Robin Williams' 5 Best Stand-Up Moments
Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, took his own life yesterday. He was 63. Rather than post a drippy and maudlin obituary, it’s preferable — especially when it comes to comedians — to remember their comedy and remember the laughs. These are our favorite stand-up moments from his celebrated career.
1. Robin Williams roasts Richard Pryor. If comedy were a religion, Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce would be the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When Pryor was roasted in 1977, Robin Williams was one of his roastees. In hindsight, this makes perfect sense, but at the time Williams was far from established. He was known in the comedy circuit but was still a few years away from Happy Days and Mork & Mindy. Williams’ set was brief, only two minutes, but in those two minutes he essentially stole the show. (Skip to 3:35 for Williams directly, though Marsha Warfield’s set was great also.)
2. An Evening with Robin Williams. By 1982, Williams was pretty well known for his wild and tangential improvisations, and while An Evening with Robin Williams had several bits from his established set, the vast majority of his set that night was improvised on the spot. Rapid fire to the point of being spastic, Williams jumped from one topic to another without drawing a breath or seguing the way most comedians would. His fans loved it, though some in the audience were new to this and were taken aback by how unstructured and unrestricted his show was.
3. An Evening/Night at the Met. This was 1986, and Williams had hit his stride. Comedians, really, are about uncomfortable truths about society, and often themselves as well. On this night, Williams spoke clearly and unequivocally about drugs and his struggles with addiction that was as confessional as it was funny.
4. The final Johnny Carson episode. This isn’t technically a stand-up routine, but this is a bit of a gray area. Williams was Carson’s first guest on his final show. While trying to play off his feelings, Carson was clearly shaken and when Williams came out he did so with one goal: Make Johnny laugh. While Carson did work a bit to keep the interview on the rails, he did eventually succumb to Williams’ antics and laughed quite a bit. It was a needed moment of levity.
5. Weapons of Self-Destruction was Robin Williams’ final stand-up special, released in 2009. His energetic performance touched on a little bit of everything that Williams was known for — rapid fire jokes, impressions, social commentary and a great deal of politics.