Chicago native Robin Williams is undoubtedly one of America’s most beloved comedic actors. He began his prolific career as a standup comedian in San Francisco, learning the art of improvisation and applying the innovative new technique to his stage performance. The audiences loved his fresh and energetic onstage persona and the response encouraged Williams to take the next step, moving to Los Angeles to try his luck in larger clubs and Hollywood-connected improv groups.
Williams’ dedication paid off, and he soon landed the role that would make him a star. In 1978, ABC caught wind of Robin Williams’ act and were so impressed that they fast-tracked a new sitcom in which he’d play an alien. Though critics were initially skeptical about the premise, “Mork & Mindy” was a phenomenal hit and launched Robin Williams’ incredibly successful career.
Television couldn’t contain Robin Williams, and soon he was starring in blockbuster Hollywood movies. Familiar with his comedic process, “Good Morning Vietnam” director Barry Levinson took advantage of Williams’ improvisational skills by secretly filming him from a distance, documenting as he naturally interacted with locals and using it as character background for the film. Williams went on to play a wide range of both comic and serious roles in films, and won an Academy Award for 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.”
Robin Williams passed away on August 11th, 2014. His humor touched lives of generations, and for many, he will forever remain the iconic Mork from Ork.
From Winters to Williams: A Legacy in Laughs
By the fourth season of “Mork & Mindy,” the producers decided to add a new character to the mix, played by the only comedian who could match Robin Williams’ spontaneous comic energy: Jonathan Winters. In many ways, the classic TV comedian had paved the way for Robin Williams as television’s first improvisational genius.
“He made it possible to do voices, character, sound effects and all these different things that just opened the world up. He was morphing before the technology,” reflected Williams. “So, that was for me, like the beginning of just, like, ‘Wow.’”
It’s not often that an actor is given the chance to work alongside his comedy idol. On “Mork & Mindy,” the two actors played off each other’s manic energy and the audience loved it. As television co-stars, Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams shared a very special relationship, and learned a great deal from each other’s immense talent.