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Like many of you, I am completely stunned and deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Robin Williams yesterday. I know this is a bit of a departure from our normal Soupfly but I hope you don’t mind and will indulge me while I share with you the Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Robin Williams and the Characters He Portrayed.
But before I do that, I’d like to tell you a story of when I had the great privilege of serving Robin Williams at a restaurant that I worked at in Los Angeles. He came in by himself, he ordered-soup and.. Well, I say that “I’d like to tell you a story” but if I did I’d be making it up. I’d also like to tell you about the time that I was performing Stand-up at the world famous Comedy Store in LA and Robin Williams gave me advice after my set. But that didn’t happen either. Would’ve been nice though. No, I only met Robin once in passing at some event that I was working at with Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events. I saw him in the hallway. I think he was coming out of the restroom. I said, “Hello Mr. Williams.” He nodded “Hi” and that was it. We never spoke to each other again. I kind of regret that now.
So many lives (mine included) have been profoundly influenced and affected by the life of this incredibly talented, gifted and giving individual-Robin Williams. It all began for me in 1978 when he, as Mork from Ork and his Egg shell spaceship crashed onto the scene in Boulder Colorado. The show Mork and Mindy, ran for 4 years which just happened to be the same 4 years(1978-1982) that I was in high school.
Robin Williams was a comic genius and I thought I was too (just kidding) He was an inspiration to anyone, including me, who thought they were funny. I remember trying out for our school “Fine Arts Festival” doing my impression of Mork and stealing Robin Williams jokes. I was hilarious-I thought. Mr. Meyers didn’t thinks so. I didn’t make the cut. But I never gave up on my dream of doing stand-up comedy. Eventually, many years later, I made it to Hollywood-I said “made it to Hollywood” NOT “made it in Hollywood” and I had the opportunity to perform at The Comedy Store. That was very exciting for me and a dream come true. I actually performed Stand-up in a number of places around LA-in various coffee shops, on the Metro Bus-don’t ask, and even at a Laundromat-yeah, really don’t ask. I also hosted my own stand up show at Creative Grounds Theater in Los Feliz-then owned by my friend Carey Dunn.
LESSON 1-BE OPTIMISTIC (Mork and Mindy)
Mork from Ork was a wide-eyed optimist and he had a child-like wonder about life and especially about human nature and emotions. He believed what people told him. He had no guile in him and he always spoke the truth. You hear too much from people today about “You’ve got to be realistic.” I’m not sure if that trumps Optimism. There’s too many negative people in the world. If you’re optimistic and it doesn’t work out-so what? Just keep the optimism going for the next time and go at it again. Mork would’ve made a great entrepreneur. Nanoo Nanoo.
Robin Williams portrayed so many amazing characters in film. While there are too many to cite here-and honestly, I’ve not seen every one of his movies, yet there are a few I want to point out and what can be learned from them.
LESSON 2-BE IN THE MOMENT (Mork and Mindy)
Also from the show Mork and Mindy, I think one thing that Robin Williams exemplified was Being in the Moment. The past is past and the future is yet to come. When he was acting as Mork from Ork he was a whirlwind of impressions, improv, creating odd sounds and noises probably never heard before on earth. His rapid fire delivery was almost too much to keep up with. As he delivered line after line the audience was kept in stitches. (Maybe that’s why he was interested in playing Patch Adams later in his career) He was a genius at being in tune with the scene, his co-actors and his own character as well and making that moment something special-magical.
LESSON 3- HAVE FUN. DON’T TAKE LIFE OR YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY (Do I really have to expound on this?)
LESSON 4-TAKE CHANCES (Good Will Hunting)
Easily one of my favorite Robin Williams movies is Good Will Hunting. And I’m guessing that it was one of his as well for it was the only film that actually garnered him an Oscar. He won for Best Supporting Actor, portraying clinical Psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire. While there are many lessons to gain from this heart wrenching film itself- the lesson of Taking Chances to me comes out in the fact that at the time that this movie was being made-1997 Robin already was a huge star and this was a script written by unproven actors and writers. By this time in his career, Robin had some incredibly popular movies-Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Dead Poet’s Society and Good Morning Vietnam, just to name a few. He was a big name actor. He read the script for Good Will Hunting and he loved it and in signing on his star power helped get to get the film made. The film starred two fairly unknown actors at the time-Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also happened to be the screenwriters. By Robin Taking a Chance on these unknown actors and their script-the movie Good Will Hunting catapulted Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s careers. They too, received Oscars for Original Screenplay for the film. Both went on to have great film careers and are still acting today and Ben also started his own insurance company starring a duck.
Take Chances. Don’t be afraid to do something different or to bet on an unknown. Especially if what you’re betting on is people. Give someone-an unknown a chance. Maybe that person is not the one everyone knows as being talented or gifted or whatever but how will the world know unless someone offers them a break? On behalf of Matt and Ben, thank you Robin, for believing in them and that script. Good Will Hunting makes me cry everytime I watch it. At least twice.
LESSON 5- BELIEVE IN WISHES, THE IMPOSSIBLE-ASK AND IT IS GIVEN (Aladdin)
I will share more Lessons I’ve Learned from Robin Williams and the Characters he Played in part 2 of this post which will be published in a few days.
Antonio Banderas said “Before, in Robin Williams, we had a star but unfortunately today, now we have a legend.
Thank you Robin for the laughter and the tears and the life you shared with us. Someone told me once that “Your gift is not for you. It’s for you to share.” Robin Williams did just that-he shared his gift with us all.
To Be Continued…
Thank you for reading.
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I welcome your comments, thoughts and insights.
Cheers and God Bless you All,
Christoff J. Weihman
p.s. I know you’re all going to binge watch Robin Williams movies over the next days. Please share what you watched and what you took away from it.
I too remember clearly when Mork and Mindy was on every week. His crazy antics and left field comedy was refreshing as it was strange, but so entertaining. I followed his work over the years and so many movies that he did, but just to mention the few that stand out. Mrs. Doubtfire, Adrian Koennauer in Good Morning Vietnam and Patch Adams. I still get choked up when he went before the medical counsel and all of his kids showed up with the red bulb noses. So sad to lose another person to depression. So many out there like Robin Williams crying out for help and we can’t hear them. Please listen closely to your friends and relatives. Look for those subtle signs that they too may be suffering in silence. Reach out to them. Hug them. Comfort them. Talk to them. It may just be the one thing they need. Rest in peace Robin. We loved you.
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I thank you for your comments, your support and for being a faithful reader of Soupfly. Your comments are always very insightful. You may remember way back when we were growing up another great comedian died way too early (I know there’s been more than a few) but one that comes to mind is Freddie Prinze. And about a year or two after he died there was a tv movie about his life and his struggles entitled I CAN’T HEAR THE LAUGHTER. Robin Williams’ sudden passing reminded me of that. He was loved by many and will be greatly missed.