NOTE: I wrote this after Robin Williams died, and then everyone else was writing dumb Robin Williams stuff and it made me depressed and I didn’t want to add to the nonsense. So I didn’t publish it.
Ugh. Seems everybody is talking about that one time they met Robin Williams. Is that relevant? I don’t know. Is it just making his death about them? Maybe, maybe not. But I got one, so I guess now would be the time.
I remember being really, really little and somehow finding out that Robin Williams, aka Mork from Orc, was going to do a stand up show near us. I told my parents I wanted to go. My Dad dismissed the idea, saying “He’s not actually Mork, you know”. Damn, killing my dreams, Dad. I’m the rose that grew from concrete, you guys.
Anyway, I think Good Morning, Vietnam was the first time his talents were you used correctly in movies. I loved that. And it was the last time Robert Wuhl wasn’t horrible. And then Mrs. Doubtfire (“it was a run by fruiting!”), and my favorite, Good Will Hunting. (Has anyone watched Dead Poets Society recently? I liked it at the time, but man, that ending was weak. Like, really weak. Almost like they forgot a scene or two)
I don’t know if Robin Williams was an influence on me, probably not, but when I grew up I carpe diemed my way into writing comedy for a living.
So I was writing for a show and I was put in charge of a field piece called, “Is Gay the New Black?” We were gonna go out and ask gay people and black people if gays were now discriminated against more than black folks. In the morning, we went to West Hollywood to talk to people. In a crazy bit of luck, we were able to find some homosexuals there. They were all happy to talk and quite welcoming.
After lunch, we went to motherfucking Watts aka the hood. The black people weren’t quite as accommodating, especially when they heard our question. I thought I might get reverse Rodney Kinged, but I made it out alive.
Wait, isn’t a reverse Rodney King just a Reginald Denney? Or was Rodney King a reverse Reginald Denny? Okay, I could do this for hours.
Anyway, we got a bunch of stuff that only I thought was funny. Then I went into the editing bay and churned out a 4 minute piece that much to everyone’s surprise, was pretty good. I was hailed as a genius. Irwin Scissorhands, they called me. Not really. But really, way funnier stuff happened than they remembered because they were just traumatized by how angry the black people we spoke to were. But cut together, it worked.
Side note: there’s always this crazy pressure to throw more and more stuff at field pieces like this, and the same goes for certain reality shows. I just read this article about how much Pimp My Ride was faked. Calm down, idiots! The real stuff you get is more than fine. No one needs your dumb ideas to spruce things up.
So I was feeling pretty good about myself when I got summoned to the boss’ office. Great news! Robin Williams is coming on the show! “Awesome”, I said. “What’s he gonna do?” “Well, we thought we could put him into the gay thing”.
WHAT? That made absolutely no sense. He had nothing to do with anything that was going on in the “the gay thing”. It was stupid. It was crowbarring a “star” into something that didn’t need it.
Didn’t matter. Stars rule. Or so the thought went.
And the only way we could get him was to go to an airport in Van Nuys and interview him before he jumped on a private plane back to San Francisco. So I went out there with a camera to talk to Robin Williams aka Aladdin aka Popeye aka Mrs. Doubtfire aka O Captain, My Captain about the dumbest shit ever. This sucked.
This dude was telling Matt Damon “it’s not your fault” and now he was going to have to riff on gay being the new black. I wanted to tell him it wasn’t my fault.
Luckily, he was very nice and cool about it. We put a camera in his face for about a half hour and he did his Robin Williams shtick. We all laughed and enjoyed ourselves.
It was kinda sad though. Robin Williams should not have been on this show. And he really shouldn’t have been doing that bit. What was the point? He should’ve been enjoying a normal life somewhere. Instead, he was being forced to “turn it on” for a whatever show.
Well, I got the footage back to the edit and…it was awful. Nothing he said made any sense. They were just wacky sounds. I must’ve watched it 25 times and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. He just knew the rhythms of comedy, or thought he did, and could mumble things and get laughs. Which, I guess, is a talent. But looking at it on tape, it was sort of amazing in its nonsensicalness.
We ended up scraping together about 10 seconds and sticking it in. The audience enjoyed the piece and then Robin Williams popped up and by the time their cheering ended they missed what he said, which was a good thing.
And that’s the time I worked with Robin Williams.