UPDATED: 3pm, August, 12, 2014
When a talented comedian dies, the world is a lesser place because of that loss. Actor and comedian Robin Williams was one of the preeminent funnymen and actors of our lifetime, having starred in numerous box office hits like Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King and lest we forget the classic comedy series that set off his career, “Mork & Mindy,” in 1978.
His knack for improvisation was apparent early on as he was just one of two freshman accepted to the Julliard School in 1973. Known for high energy performances, Williams was himself influenced by Richard Pryor and appeared as a cast member on the short lived “The Richard Pryor Show” on NBC before being recruited by Garry Marshall to appear on “Happy Days” as Mork from Ork in 1977.
His aforementioned sitcom ran from 1978 to 1982, but that wasn’t the end. It was a whole new beginning. After “Mork and Mindy,’ Williams’ brand of standup was in high demand. He went on to record three HBO comedy specials, “Off The Wall” (1978), “An Evening with Robin Williams” (1982) and “Robin Williams: Live at the Met” (1986).
In 2004, Williams was named #13 on Comedy Central’s list of the “100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.”
Though standup and improve were what made him famous, Robin Williams was a critically acclaimed actor as well. His first film role was in the 1977 comedy Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses? A year later, he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series Music or Comedy for “Mork & Mindy.” And he went on to win three Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King, and Mrs. Doubtfire. He also won two Screen Actors Guild Awards. One came as part of an ensemble for The Birdcage (1996) which won best performance by a cast in a motion picture and he won best supporting actor for Good Will Hunting (1997).
Outside of acting accolades, Williams won six Grammy Awards, five for Best Comedy Recording for works like Reality…What a Concept (1980), ABC Presents a Royal Gala (1988), A Night at the Met (1988), and Robin Williams-Live (2003).
A giant of standup, television and film, Williams’ most recent role was in the David E. Kelley sitcom “The Crazy Ones” alongside actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. The show was canceled by CBS in May 2014. But he leaves us with multiple films due to debut within a year including Merry Friggin’ Christmas, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Absolutely Anything. Reports also say he was due to begin work on a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. But at press time, there’s no word from the studio on production plans.
"On behalf of Robin’s family we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief," said Robin Williams' wife, Susan Schneider, in a statement. "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.”
Those who give light and laughter often deal with deep darkness. Williams battled drug and alcohol problems early in his career, but defeated the ailment of addiction in the early 80s. Always open about his health problems, including the difficulties of open heart surgery in 2009, he returned to rehab for addiction and depressions problems in July 2014.
Williams’ Monday afternoon death on August 11 stunned the world when he was found unconscious at his home in Tiburon, California. Pronounced dead at the scene, the Martin County Coroner Division believes his death was suicide by asphyxia. But the investigation is ongoing.
Robin Williams is survived by three children; Zelda Rae, Cody Alan and Zachary Pym.
“You have this idea that you’d better keep working otherwise people will forget,” Robin Williams was once quoted as saying. “And that was dangerous.”
But no one will ever forget the genius of Robin Williams. The outpouring of grief from across the world is proof of the millions of lives Williams effectively touched with his amazing work in a way that makes many feel as if they’ve lost a friend today.
Undeniably talented and unforgettable, Williams was an American comedic icon like no other. #RIPRobinWilliams
July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014