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MARY BRASWELL: Looking Back Aug. 24, 2014

HISTORY : The Robin Williams that made so many people laugh

RobiN Williams, shown in this publicity photo for the 1986 film “The Best of Times,” killed himself Aug. 11. His family says they hope people will remember Williams for his work and not for the way he died. (Special photo)

RobiN Williams, shown in this publicity photo for the 1986 film “The Best of Times,” killed himself Aug. 11. His family says they hope people will remember Williams for his work and not for the way he died. (Special photo)

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Emotions ran the gamut when news of the death of Robin Williams spread across the world on Aug. 11. The comedian’s wife said, on behalf of his family,”As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” That is just what this column wishes to do.

DID YOU KNOW?

— As a child, Williams memorized the comedy albums of Jonathan Winters.

— Williams was granted a full scholarship to Juilliard in New York City. In 1973, he was one of only 20 students accepted in to Juilliard’s freshman class and one of only two students to be accepted by John Houseman into the advanced program. The other was Christopher Reeve. The duo became lifelong friends.

— A week after Reeve was injured in the horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed, Williams dressed in scrubs from head to toe, including a surgical mask. When he entered the room, he spoke with a Russian accent acting the role of a doctor. When Reeve saw who it really was, he laughed for the first time after the accident.

— When Williams auditioned for the role of Mork from Ork on “Happy Days,” producer Garry Marshall told him to sit down. Williams immediately “sat” on his head. Marshall hired him saying he was the only alien that auditioned for the role.

— With the grand success of the first season “Mork & Mindy,” Williams was featured on the cover of Time magazine on March 12, 1979.

— In 1993, Williams wrote the forward to Gary Larson’s book, “The Far Side: Gallery 4.”

— When Johnny Carson planned his penultimate show, he picked Robin Williams and Bette Midler as his final guests, on May 21, 1992.

— When Williams graduated from high school in 1969, the senior class voted him “funniest” and “most likely not to succeed.”

— Among the many celebrity voices Williams impersonated were Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Rodney Dangerfield, Arsenio Hall, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Sullivan.

— As a child, Williams’ favorite book was “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” He later read it to his children.

— Williams and Robert De Niro were the last celebrities to see John Belushi alive, albeit on separate visits to his bungalow, on March 5, 1982.

— A star on the the Hollywood Walk of Fame was added for Williams on December 12, 1990.

— Williams enjoyed cycling and even trained with Lance Armstrong occasionally.

— On the TV show “Law & Order: SVU,” Williams portrayed a man driven crazy with grief (April 29, 2008).

— When “Blame Canada,” a song from “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut,” was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award, it was Williams who performed the song at the ceremony. Mary Kay Bergman, the actress who performed the song in the film, had committed suicide a few months earlier.

— After a 20-year break from stand-up comedy, Williams came back with a show on Broadway. It won the 2003 Grammy for the best spoken word album.

— The year was 1996 when Williams reached a milestone by having two of his films reach the $100-million mark in the U.S. in the same week. The films were “Jumanji” and “The Birdcage.”

— Williams was raised in the Episcopal Church. He once related the top reasons to be an Episcopalian. Among them were: pew aerobics, no snake handling; male and female, God created them, male and female we ordain them, and free wine on Sunday.

IN HIS WORDS …

“The Second Amendment says we have the right to bear arms, not to bear artillery.”

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

“Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?”

“If women ran the world we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.”

“If it’s the Psychic Network, why do they need a phone number?”

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

“Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.”

“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.”

“Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’; and ‘tics,’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures.’”

“Cricket is basically baseball on Valium.”

“In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say, ‘Stop, or I’ll say stop again.’”

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”

“Death is nature’s way of saying, ‘Your table is ready.’”

“A woman would never make a nuclear bomb. They would never make a weapon that kills. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while.”

“We’re dealing with fundamentalists. The Amish are fundamentalists, but they don’t try an hijack a carriage at needlepoint.”

“She is not perfect. You are not perfect. The question is whether or not you are perfect for each other.”

“The truth is, if anything, I’m probably addicted to laughter.”

“Okra is the closest thing to nylon I’ve ever eaten. It’s like they bred cotton with a green bean. Okra tastes like snot. The more you cook it, the more it turns into string.”

“When you look at Prince Charles, don’t you think that someone in the Royal family knew someone in the Royal family?”

“What kind of food did we drop on Afghanistan? Pop-Tarts, peanut butter … just add a Honey Baked Ham and you’ve got a redneck Christmas.”

“Welcome to Washington, D.C., where the buck stops here! Way to go. And then it’s handed out to AIG and many other people.”

“You know the difference between a tornado and divorce in the South? Nothing! Someone is losing a trailer.”

“I was once on a German talk show, and this woman said to me, ‘Mr. Williams, why do you think there is not so much comedy in Germany?’ And I said, ‘Did you ever think you killed all the funny people?’”

“I’m a born entertainer. When I open the fridge door and the light goes on, I burst into song.”

“People say satire is dead. It’s not dead; it’s alive and living in the White House.”

ONE LAST THING …

Once asked what he (Robin Williams) would like to hear God say when he arrives in heaven, he answered, “There’s a seat in the front for the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley concert.” From fans near and far, here’s hoping you enjoy the show.