Remembering Robin Williams
By Jason Barney
January 5, 2015
The holiday season has gone by. All that turkey was consumed weeks ago. We visited loved ones and opened presents. Many American families have different rituals or traditions they embrace as the weather gets colder, as the calendar turns. A good number rely on movies for entertainment during these colder months. Sometimes, they provide quiet moments. Folks might enjoy sofas, comfy chairs, and popcorn and gather around the big screen television. In the age of Netflix, many of those films are at our fingertips. There are so many good performances and so many great actors. Many people will want to go out for an evening, and a trip to the theater for two hours is always an option.
This holiday season bought us the third Night at the Museum film. One of the actors featured is the iconic Robin Williams, in what will be his last onscreen performance. This is the final time any of us will see new material from one of the all-time greats. It is only appropriate to look back and remember some of the laughs and to note just how significant one performer can be.
My first exposure to Robin Williams was probably in the late 1970s. I was only five or six and reruns of Mork and Mindy were on. Other shows like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley helped uniquely identify what entertainment was during the time period. I have never gone back and re-watched those old episodes. Perhaps I will at some point, since Robin Williams is now gone.
The first time I could identify the actor/comedian by name was in fourth or fifth grade. My fairly protective parents never let me watch anything too violent or with too much crass language, so I had not heard of Williams beyond his days as an alien. Friends, of course, have big brothers and sisters. Not only do older siblings help expose you to the realities of life, they allow you to see more of the world, especially when parents are not around.
So, I was over to a friend’s house and an older brother or sister was supposed to be taking care of my small group of friends. They were, but they were also playing a VHS tape of a Robin Williams standup comedy act. I was too young to get all of his jokes. And Robin Williams was using curse words only my mother and father were allowed to say. So we watched as though we were just a bit younger, devouring Saturday morning cartoons. We laughed, because we saw something we shouldn’t and Robin Williams gained my respect. He was overflowing with foul language only my father could use.
In the summer of 1986, a time period when I became vaguely aware of the idea of new films at the box office, Robin Williams starred in Good Morning Vietnam. The Vietnam War had been over for over a decade by then, and I still wasn’t old enough to understand all of the content of the film, but again, I watched it when my parents were not around.