Robin Williams was an extraordinary individual, whose career spanned five decades and whom many considered to be the greatest comedian of all time. He was loved by millions for his comedic brilliance and unique, whimsical comedic voice. He was a phenomenal actor and comedian, who was greatly admired and emulated by other comedians. His performances were legendary and he touched the hearts of many with his comedy and kindness.
A beloved husband, father, and grandfather, Williams passed away at the age of 63 on October 11th, 2018. He is survived by his children Zelda, Sean, and Adam; his wife Susan Schneider; his brothers Daryl and David; his sisters Kim and Terri; and numerous grandchildren. In addition to his family, Robin is survived by a large and loving extended professional and social network, which is truly deserving of its own celebration – the Robin Williams Memorial Celebration.
On the day of his death, the world lost a great comedic genius and a charming, warm, and caring human being. As Robin’s family and close friends gather to celebrate his life and legacy, it is important to remember the good and the valuable lessons he imparted to us all. Here are some tributes to Robin Williams, along with a few more pieces about the incredible life and comedy of this great American actor.
Robin Williams, Comic Genius
Robin Williams was a comic genius. His comedic talents emerged early on and landed him roles as a child actor, where he starred in such classic films as MASH, Amadeus, and Mrs. Doubtfire. His groundbreaking improvisational comedy shows, including What’s My Line? and Later… with Lily Tomlin, were some of the first to pioneer performance art and interactive comedy. His improvisational comedy albums One Night Stand and Improvised Comedy are just a few examples of his unique comedic style and brilliance.
The list of groundbreaking films Williams appeared in is incredible. He starred in the Oscar-nominated short film The Absent-Minded Salesman, whose subject matter – a bizarre creature who falls in love with an elephant – might not seem like typical comedy fodder. But this comedic gem is a prime example of Williams’ range as an actor. He often starred in intelligent, whimsical films such as Good Morning, Vietnam, where he played a comical Vietnam War veteran, or in Dead Poets Society, where he played an English teacher who befriends a group of young gentlemen. It is often said that Williams could play anything, which is certainly true.
An Iconic Comedic Performance
Williams is best known for his iconic comedic performances. He was a magnetic presence on screen, whose eccentricities and unique vocal delivery made him a standout amongst a brilliant group of comedians. He was able to capture the attention of an audience, not just with comedy, but with a wide range of characters and intriguing films. He portrayed over 50 different characters in his acting career, demonstrating the versatility and depth of his talent. He is remembered with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a star on the Palm Beach Walk of Fame, for his outstanding work in comedic roles.
An Improving Actor
While it is true that Williams was a comedic genius, it is also important to remember that he was an improving actor. He started his acting career at the age of 15 and went on to study with Sanford Meisner, whose method acting teaches students to be observant and present in the moment, and who helped Williams develop and hone his craft. Meisner is quoted as saying, “People always said that Robin Williams had a gift. Well, they were right – he has a talent. He can act. He has a tremendous amount of talent. He’s a very good actor. He’s an extremely talented individual.”
In addition to studying with Meisner, Williams also took classes from Lee Strasberg, who taught him to be fearless and expressive, and from Stella Adler, who helped him find his comedic voice. His diverse education in acting and comedy can be heard in his amazing performances, which helped him become one of the greatest comic actors of all time.
A Humorous Voice
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Williams is his unique comedic voice. A trained classical singer, Williams performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, often using his voice as a comedic instrument. He was known for his wide array of vocal styles, from his high-pitched, boyish voice to his gravelly baritone. His comedic voice was a perfect match for his comic characters and showcased his versatility as a performer.
Williams’ voice was powerful and commanding, which came in handy when he played the teacher in Dead Poets Society. One critic noted, “The first thing that struck me about Robin Williams’ performance was his voice. It’s a rich baritone with just the right amount of roughness. It’s wonderful. I don’t think I’ve heard a voice like that on-screen before.” He also received praise for his performance in the animated film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, in which he played a supporting role alongside Gene Hackman and Diane Keaton. He said about his role in the film, “I play a guy who owns a toy store. I have a very important part. I was in the right place at the right time.”
A Kind, Giving Heart
Williams was a kind and giving heart. He was known to give the best performances of his career whenever he had the opportunity to work with children or donate to charitable organizations. He actively participated in AIDS initiatives and served on the Board of Directors for Aids Healthcare Foundation. In addition to his work with children, Williams also participated in a range of other charitable activities. He donated his time and resources to organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind, Special Olympics, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He also established the Robin Williams Scholarship at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which provides full tuition for students in need.
Williams had a wide, giving sphere. In addition to being an active member of the community, he supported and befriended many notable figures in the arts, including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
For those who knew and loved Robin Williams, the sadness of his passing is more than matched by the sense of gratitude for all he gave to us. To his family, friends, and fans, we send our deep condolences and appreciate your endless support during this difficult time.