“Stand-up is survival. For me that’s jazz, that’s what I have to do.”
It is hard to overstate the impact that Robin Williams had on just about every aspect of comedy since he broke the scene in the mid-1970s. His sheer energy, razor-sharp wit, ability to morph his persona into characters both known and unknown, and genre-defining stand-up shaped almost two generations of film and TV. A person would be hard pressed to not know many of his iconic characters, which spanned an impressive range, from the alien Mork of Mork and Mindy, through serious roles like those of Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam, or the unorthodox English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society and the influential psychologist in Good Will Hunting, through to comic roles like the jinni in Aladdin.
Williams, who would have been 67 this week, died four years ago at 63 after taking his own life, shortly after he was diagnosed with Diffuse Lewy Body Dementia in August 2014.
To celebrate the impact of his life, HBO has released a new documentary, titled, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.” Directed by Marina Zenovich, who has also made films about Roman Polanski and Richard Pryor, the film is primarily comprised of clips from Williams’ life and interviews with other comics, family, and actors who knew him best, including Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Eric Idle, and Steve Martin.
The documentary is a thought-provoking look, not just into the genius of a man whose talent was omnipresent, but the trials that come with fame and the expectations of comedy. His life was a portrait of a man who was genteel, decent, and generous, not a self-obsessed celebrity who could not escape the trappings of wealth and access.
“Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” can be found on HBO and HBO GO.