step back though.
- [spoofing Mister Rogers] It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood... oh, damn, someone stole my sneakers. Let's do some wonderful things today, boys and girls; but first, do you mind if I take some more medication? It helps the day go a little bit slower. There we go. Now we're gonna do some wonderful experiments you can do around the house. Let's put Mr. Hamster in the microwave, okay?... He knows where he's going. BEEP! Pop goes the weasel! That's severe radiation. Can you say "severe radiation"? Oh, look, you got a little balloon now.
- [as a Shakespearean narrator] Mind not my words — Let the play be the thing. I'll get back forth and touch myself anon.
- I wonder what chairs think about all day: "Oh, here comes another asshole."
- There was an old, crazy dude who used to live a long time ago. His name was Lord Buckley. And he said, a long time ago, he said, "People: They're kinda like flowers and it's been a privilege walking in your garden." My love goes with you.
A Night at the Met (1986)
- My God, what am I doing here? It's weird. How do you get to the Met? Money! Lots and lots of money! I can imagine Pavarotti next door at the improv going, "Two Jews walk into a bar..."
- Beer commercials usually show big men, manly men, doing manly things: "You've just killed a small animal. It's time for a light beer." Why not have a realistic beer commercial, with a realistic thing about beer, where someone goes, "It's 5:00 in the morning. You've just pissed on a dumpster. It's Miller time."
- The sound crapped out for a bit, that's why I'm using SupposiSound! No one wants their tapes back, I wonder why.
- We were talking briefly about cocaine...yeah. Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that!
- They call it freebasing. It's not free, it costs you your house! It should be called home basing! Three signs you're addicted to cocaine: First of all, if you come home to your house and you have no furniture and your cat's going "I'm outta here, prick!," Warning! Number two: If you have this dream where you're doing cocaine in your sleep and you can't fall asleep, and you wake up and you're doing cocaine, BINGO! Number three: if on your tax form it says, "$50,000 for snacks," MAYDAY!
- Baseball players have to go in front of a grand jury and say, "Yeah, I did cocaine. Can you blame me? It's a slow goddamn game! Come on Jack! Standing out in left field for seven innings, and there's a long white line going down to home plate! I see the guy putting it out going "Heh heh heh heh!!!!" And that damn organ music too, the whole [does intro to "Charge!"]! Third base coach is always doing this...[wiping nose, fidgeting around]. When he's doing that, I don't know whether to slide or do a line! People sliding into home plate head first, umpire goes, "You're out!" "No, baby, I'm up now! Ha ha ha!"
- [On football] You're playing a game against a man called the Refrigerator! He's not a refrigerator – he's a goddamn HOUSE with LEGS!!
- The Second Amendment! It says you have the right to bear arms, or the right to arm bears, whatever the hell you want to do!
- [On husbands sharing their wives' childbearing experience] Unless you're passing a bowling ball, I don't think so. Unless you're trying to circumcise yourself with a chainsaw, I don't think so. Unless you're opening an umbrella up your ass, I don't think so!
- Thank you. How-DY! Whoops, wrong opera house. How do you like the play, Mr. Lincoln? Duck!
- [Comparing Ronald Reagan's Cabinet to Star Wars] There's Henry Kissinger as Yoda, "Must now cannot see understanding that I be here for you. I will show you now, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Cambodia, shhh. Must later understand!"
- Cocaine addiction is God's way of saying "You make too damn much money!"
- If alcohol is a crutch, then Jack Daniels is the wheelchair.
- Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
Inside the Actors Studio (2001)
- Season 7, Episode 14 (10 June 2001)
- The professor was on acid, and sometimes he'd shout, "I'm Lincoln!" And then, there'd be a kid in the back, "I'm Booth!"
- (On creating) And you get that little endorphin buzz, it's great. Why do you think Einstein looked like that? I don't think he was going "You know this is some dynamite weed! It's all relative you know."
- (Imitating Royal Family) I've tell you we've not been inbred but don't look at the ears. That's all we can do is screw in a light bulb. Look at the teeth, look at the ears and go, something's gone wrong. Gene pool is a jacuzzi back up."
- I'd like to welcome you the AOPA. There's also aa-AOPA. If this is your first time flying a plane on alcohol, I'd like to welcome ya!
- (Imitating Pavarotti) "It is amazing I know it is huge. BEHOLD IT. IT IS GROWING. ALL OF MY PHALLUS IS A SHOWING!"
Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002)
- Now, Michael Jackson is claiming racism. I'm going, "Honey, you gotta pick a race first." Baby, what are you claiming, mistreatment of elves? What are you saying?
- What kind of food did we drop on Afghanistan? Pop-Tarts, peanut butter…just add a Honey Baked Ham and you've got a redneck Christmas. Why are we dropping this food on Afghanistan? Tastes a shit load better than dirt, #1. #2, difficult to have a call to jihad with a mouth full of peanut butter. Thirdly, Afghanistan is a hashish-smoking culture, and anyone who's ever been a friend of the hookah will go, (intense, stoned stare) "Pop-Tarts!"
- And that's when you realize that God gave you a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.
- I do know this one thing. I know there is a cure for whatever bioterrorism that they send at us. I know there's one. And it lies within Keith Richards, I know that. He is the only man on the planet who can go [pantomimes snorting a line of powder] "Anthrax? All riiiiight. Hey. Doesn't go with my E. coli, but fuck." Keith is the only man who can make the Osbornes look fucking Amish. He's insane! I've seen Keith go to a drug dealer and the drug dealer's like "I'm out, man, I'm sorry. I have nothing left!" Supposedly, he goes to Switzerland and changes his blood, not like one pint, but like a fucking Chevrolet, all of it. I just wanna know, who gets his blood? Some old Swiss man's going "HEIDI! We got to go on tour, you bitch! Got to go pay for Mick's babies! C'mon!" Because I know this: we may all be dead and gone, Keith will still be there with five cockroaches. Keith'll go "You know I smoked your uncle, did you know that? Fucking crazy..."
- [About pre-9/11 and post-9/11 airport security] Airport security, remember before all this happened, was like, BEEP, 'Okay, get on the plane. Come on, get on the plane. Hold on one moment. What's that? Oh, that's a gun. Okay, get on the plane!' You could carry a four-inch blade on a plane. That's about that long. What are you doing, West Side Story in the aisle? "Going down the aisle! Crazy aisle!" Now, you can't even carry a nail-clipper on a plane. Are they afraid you're gonna go "ALL RIGHT! Gimme the plane or the bitch loses a cuticle! I have a nail file! I can be irritating!"
- Because now, when you go through airport security, it's tight. You go through the metal detector, and if you're heavily pierced, like some of my friends, it's like, (steps forward) "BZZT!" "Take out your keys, sir." Tip of the iceberg. (pantomimes removing various piercings from the ears, nostrils eyebrows, tongue; then reaches to the side, grabs an imaginary drill, points it at his crotch and makes a drilling noise) For those playing the home game, this is called a Prince Albert. And I'm sure that was his last wish. I'm sure Albert said "Victoria, I'm dying. I want you to name a museum, a performance hall, and a bolt through the cock after me. That will be Victoria's Secret. Go, my darling!"
- Dubya doesn't speak while Cheney's drinking water. Check that shit out.
- One of the fundamental things is in a jihad. That sounds like a country western term like, "Jiii-had!"
- And people say to me, they say Jesus wasn't Jewish. I say of course he was Jewish. 30 years old, single, lives with his parents. Come on! Work in his father's business, his mom thought he was God's gift! He's Jewish! Give it up!
- But I know, as beatific as Gandhi was, there was somebody in a Bombay bar going, "I knew Gandhi...he was a prick. I saw him sucking down a pork hot dog, hitting on Mother Teresa. He kept saying, 'Who's your diaper daddy? Who's your diaper daddy?'"
- And the French. The French have a bomb, too. Maybe they have the Michelin Bomb—ah! Only destroys restaurants under 4 stars. And they still test their bombs. They're one of the few people who still detonate their bombs. The underground test. Where do they do it? In the Sahara in the total wasteland? No, fuck off! In Tahiti! In paradise. Why? "Because we're French. [pantomimes smoking a cigarette] Oh, look, a Greenpeace boat coming to protest—fuck off. I sink you.
- [Imitating a Frenchman] Fuck all of you! You cultureless, crass Americans! We hate all of you! Fu—the Germans are here! Hello, Americans! I love you!
- [About the Swiss] The nice Germans, Yeah. Or as they like to say, the other white race. Now, I have only one question. How can you trust an army, how butch is an army that has a wine opener on its knife? "Many of you have never opened Chardonnay under fire! First, you pull the cork out, sniff it, say, 'Meat or fish?', and throw! (Military cadence) I don't know, but I've been told, Chardonnay must be served cold! Ja!"
- If you smoke a lot of pot, you may never become a rocket scientist. Or maybe, if you've seen some of the things that have happened recently with NASA, maybe you can. [imitates a person stoned on marijuana] "Okay, oh, okay, okay, here's a fun one, oh, fuck, okay. Okay, the Mars lander, okay? Fuck. I did the calculations in feet, but I programmed the lander in meters! Oops! So instead of landing, fucker buried! Hundred-and-eighty-five-million dollar whoopsie! Two years, splat! Oh, okay, fuck, here's a better one. The Hubble telescope. I forgot to put in a lens!" [covers one eye as if undergoing an eye exam] "'Read the top line.' 'Alpha Centauri...uh, Sirius...the rest is just a black hole.'"
- [Describing the drinking habits of different ethnic groups] You know if you're Irish, you've got a running start that you can do it better than we are. [Irish accent] You know that because if you're Irish, you know, you'll kick my ass but then you'll fuckin' sing about it afterwards. [sings, dances a jig] "Oh, the night you said my wife was fat, I knocked you down and shit in your hat!" And then you keep drinking 'til you're in your eighties and you're on a dialysis machine, doing Liverdance and Michael Flatline! Beeeeeep! And they say the Irish saved civilization, drank a couple of Guinness and forgot where they fuckin' put it, but that's all right. [shifting to Japanese accent] Here's the drill, and the Japanese? They drink differently than us. It is a different thing where you can be very polite during the day, and all of a sudden you "arigatou gozaimasu." And after five Jack Daniels..."TIE A YELLOW RIBBON! Hey, fuckers! Karaoke for asshole with a microphone! Sing, you round-eyed fuck, come on!" [shifting to Scottish accent] And if you want a linguistic adventure, go drinking with a Scotsman - 'cause you can't fuckin' understand them before!
- And you realize how drunk (Scotsmen) get; they could wear a skirt and not care! And how they could invent a sport like golf! [Imitating a drunk Scotsman] "Here's my idea for a fuckin' sport. I knock a ball in a gopher hole!" Oh, you mean like pool? "Fuck off pool! Not with a straight stick, with a little fucked-up stick! I'll whack a ball and it goes in a gopher hole!" Oh, you mean like croquet? "FUCK CROQUET! I'll put the hole hundreds of yards away! Oh, fuck, oh yeah! It's great fun, there! It's a great thing!" Oh, like a bowling thing? "FUCK NO! Not straight, I put shit in the way! Like trees and bushes and high grass! So you can lose your fuckin' ball and go whackin' away with a fuckin' tire iron! Whackin' away and every time you feel like you're going to have a stroke, ah ha! Fuck, that's what we'll call it, a 'stroke'! 'Cause every time you miss, you feel like you're going to fuckin' die! Oh great! And here's the better part, oh fuck, this is brilliant. Right near the end, I'll put a flat piece, with a little flag to give you fuckin' hope. But then I'll put in a pool and a sandbox to fuck with your ball again! Ah, you'll be there trashing your ass, jerking your way in the sand, ah ha!" Oh, and you do this one time? "FUCK NO! EIGHTEEN FUCKIN' TIMES!"
- I want the guy who does Mexican soccer to do golf one time. "The ball is starting...the ball is going to the...HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE!" Just to see all those old WASPy motherfuckers go "Oh dear Christ! My God, they're not gardening, they're playing now, oh shit! What the hell are we gonna do?" Because that was their last domain of dominance. It was their area, they were the king, up until...Tiger. Yesss. Son of a black man and a Thai woman, not even a German geneticist could've thought that one up!
Weapons of Self Destruction (2010)
- Nice to be in Washington, where the buck stops here! Way to go. And then it's handed out to AIG and many other people.
- And I know many of you are looking for Sarah Palin's new book, it is a bitch to find. Good luck. I found it somewhere between fiction and nonfiction, in the fantasy aisle.
- [talking to woman in audience about newcomers] That's your old boss? Did you fuck him? [loud laugher] Sorry. Okay. Not an inappropriate question to ask in Washington.
- And California weed is kick-ass fuckin' weed. This is weed that even Jamaicans go "Oh, don't smoke that weed, man." It's California Catatonic. The type of weed, you hit it and it's like...[pantomimes smoking a blunt] "FUCK! Shit...I'm not doing something. What is it? Oh right, BREATHE!"
- And if they legalize it, they're gonna have to regulate it and they're gonna have to put a warning on a box of joints. It's gonna have to say, "Surgeon General has determined this will make your music...awesome! Even Yanni. And if you think you liked cartoons before..."
- You know the difference between a tornado and divorce in the South? Nothing! Somebody's losing a trailer.
- [imitating weatherman] "Okay, let's go to our new hurricane weather map...(screen behind him shows a massive cyclone) ...FUCK! This is Hurricane Siobhan. The map is the entire South. The asshole in the middle is Dallas...um, crazy...back to you, Ted, I just shit myself.
- There is one man that we can run for office that even the French would say "Fuck off!" That man...is Jack Nicholson. Yes! You will never have a sex scandal with Jack because he has fucked everyone!
- I was on this German talk show and this woman said to me, she said, "Mr. Williams, why do you think there's not so much comedy in Germany?" I said, "Did you ever think you killed all the funny people?" [laughter and applause] And...it was...and here's where it got interesting. She didn't bat an eyelash. She just went "No". At that point, even God's going, "Do you get it?!" German comedy: "Knock-knock--We ask the questions!".
- My favorite athletes of any Olympics are always the African distance runners. You never have to drug test an African distance runner.
- "Are you on drugs?"
- "No, I'm looking for food."
- And I'm sure in Kenya they have a chicken that can run a sub 2-hour marathon....One of my favorite runners of all time was Abebe Bikila. He was an Ethiopian distance runner and he won the Rome Olympics [marathon] running barefoot. He was then sponsored by Adidas. He ran the next Olympics, he carried the fuckin' shoes. No performance enhancement there.
- I walked into my son's room the other day, and he's got four screens going at the same time. He's watching a movie on one screen, playing a game on another, downloading something on this one, texting on that one, people say "He's got ADD." Fuck that, he's multitasking.
- When I was growing up they used to say, "Robin, drugs can kill you." Now that I'm 58 my doctor's telling me, "Robin, you need drugs to live." I realize now that my doctor is also my dealer...
- These drugs have side effects that go on for fuckin' days, like tendency-to-grow-another-head, oh my God! When we were growing up we knew the side effects of the drugs we were taking. Cocaine, side effects were paranoia, ninjas-on-the-lawn; quaaludes, side effects were talking in tongues, English as a second language; marijuana, side effects were laughter, Frosted Flakes.
- We still have great comedy out there. There's always ramblin' Joe Biden. What the fuck? Joe says shit that even people with Tourette's go "no..."
- Cheney shot a man in the face hunting quail. I don't know about East coast quail, but California quail are this fucking big. (indicates a position about a foot above the stage floor)
- In the midst of all this, there was Bernie Madoff. An embezzler named "made off." Hmm. Was the name not a clue? Did he have to be with the accounting firm of Dewey, Fuckyou, and Howe?
- Is it rude to Twitter during sex? To go "omg, omg, wtf, zzz"? Is that rude?
- I went to rehab [for alcoholism] in wine country, just to keep my options open.
- They made porn movies, of my movies! Good Will Humping? It's okay... Wet Dreams May Cum? All right... Snatch Adams? That was scary. A clown with a strap-on. Popeye... I would watch that. "Ag-gag-gag-ga, I creamed me spinach!"
- Twitter broke the other day, and a lot of people were going, "My Thumbs! My thumbs are moving for no reason! What's that?" "A book". <hissing noise> "Who are you?" "Dad. I miss you. Let's talk."
- There was one guy that had an amazing claim to fame, in terms of drugs and sports. And his name was Dock Ellis. And Dock Ellis did an incredible thing. The one person who knows, thank you. Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD. Those of you who have taken LSD, tell the others how hard that might be. If I took LSD, I'd be talking to every blade of grass like <tiptoes across the stage> "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!"
- [regarding Sarah Palin] "I know about Russia because I can see it from my front yard!" You have amazing eyesight, number one... Well, I can see San Quentin from my house, but that doesn't make me an expert on prison reform.
- Catherine the Great, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi: These may not be women you'd want to fuck, but you definitely don't want to fuck with them. And if you don't think a woman can handle a war, ask the Argentinians.
- Being a functioning alcoholic is kind of like being a paraplegic lap dancer: You can do it, just not as well as the others, really.
Quotes about Williams
- Genie, you're free.
- Tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (11 Aug 2014), soon after news of William's death, accompanying an image of the Genie in the film Aladdin (1992), which which was voiced by Williams.
- Robin Williams was a wonderful, kind and generous man. One important thing I remember about his personality is that he was unassuming — he never acted as if he was powerful or famous. Instead, he was always tender and welcoming, willing to help others with a smile or a joke. Robin was a brilliant comedian — there is no doubt. He was a compassionate, caring human being. While watching him work on the set of the film based on my life — Patch Adams — I saw that whenever there was a stressful moment, Robin would tap into his improvisation style to lighten the mood of cast and crew. … Contrary to how many people may view him, he actually seemed to me to be an introvert. When he invited me and my family into his home, he valued peace and quiet, a chance to breathe — a chance to get away from the fame that his talent has brought him. … I’m enormously grateful for his wonderful performance of my early life, which has allowed the Gesundheit Institute to continue and expand our work.
- For years, we had watched with awe as a Niagara of wit poured from his unconscious. Where did that manic waterfall of funny have its source? … Unfortunately, sometimes the mind that runs so fast it can’t keep up with itself also has its downtime. I didn’t know he suffered from depression, although it doesn’t surprise me. But it makes me want to do something. I hope it makes us all want to do something.
- Alan Alda, as quoted in "Remembering Robin Williams (1951–2014)" in TIME (13 August 2014)]
- There were jokes of his that made me laugh hard, but it was the going from one thing to another, making those connections. It’s like how you watch an improv group take suggestions. It was like Robin had the most brilliant audience inside his head throwing out suggestions, because he would put combinations together that were just crazy. And how he could work out of the moment. That working out of the moment is a gift, but he did it on another level. … He’s gonna be missed. There’s a hole, and it’s gonna take a long time to be filled.
- Poor Robin Williams, briefly enduring that lonely moment of morbid certainty where it didn’t matter how funny he was or who loved him or how many lachrymose obituaries would be written. I feel bad now that I was unduly and unbefittingly snooty about that handful of his films that were adjudged unsophisticated and sentimental. He obviously dealt with a pain that was impossible to render and ultimately insurmountable, the sentimentality perhaps an accompaniment to his childlike brilliance.
We sort of accept that the price for that free-flowing, fast-paced, inexplicable comic genius is a counterweight of solitary misery. That there is an invisible inner economy that demands a high price for breathtaking talent. … Robin Williams could have tapped anyone in the western world on the shoulder and told them he felt down and they would have told him not to worry, that he was great, that they loved him. He must have known that. He must have known his wife and kids loved him, that his mates all thought he was great, that millions of strangers the world over held him in their hearts, a hilarious stranger that we could rely on to anarchically interrupt, the all-encompassing sadness of the world. Today Robin Williams is part of the sad narrative that we used to turn to him to disrupt. … we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us … Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?
What I might do is watch Mrs. Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.
- He was the patriarch of our little clan of comedians in San Francisco. All of us looked at him, in a way, as a father figure. … He was just very supportive. He was very shy, and possibly a little embarrassed by his fame. Inside, he really was a comic. Naturally, all comics just wanna hang around other comics, so he would come to these little clubs and open mics, and you’d get bumped, and he would go on and you’d have to follow him, which was always really terrifying because he’s so great, and people were so excited to just be in his presence. … I feel like he was a conduit — that everything he was feeding off of his brilliance was really something he was just channeling. But maybe what allowed him to be so humble and what endeared people to him was that humility, and that he would just turn on that brilliance for you. It was the ultimate form of being present, to channel it. I think that he was very spiritual in a lot of ways.
I think it’s so unique you can’t emulate it. If you look at the way comedy is, and look at its history, you don’t find anybody like him at all, except for maybe Jonathan Winters is the closest, and he also was a very dreamlike figure.
- I guarantee you that thousands, hearing of Robin’s death, asked how he could do it when he had everything: fame, wealth, adulation, family love. And another supposed insulator against the worst of the blues, plenty of work. No combination of those adds up to insurance. And the hectic, nerve-wracking ups and downs of fortune in show business are, of course, a major factor for emotional disequilibrium. … I know Robin knew this. His death recalled a moment with him years ago in a small club. He came off stage after bringing a cheering audience to its feet. “Isn’t it funny how I can bring great happiness to all these people,” he said. “But not to myself.”
The non-actor has a major advantage because it’s harder to hide the symptoms. The actor knows how to act.
- Robin and I agreed once that it’s galling to hear — when you’re “in it” — the question: “What have you got to be depressed about?” The great British actor and comedian, Stephen Fry, a fellow-sufferer, replies “And what have you got to have asthma about?”
Robin, like his idol Jonathan Winters, must have had one of the world’s hardest talents with which to live and retain personal balance. Sitting next to him on my old PBS show was like sitting in the Macy’s barge next to the fireworks going off. He was at full, manic, comic frenzy for an hour without let-up. (We even improvised a short Shakespeare play together, with and without rhymed couplets.) I caught his manic energy. It was exhilarating. And exhausting.
When it ended, I was wet and spent. It took him a while to come (partially) down, and I thought, “Can this be good for anyone? Can you be able to do all these rapid-fire personality changes and emerge knowing who you yourself are?… Some day, will some chemical link be found between great, great performing talent and susceptibility to that awful conqueror of the talented performer?
Are the gods jealous? Do they cruelly envy the greatly gifted and, in the classic Greek manner, smite them low?
The somewhat grim answer: We’d better enjoy them while we can.
- Dick Cavett, in "Dick Cavett: Robin Williams Won’t Be the Last Suicidal Star" in TIME (12 August 2014)]
- Playing one character at a time, for months on end, didn’t properly exploit Williams’ unique gift of being everyone at once. His true model and mentor was not an Olivier or Brando but freeform comic Jonathan Winters, who also battled to call a truce with the manifold Genie geniuses in his head. … Why does a clown want to play Hamlet? Maybe because he thinks he is that melancholy soul whom others find amusingly odd. Williams dropped Mork’s na-nu na-nu and entered dramatic film with the lead in The World According to Garp. … Williams infused weird wonder in voice roles for animated features — not only Aladdin but Robots and Happy Feet. He was a cartoon, with all the characters, in a man’s body. … He could play anyone, but not just one: not “just” Robin Williams. All those voices in the head of this comic Hamlet must have told him it was time to be quiet. The rest is silence.
- On Monday night, as fans around the world began to grieve Robin Williams’s death, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — best known, in many circles, as the people behind the Oscars — sent out what may be the iconic social media image of Williams’s death. …[Genie, you're free.] … More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it. The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.
“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.”
- What hurts most about the apparent suicide of Robin Williams is that as much as he achieved, he died in his own mind unfulfilled. And to an extent, he was unfulfilled — he never found a form that would capture the genius of his stand-up act or his early appearances on The Tonight Show, when his mind worked faster than anyone alive and very possibly dead, when he seemed to be channeling a fleet of circling UFOs containing the galaxy’s best comedy writers. The man didn’t need to play a sitcom alien to seem as if he had his own extraterrestrial energy field.
- Williams gave tremendous performances in a handful of movies, but it was Williams bottled and, in most cases, domesticated. It didn’t have that free-form, unfettered genius. That said, his nattering sailor in Robert Altman’s messy Popeye was musically dazzling. Even more musical was his performance in Paul Mazursky’s Moscow on the Hudson, in which the sadness of not being able to perform was right there in his eyes. … The combination of mania and melancholy tapped something beautiful in him. In The Fisher King, Williams was also at the height of his powers. He knew how to play a man dangerously in touch with unseen forces, a holy fool, and for once he played opposite actors who were, each in their own way, worthy of him: Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl, and, most memorably, Amanda Plummer, who should have partnered with him again.
We do need to talk about those “domesticated” parts, because they were the ones that won him a huge mainstream audience and, in the case of his avuncular, bearded psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting, an Oscar. This was Williams the crinkle-eyed humanist. … The saddest thing is that Williams never found a collaborator who could give him the combination of structure and freedom in which he could thrive … But you know what? You could put together a highlight reel of Williams’s work … and see that the measure of the man was vast. Even when his talent was cruelly constricted, his soul was limitless.
- David Edelstein, in "Robin Williams, 1951-2014: The Measure of the Man Was Vast" at Vulture (11 August 2014)
- To the generation of kids who grew up on his movies, Williams was a revelation, a teacher and a lifeline.
It might seem ridiculous for a generation to claim a universally loved celebrity as their own, but if there was ever a Millennial hero, it was Robin Williams.
The news that Williams had died, at the age of 63, hit the world like a shockwave yesterday. For many older Millennials, like me, who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, the loss strikes as a particularly hard blow. … Williams’ Dr. Sean Maguire, a counselor who becomes a father-figure to the troubled title character in Good Will Hunting, punctured even my teenage gloom. He wasn’t jokey, he wasn’t zany, he wasn’t any of the things I had come to associate with Robin Williams, but his warmth was wholly recognizable and I was in awe.
And then there’s Dead Poets Society, one of the ultimate teenage movies … The movie’s plot, which centers on a conservative boys school where a radical teacher works against the system to inspire his students, is hardly original and I knew that even back then. But the zeal and honesty that Williams’ poured into John Keating almost single-handedly elevated the movie from a cliché to an actual inspiration. Like any teenager, I was a bit disillusioned by school in general, but books and learning and truth were still things that could lure me and Williams’ Keating made a great case for them.
To this day, I still can’t resist Williams’ line, “But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Yet even with the years of cinematic evidence, I didn’t quite realize how much of an influence Williams had on my generation until today. … Everyone seemed to have their own personal memory about watching his films growing up. He was the teacher we always wanted, the baby-sitter we would have loved, the best friend who knew exactly how to make us laugh.
It feels like I have always known that Robin Williams was an amazing actor, but I never understood just how amazing. Because looking back on it, I realize that his best roles didn’t define him — they helped define us.
- Megan Gibson, in "Why Robin Williams Was a Millennial Hero" in TIME (12 August 2014)
- I don't think I've met anyone as exceptional as Robin was … every moment … could be explosive any which-way, you didn’t know where it was going to go — you didn’t know even where it came from — he seemed to be able to channel the Cosmos, and at the same time he was always totally involved with the people around him, he really had a close touch with everybody he touched. He was absolutely extraordinary. … He seemed to be able to be … a kind of receptor of all knowledge, whatever it was, whether it was in the news, something from an encyclopedia, or from a book, he seemed to know all of this stuff, and he could then reassemble it, in the most incredible combinations — which was always surprising, funny and … outrageous, really, and I don't know how he did it. … That was always the miracle of Robin, it was something I've never bean able to explain.
- It's just this incredible talent was there that kept him really bright and bouncy… I'm sure on his own, and a lot of times on his own, that wasn't there. I think being around people … I don’t even think it was even performing at times … I think it was just some wondrous moment, as this stuff poured out of him, he was exhilarated by it as much as we were, and I think that was so important to Robin. And at the same time, he was one of the sweetest people ever walking the planet. He really cared about people. That's what I found amazing to be able to see an incredibly huge and complex vision of the world, and yet always, all the individual around him, he was in touch with all the time.
- Terry Gilliam, in "Terry Gilliam on the 'miracle of Robin Williams'" at BBC News (12 August 2014)
- When the gods gift you with the type of talent Robin had, there's a price to pay, there always is — it doesn’t come from nothing, It comes from … probably deep problems inside, a concern, all sorts of fears, and yet he could always channel those things and turn them into something gold … I think that just comes with the territory, frankly.
- Terry Gilliam, in "Terry Gilliam on the 'miracle of Robin Williams'" at BBC News (12 August 2014)
- Robin was a gifted actor and comedian, but he was also a true friend and supporter of our troops. From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DoD - so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.
- So many times you meet people they don't impact you. You meet them and they're gracious and they're nice, and then there are sometimes when you meet somebody and they say one thing and for the rest of your life you carry that one thing and they don't even know that they impacted your life. So here's Robin Williams fully decked out in elephantiasis makeup, like he was the Elephant Man, and we were talking and I'm being super quiet, and he just kind of turns to me and he said, “What's your name?”
And I said, “I'm Mila.”
And he said, “Yeah? You're on '70s?” And then he said, “Remember this moment. Remember this because things like this don't happen very often. Remember this time.”
Having somebody of Robin Williams' stature tell me to just acknowledge something meant so much. He didn't mentor me. He just said, “Step back and appreciate this. You're having an amazing time.” I was so nervous. And he said, “Relax. And don't forget to enjoy yourself because things like this don't happen to everyone.” … All he did was say, "Enjoy yourself and don't forget this." Like: "Just take a breath and acknowledge that you have an amazing opportunity.”
- Robin and I had a nice friendly relationship. I can’t claim I knew him well, but honestly, I don’t know how many people did. He seemed like the kind of guy who didn’t open up to a lot of people. … The thing about Robin that I loved the most — and again, with limited experience — is that when he did my show, he was so great at it, because he was able to achieve something that eludes a lot of comedians who have tried to do Real Time. It’s not an easy show to do because you have to be very smart about politics. We don’t use a lot of show business people on the panel. I can name the show business people who can do it on a couple of hands — Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Kerry Washington — people who are very politically aware and involved, and that is their passion.… But Robin did the panel, and he was able to both modulate his normal manic persona down to what was appropriate for the show he was doing, and also, completely still be Robin Williams. That is not an easy trajectory to find, and he did, and I always loved him for it. First of all, it means you’re humble — that you understand that you have to shape-shift a little to the show you’re doing. Some people don’t do that. Some people just refuse to do that. They wanna be exactly who they are, on whatever show they’re doing. I don’t agree with that. I think when you’re the guest, you have to bend a little. He did that. He was still Robin Williams, but he was exactly right for the show he was doing.
- His style, when it came on the scene, looked completely new to people, and in many ways it was. He was fast and furious, and I think there’s something else that’s behind there that you can’t really quantify or define, but you could just tell there was a humanity in Robin Williams. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, like a good person who cares and tries to give back to the community. Some people, you get the impression that they’re putting on an act all the time. I didn’t get that impression with Robin Williams. I didn’t know him well, but I always thought, there’s a very decent person there.
- Bill Maher, in ‘You Could Just Tell There Was a Humanity in Robin Williams’" by Larry Getlen, in TIME (12 August 2014)
- In the late 1980’s, film producer Joel Silver set his sights on developing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ massively successful graphic novel Watchmen into a feature film with director Terry Gilliam. Rumors swirled at the time, and the 2005 Entertainment Weekly oral history of the project confirmed that Arnold Schwarzenegger was in line for Dr. Manhattan, Richard Gere showed interest, and Robin Williams, fresh off his role as a delusional but sprightly vagabond in Gilliam’s The Fisher King, could be tapped as Rorschach.
During the hellish development, which would bounce between studios and producers for decades until Zach Snyder’s film hit theaters five years ago, casting attention switched from Williams to Brad Dourif, allegedly due to wariness over fan perception that Williams was unsuitable for the part. Going in a direction away from a captivating comedic performer with overtones of chained darkness looked foolish when Michael Keaton proved an excellent Batman as that comic franchise dominated the box office. And that criticism seems even more baseless decades later, after Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, and many other films that proved Williams’ heft. Rorschach, a deeply haunted man with an ever-changing mask that doesn’t hide an unmistakable voice, now seems like it would have been a perfect fit.
There’s little point in rueing a missed opportunity from 25 years ago. But in the aftermath of Williams’ death at his Bay Area home yesterday, many people were quick to point to a moment in Watchmen when Rorschach sneeringly recites a grim joke about a depressed man who seeks help from a doctor, which now rings frighteningly true:
- I heard a joke once. Man goes to doctor, says he's depressed. Life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says "Treatment is simple. The great clown, Pagliacci, is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up". Man bursts into tears. "But doctor", he says, "I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.
- Though a terrifically engaging screen presence at his most gregarious and joke-focused, he had to chops to be just as mesmerizing when muted, which would only draw out tension for the moment when he could turn on the jets and shift to full bombast.
I’m not sure I can think of another actor with Williams’ combined dominant traits: instantly recognizable for his warmth and energy, fiercely multitalented, flying between understated and exuberant emotional extremes in comedy and drama, and yet maligned whenever the unpredictable balance he struck in a given performance didn’t match the critical ideal. In that way his Academy Award for Good Will Hunting in 1997 is both the peak of his control and the most patronizing harness of his career. Here is your reward for taking the raging combustion, powerful as a radiant star, and tamping it down to understated levels while remaining perforated, so that emotional peaks still have a chance to flare out. It was an unhelpful and unjust expectation on an actor who did nothing but give of himself to his performance. … it’s too limiting right now to call Robin Williams simply a comedian, despite the tremendous outpouring from the comedy community that continues today. He was an actor, one of the most gifted and adventurous performers of his generation, and it’s a shame that it took something like his tragic death to take stock of the possibility that the outsized expectations of an audience could have prevented more people from simply enjoying the effort Williams made in so many films, no matter the critical adjudication.
- Kevin McFarland, in "Remembering Robin Williams, cinema's Rorschach test" at BOING BOING (12 August 2014)
- Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.
- My friendship with Robin Williams is one of the real joys of my life … Robin is a person who gives to people 24 hours a day. The gift of joy, the gift of laughter. Just to be in a room with Robin Williams is a privilege. He’s a gift to the world.
- In the wake of Williams' death at his home here Monday, fans around the world have struggled to understand what could have led a man whose thousand-megawatt comic persona had brought so much joy to millions to such depths of despair. But Williams' closest friends and colleagues knew well that the beneath his manic, Technicolor exterior, the actor had battled depression for years.
In recent months — as Williams wrestled with the cancellation of his CBS TV series The Crazy Ones and fought to maintain a sobriety that had at times proved fragile — those friends could see that he was losing that fight. … In early July, Williams checked himself into the Hazelden addiction treatment center in Center City, Minn. He had not fallen off the wagon, his publicist said at the time, but was instead struggling to hold himself together as he crumbled under the weight of depression.
- Josh Rottenberg, Amy Kaufman and Lee Romney, in "Robin Williams' friends saw signs he was succumbing to depression" in The Los Angeles Times (13 August 2014)
- This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.
- Susan Schneider, his widow, as quoted in Robin Williams' Family Movingly Remembers "A Gentle Soul" Who "Loved to Laugh" by Gregg Kilday, in The Hollywood Reporter (12 August 2014)
- Robin Williams was beloved by the U.S. military, perhaps even more so than by the American public. He carried Bob Hope’s mantle as a funny man far from home, often in inhospitable places. Throughout his career, Williams made six USO tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and 11 other countries and performed for 90,000 troops by the time of his final tour in 2010.
- Mark Thompson, in "The Military Absolutely Loved Robin Williams" in TIME (12 August 2014)
- The death of Robin Williams this week was a shock, the kind of event that makes people stop, even in the crush of other terrible news from all corners of the globe, and feel a stinging sense of loss for someone they never met.
That there was the ritual rush of response on Twitter, Facebook, and in online comments, was to be expected. Though Williams had had issues with substance abuse, and made trips to rehab, this wasn't someone who seemed in danger of going over the edge.
The idea that a performer who was synonymous with rapid-fire wit and boundless energy would take his own life was at first hard to believe, and then deeply sad.
But even as Williams is mourned, the scope of reactions illustrates how wide-ranging his appeal was. … this performer known for his anarchic merriment was sometimes at his best when he was most subtle.
And Williams' best was something special, and rare, and worth remembering.
- Yesterday, I lost my father and a best friend and the world got a little grayer. I will carry his heart with me every day. I would ask those that loved him to remember him by being as gentle, kind, and generous as he would be. Seek to bring joy to the world as he sought.
- Zachary Williams, as quoted in Robin Williams' Family Movingly Remembers "A Gentle Soul" Who "Loved to Laugh" by Gregg Kilday, in The Hollywood Reporter (12 August 2014)
- He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least it’s a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.
To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too…
Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.
- Zelda Williams, as quoted in Robin Williams' Family Movingly Remembers "A Gentle Soul" Who "Loved to Laugh" by Gregg Kilday, in The Hollywood Reporter (12 August 2014)
- When he auditioned for the role of Mork from Ork on Happy Days (1974), producer Garry Marshall told him to sit down. Williams immediately sat on his head on the chair. Marshall hired him, saying that he was the only alien who auditioned.
During the making of Mork & Mindy (1978), Williams departed from the scripts and ad libbed so many times and so well, that the producers stopped trying to make him stick to the script and deliberately left gaps in the later scripts leaving only, "Mork can go off here" in those places so Robin could improvise. … Asked by James Lipton about what he would like God to say when he arrives in heaven, Williams answered that "There is a seat in the front" in the concert of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley.