Written by Arthur Milano, contributing writer to Rebel Consciousness
The tragic and sudden death earlier this week of the entertainment legend and ubber-talented comedy genius Robin Williams shock us down to our collective core. We all have our favorite performances of a comic career that lasted almost five (5) decades. My own experiences with Williams’ brand of comedy is as colorful as the characters he portrayed.
Robin’s fast-paced, kooky and hyper intelligent stand kept audiences at least a half-step behind as his career went full tilt Hollywood. From the live-action screen adaptation of Popeye to stellar performance in The World According To Garp (1982) to his unbeatable animated voiceover work in Disney’s Aladdin (1992), Robots (2004) and Happy Feet (2006, 2011).
While I think trying to encapsulate such a monumental career is an exercise in futility. I would like t share 10 special moments of personal favorites from some of my most cherished Robin Williams’ moments:
10. Mork & Mindy I was first introduced to Williams’ unique brand of humor in the late 1970’s when I was a young boy watching the ABC sci-fi comedy Mork & Mindy (originally spun off of Happy Days). The show was a huge satirical hit. Mork from (the planet) Ork was net to observe us silly earthlings and at the end of every episode reported back to his superiors on the state of human affairs via observations of human behavior through his surrogate Earth partner, Mindy (Pam Dawber). Brilliant.
9. Popeye A little over-the-top (like we haven’t said THAT about a Robin Williams flick before), but the portrayal of America’s favorite spinach-eating sailor some of Williams’ best characterizations. Down to the mumbling with the corn-cob pipe, Popeye’s efforts to win-over love interest Olive Oyl (Shelley Duvall). Its a bit creepy mostly because it is full character satire in the days before CGI.
8. Moscow on the Hudson What do you put [Soviet] Russian musician Vladimir Ivanof of the Moscow Circus to defect to America and gets a gig at… Bloomingdales? Eye-opening, laugh-out-loud comedy! Funnier comedy than ANYTHING out today! When Vladimir chooses to live in America he dives headlong into the American melting pot by staying with a Black Family, consulting with his Cuban lawyer and spending time with his Italian girlfriend. This forgotten gem about heating up the cold war is as entertaining as it is thoughtful.
7. Hook When Steven Spielberg gets together with Robin Williams, it is indeed magical. When Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps the children of the adult Peter Pan (now Peter Banning), Peter must return to Neverland to regain his youth-like powers and take Hook down. No better example of Williams’ eternal child-like exuberance.
6. Aladdin You have to be someone special to make me laugh when I can’t see you. It is said that the animators of Aladdin had to rework their original vision of the Genie (played by Williams) to keep the energy onscreen on pace with the voice work Williams was projecting. This film is so filled with puns, quips, alliterations and wit, it boggles the mind. This film would just not work without Robin’s masterful musings.
5. Mrs Doubtfire While I have long-held the belief that this movie is remembered for being better than it was, one cannot deny the social significance of the plight of the newly divorced Dad who would do anything to be around his kids more–including dress in drag as an irish house maid. Funny, profound and a hair disturbing, this movie does not disappoint.
4. Jumanji In some of the earliest instances of computer-driven CGI the oddly entertaining story of a mystical board game that affects the future like a wiji board and brings game elements–like random jungle animals–to life is awesome. Releasing a man trapped inside for decades (Williams) the movie is imaginative and engaging. The most mystifying and entreating part is William’s role. A true spectacle and film that launched a board game craze.
3. Night at the Museum (series) His recurring role as a re-animated Teddy Roosevelt–from a museum wax recreation–is one of the few charming (and memorable) elements from the mediocre NatM series of films. Williams role is admiringly memorable in an otherwise forgettable film. Further proof of William’s depth of characterization skills.
2. Flubber Robin William’s physically demonstrative comedy is complimented by a delightfully life-like gelatinous substance. Professor Brainard’s discovery leads to some interesting hijinks that becomes fun and scientific introspection great for every member of the family. A silly, light-hearted adventure in the vein of the Nutty Professor & Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Williams at his best.
1. Good Will Hunting Hands down my favorite Williams role. Based in my beloved hometown of Boston, MA, Will Hunting must come to terms with his genius IQ and completely immature way of dealing with it. A life of amazing promise and opportunity will befall Will (Matt Damon) if he can confront and overcome his own demons with the help of counselor Sean Macquire. Its a role completely 180º away from his comedic legacy–and it’s epic.
Mr Williams you are loved, you are cherished you are and always will be a one-of-a-kind entertainer. You set the bar for outlandishness and no one will be able to have the kind of impact you’ve had on the world. We all were impacted by your greatness and I hope you have at least found peace from the troubled demons you were combating. From all your fans and friends here on Earth, this is Earth signing off. Na-Nu Na-Nu.
Rest in peace brother, you certainly have earned it from a life–and career–well met.
Arthur “Arth Vader” Milano is a blogger, social media specialist, designer and marketing copywriter. He’s also co-founder of the Boxed Office, a sci-fi movie review blog and co-hosts the weekly podcast for Controller Issues, dedicated to the lives of parents who are gamers.