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Robin Williams: The Funniest Man on Earth


Robin Williams and his comedic idol Jonathan Winters in Mork & Mindy.

Robin Williams and his comedic idol Jonathan Winters in Mork & Mindy.

Every now and then a comedian bursts on the scene who’s so funny he can make the audience laugh just by reading the phone book. Johnny Carson, Paul Lynde, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, George Burns, all had that special ability. Robin Williams had it too.

Robin Williams and the sly leer of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Robin Williams and the sly leer of Mrs. Doubtfire.

In in his stand-up career, Robin Williams made jaws drop with his amazing manic routines.

Like a machine gun gone awry, he would fire away with joke after joke, so spellbindingly fast you couldn’t keep up with him. When you finally could figure out what he said, you’d laugh your head off.

He was the master of improvisation, and could wrangle a joke from anything — a person’s hair, a microphone, name it and he would transform it into a huge laugh.

After watching him on TV at night, Robin Williams was the water cooler talk everywhere the next day. “Did you see what he SAID??”

He made us laugh. Really laugh. We laughed hard at his silliness, at his sly observations, and at his political jabs. Robin Williams was an equal opportunity shooter. If you were any kind of a target, he’d take aim.

Robin Williams was so funny as the genie in Aladdin, there was serious talk of him being nominated for an Oscar for his voice work.

Robin Williams was so funny as the genie in Aladdin, there was serious talk of him being nominated for an Oscar for his voice work.

To be really successful with your audience, a comedian needs to connect with them on a personal level. Robin Williams was like that naughty little class clown who just couldn’t simmer down. You’d know that all you’d have to do is look at him and he would have some kind of silly face or expression that would make you explode. And you’d get in trouble with the teacher, not him.

As he matured, Robin Williams became a kind of Old Sage of performers. He developed a successful film career. Refusing to be pigeon-holed or stereotyped, he could be funny, he could be serious, he could be both.

But even as he matured, he never lost that Peter Pan quality. He seemed always to be winking at us, pinching us by our shirt collars and plunking us smack down into his ratatatat world.

Robin Williams was once The Funniest Man on Earth. That’s the Robin Williams I’m going to remember.

Great spot with Robin Williams and Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show:

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