Blastr POV: The best of Robin Williams

It seems the entire Internet is in mourning over the passing of comedic legend Robin Williams, with Twitter tributes, retrospectives and tales of the artist's kindness and humanity inundating social media and various websites. The collective eulogization is a testament to the impact Williams has had on pop culture over the past 30-40 years; if you were alive in that time, whether you were a gag-loving kid or an adult fan of deep drama (or both in the same body), Williams' work was a part of your cultural DNA. That's certainly true of those of us here at Blastr, and so we wanted to take a moment to recall some of the moments we most remember from the life and career of this supremely talented man and certified fellow member of the geek tribe

Aaron Sagers: Robin Williams will always be Popeye to me. Along with Kermit (the frog) and Ernie (BFF to Bert), Popeye (the sailor man) was a favorite stuffed friend from my early years. And I loved the 1980 Robert Altman movie. Yes, the same musical live-action flick of a cartoon strip that was a critical failure and considered a commercial flop despite grossing more than double its budget. Popeye was a silly sailor mumbling his way through the silly town of Sweethaven in an exceptionally silly movie. Like his surroundings, he was colorful, and I couldn’t get enough of the singing, dancing, (eventually) spinach-eating hero. Lacking a VHS tape of the movie, my sister and I used to stop what we were doing and watch anytime it aired on TV -- and she still does a mean Shelley Duvall-as-Olive Oyl impression. Of course I will remember Robin Williams from Aladdin, Hook, Insomnia and many fanboy conversations that cast him as the Riddler. But my heart hurts the most for the loss of the man who was Popeye to me, and my message in the bottle is being thrown out to a sailor-man comedian with one eye and a lot of muskles.

Jeff Spry: My heart-tugging go-to Robin Williams moment comes from Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King back in 1991: The romantic scene in the Chinese food restaurant when Williams' character, Parry, sings "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" to Lydia, his quirky date, played by Amanda Plummer.  It's such a delicate, pure rendition of the whimsical song first made famous by another legendary comedic actor, Groucho Marx, in 1939's At The Circus.  It's just a quiet, beautiful moment that reminds us of Williams' gentle soul and the simple childlike wonder he often drew from, dramatically backlit by a hot pink and blue booth decorated with Asian dragons, flanked with restaurant workers listening in after closing time as we fade away from the intimate performance.   That will always be the serene and turbulent genius of Robin Williams for me.

Carol Pinchefsky: In The Fisher King, Robin Williams plays Parry, a former professor who became homeless after suffering emotional trauma instigated by Jack Lucas, played by Jeff Bridges (professors and teachers were a specialty of Williams; see Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, and Dead Poets Society). In this movie, about both of their redemptions, Williams managed to play both wacky and scattered while conveying a deep vulnerability. In this scene, we learn about the legend of the Fisher King. Williams plays the entire scene naked, on his back, and in profile, yet the power of his voice transports us from Central Park to the world of King Arthur. It was lovely work. He was a wonderful and talented actor and comedian who was frequently wacky, occasionally menacing and always from the heart.

Matthew Jackson: Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King is not technically a fantasy film, but it does become a kind of modern-day quest story as we watch the two men at the center of it almost literally become mad knights battling to right their lives, and it features my favorite Robin Williams performance. As Parry, a man broken by tragedy but clinging to the hope of new love, Williams brilliantly walked the line between mirth and pain, all at once the jolly vagabond and the tortured spirit, stripped bare (literally, at one point) until you see every wound, but even then there's a kind of joy. It's such a raw, sensitive and beautiful performance, and it's a reminder of how gifted Williams was when it came to juggling comedy and drama, often playing them both at the same time.

Ernie Estrella: Like many, my earliest memories of Robin Williams start with Mork and Mindy, and while I never knew how great a standup comedian he was, I knew he was a great entertainer. He's had several other roles that are more mainstream and timeless that many others will list but, for me, I'm still haunted in his portrayal of Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo, because I never knew he could go "there" and since then I've passionately wanted more performances out of him like that. It was such a dark character study that it made me watch Mrs. Doubtfire differently. Rather than his wacky hullabaloo, it was all in the body language, the method acting and the wondering about what was going on inside his head that made me love that performance. 

Don Kaye: I knew of Robin Williams early on through his work as a comedian, of course, and watched Mork and Mindy along with everyone else. But I realized just how much depth and power he had as an actor when I saw him in Good Morning, Vietnam. The movie seemed to start off as a typically zany Williams vehicle, but when it took a darker, more serious turn, Williams turned right along with it to devastating effect. From there, it was one brilliant performance after another: Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting and so many more. But Good Morning, Vietnam is the one that stayed with me all these years. Sadly, we'll never see him now as the Riddler, a role he always wanted and one that he may have been born to play. But even sadder is that we'll never see him again. He was a comic genius, an inspired lunatic and a humane, riveting actor, and it saddens me to no end that the world has lost the blazing light of his talent.

Trent Moore: As a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with Peter Pan. Admittedly, I was a weird kid. But, that's a big reason Robin Williams' performance in Hook stuck with me so much as a child, and still does to this day. Williams' pitch-perfect take on manic, wild Peter Pan was fantastic — and I positively wore that VHS tape out until we had to buy a second copy. Watching his journey showed me its not all bad to grow up, but regardless, you can still be a kid on the inside. I can't wait until my own son is old enough to watch and enjoy it, so I can share the impact Williams had on me, with him. R.I.P., and Ru-fi-oooooooooo.

Krystal Clark: Robin Williams' performances have been a huge part of my life dating back to childhood. When I think of him, I think of the joy and excitement he brought as Peter Pan in 1991's Hook. His version of J.M. Barrie's classic character always puts a smile on my face. I loved how he embodied both Peter's mischievous nature and loss of innocence. There was something about that movie that mirrored Williams' real personality. He could be larger than life, but also distant and subdued. He was a man of many talents, and Hook showcases them all. 

Nathalie Caron: Robin Williams. A great man, actor, comedian, husband, father. I grew up with his films, like Good Morning, Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire. He was my genie in Aladdin, gave me a lump in my throat with Dead Poets Society. I grinned at him as Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum and laughed openly at his complete outrageousness in his last television series, The Crazy Ones. When I learned the news of his passing yesterday evening I was stunned, numb. I could not believe it. But it is real. Dear Mr. Williams, thank you for everything. You shall always remain the ever-youthful Peter Pan for me, and you will be missed.

Cher Martinetti: Celebrity sightings aren't uncommon in NYC. You spot them and sometimes they notice, but us New Yorkers pretty much live in a perpetual state of being unimpressed, so for the most part nothing happens when we see someone famous. A few years back, when I was working in SoHo, I spotted Robin Williams walking down Crosby Street. I came out of a building as he walked by and it just so happened we were both walking south. Well, I was walking. He was dancing.  And I don't know if it was because he knew he had been spotted or because it was a sunny day in SoHo and he felt like dancing his way down Crosby Street.  But for two blocks I walked behind him while he danced, the whole time smiling and thinking to myself, "He really is Peter Pan."

Adam Swiderski: Robin Williams first made waves with a manic and overwhelming comedic energy that he channeled into his stage performances and his work on Mork and Mindy. Although he went on to have a very successful big-screen career, few filmmakers found a way to truly harness that aspect of his genius. It's not surprising that Terry Gilliam would be one of them. Gilliam's off-kilter cinematic style was a perfect fit for the Robin Williams we first came to know and love, and although his scene in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as the King of the Moon/Everything was short, it was delightfully out-there and a wonderful reminder of the downright hilarious weirdness of which Robin Williams was capable. 

What's your favorite Robin Williams memory? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter at @blastr.

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