Robin Williams: Reflecting on the Man and His Comedy

By: Kevin Brooks, PhDrobin williams


On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning actor, was found dead in his California home. The news of Williams’s death was a bombshell. Even more shocking was that authorities said he committed suicide. It has been reported that he wrestled with depression over the years and was recently diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Considering Williams built his career on making people laugh with his uproarious comedy and sidesplitting humor, the thought of one of Hollywood’s most innovative, creative, and fascinating actors and comedians taking his own life is perplexing. After learning about Williams’s apparent suicide, I took a moment to mourn and reflect. My thoughts on his comedic genius led me to think about his predecessors and contemporaries who preceded him in death, such as Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Robin Harris, and John Ritter, to name only a few. Each of their deaths resulted in sudden distress, but nothing like the way I felt when Pryor (my favorite comedian) passed away. Later that evening, I went home, turned on the television, and, interestingly, the program airing at that instance was a documentary on Pryor, titled Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, in which Williams was featured, providing color commentary on Pryor’s career.

Williams, who also starred on NBC’s The Richard Pryor Show, provided expert analysis on Pryor’s career, demonstrating his kindness, compassion, and consideration of others as well as his profession. Scores of family members, friends, and fellow entertainers from Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brian, to Chris Rock and Wayne Brady, to Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg paid tribute in their own ways, both with and without words, describing Williams as a warm, gentle, and remarkable human being.

Williams got his major break on the television sitcom Happy Days, where he starred in a 1978 episode playing the alien Mork from Ork. His uncanny ability to transform from character to character using bizarre improvisations, including impersonations and physical comedy, heightened his popularity and led to a co-starring role in his own sitcom, Mork & Mindy (1978–1982). The show achieved instant success in its first season, but ironically began to decline by the second season, as Mork became more human. The show was canceled two years later.

Although I never met Robin Williams personally, I liked him because he provided joy and cheerfulness through his boisterous comedy, which was a familiar presence in our household when I was a kid. Each week we would watch Mork & Mindy and laugh uncontrollably at his antics. Williams played a variety of roles in television, film, and theater. However, he will always be remembered for making us laugh and cry with his sharp wit and rib-tickling comedy. We commemorate his life and his homegoing.

Na Nu Na Nu!


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