‘Robin’: The sad, hilarious life of a comic genius

Robin

By Merrill Markoe | Washington Post

Robin Williams and I both moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco at the tail end of the 1970s and were hired for our first jobs in TV to work on the doomed reboot of “Laugh-In.” I sat in one of many cubicles in an isolated office with a large, inexperienced writing staff. He was in front of the cameras, the breakout star of the cast.

He visited my cubicle a few times, but we didn’t communicate much. Once during a show hiatus, though, when I was visiting my parents in San Francisco, I saw him walking ahead of us on the street. After I yelled out his name, he turned and shouted, “Sister Comedy!,” and then ran over and gave me a hug. The warm feeling that gave me remains to this day.

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Otherwise, we didn’t maintain a friendship. He was a busy show-business star on the rise, and, to be honest, I found him hard to talk to. There was an impenetrable wall inside him somewhere. Or, as our mutual friend Dave Letterman once put it, “He’s like a guy within a guy.” So apart from what I gleaned from public gossip or the personal anecdotes of mutual friends, some of whom he dated, I never knew much about his real life.

Which brings us to “Robin,” this immersive, intimate and incredibly detailed new biography by Dave Itzkoff. It’s a revealing, warts-and-all portrait of a man of great talent trying to design a career and a life while being buffeted around by a cacophony of contradictory voices and impulses. At almost 500 pages, the book is the result of exhaustive research and fan-like devotion.

Williams was the son of a Ford executive father and a socialite mother who traveled together a lot, both for business and pleasure. As parents, they provided the comforts of wealth and a genetic strain of alcoholism with which Robin struggled for the rest of his life. “I didn’t realize how lonely Robin had been” his mother said many years later, finally acknowledging that her son “had some very lonely years. You think you’re being a wonderful mother, but maybe you aren’t.”

Williams’ world-class improvising talent may have begun as a brilliant child’s solution to loneliness, but his move to L.A. instantly brought him the attention and companionship he was seeking. I was a stand-up neophyte in the late 1970s and witnessed how his ability to make a comedy monologue look like a free-form spontaneous joke cyclone stunned everyone. Characters! Voices! Accents! Improv! Williams was so good at spewing out an endless stream of new material that it took multiple viewings to discern where he was hiding the structure in this magic trick. Show business began to fall all over itself looking for ways to incorporate his unique abilities.

I was also there when comics started to complain that …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

By Merrill Markoe | Washington Post

Robin Williams and I both moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco at the tail end of the 1970s and were hired for our first jobs in TV to work on the doomed reboot of “Laugh-In.” I sat in one of many cubicles in an isolated office with a large, inexperienced writing staff. He was in front of the cameras, the breakout star of the cast.

He visited my cubicle a few times, but we didn’t communicate much. Once during a show hiatus, though, when I was visiting my parents in San Francisco, I saw him walking ahead of us on the street. After I yelled out his name, he turned and shouted, “Sister Comedy!,” and then ran over and gave me a hug. The warm feeling that gave me remains to this day.

Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our new Morning Report weekday newsletter.

Otherwise, we didn’t maintain a friendship. He was a busy show-business star on the rise, and, to be honest, I found him hard to talk to. There was an impenetrable wall inside him somewhere. Or, as our mutual friend Dave Letterman once put it, “He’s like a guy within a guy.” So apart from what I gleaned from public gossip or the personal anecdotes of mutual friends, some of whom he dated, I never knew much about his real life.

Which brings us to “Robin,” this immersive, intimate and incredibly detailed new biography by Dave Itzkoff. It’s a revealing, warts-and-all portrait of a man of great talent trying to design a career and a life while being buffeted around by a cacophony of contradictory voices and impulses. At almost 500 pages, the book is the result of exhaustive research and fan-like devotion.

Williams was the son of a Ford executive father and a socialite mother who traveled together a lot, both for business and pleasure. As parents, they provided the comforts of wealth and a genetic strain of alcoholism with which Robin struggled for the rest of his life. “I didn’t realize how lonely Robin had been” his mother said many years later, finally acknowledging that her son “had some very lonely years. You think you’re being a wonderful mother, but maybe you aren’t.”

Williams’ world-class improvising talent may have begun as a brilliant child’s solution to loneliness, but his move to L.A. instantly

Source:: Usa news site – Culture

      

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