The Robin Show
Just like Morgan Mindy or the crazy ones. The series is made possible through advertising. And I WANNA make sure that choose advertisers that are relevant to you so so help me learn about listening. Please go to pod survey dot com slash knowing to take a quick anonymous survey. Once you've completed the survey you can choose to enter. Enter for a chance to win a one hundred dollars Amazon gift card terms and conditions apply. Start the survey now at pod survey dot com slash knowing that's P. O. D. D. S. U. R. V. E. Y. dot com slash. Now in. I love this city I grew up in a very special place to me. That's the intro. To the comedy special. An evening with Robin Williams were hearing during its sultry nostalgic and makes you wonder what in the world does twangy. Old Western music has to do with San Francisco. Anyway founded this Robin Williams. He's disguised as a newspaper Hawker and he's got this. Great Leather Aviator Jacket on a red baseball CAP. and He's speaking incredibly ably fast out of the side of his mouth rarefied Ringo Starr man. You heard that right. He just compared the late. Palestinian stinian leader Yasser Arafat to former Beatles Drummer Ringo Starr and if you google that it might be true. So what kind of mind leaps to all of these places from politics to rock and roll to religion all in less than a minute. That's something only Robin Kapoor. Welcome back to knowing Robin Williams. I'm your house I Christie West Guard and I'm Dave it's cough. I'm a New York Times Culture reporter and I'm the author of a biography on Robin Williams called Robin last week. We we left off with Robin getting cut from Juilliard. And heading back to San Francisco in the winter of nineteen seventy six and he comes back to the city at a sort of golden era for its comedy scene gene right Dave Well San Francisco at that time was really undergoing a kind of comedy renaissance or or a revolution. San Francisco used to be the kind of city he where very straightforward and buttoned-down comedy routines were put on these were men wearing suits and ties and telling narratives lives and delivering one liners in what were formerly comedy clubs. Now you're finding in San Francisco. That comedy is something that can basically be performed warmed anywhere any setup that has four walls and a door is starting to put on comedy shows and so the very first place that Robin ends up performing in a church basement or the basement of a kind of progressive interfaith groups and so that's A launching pad bad for him and then I'll within a few months he becomes irregular. A At a San Francisco Club called the Holy City Zoo. It's a very small club. It's one that quickly developed a reputation for pudding on The kind of four most San Francisco Comedians. The wildest ones the most surprising ones that the dirtiest ones. It's a place where a lot of people go to drink and do drugs. Also and that is part of its mystique and part of it's charmer armor electricity at the time. That all these things are kind of Co Mingling and that is The crowd and the scene that that Robin I really gets absorbed into two. And that's where Robin Meets Valery Velocity. He sometimes bartended at the Holy City Zoo and one night as he was working Valerie caught his eye. She was a dance instructor at the time as well as a masters student and cocktail waitress and the two just hit it off when she comes to the bar he doesn't present himself as has the usual robin than he starts talking to her in a French accent and cheese completely taken in by this and the whole night. He's talking to her as as if he is You know a French man in America and the go out for a nighttime drive and she eventually dropped him off at his parents house and and it's only later that she comes to realize that the man that she was hanging out with that whole night was American and I. It's it's very charming thing and romantic but is also very indicative of how Robin is around people and certainly around people that he doesn't totally know yetter etter doesn't maybe feel completely comfortable with yet that he puts up a little bit of a distance or kind of a mask on himself of a persona to protect himself from this person until he feels like I can totally trust you with who I am It's much easier for me to play this character and you can make your judgments about the character because if you were to really reject me I who I would be so deeply wounded that I couldn't take it and Robin still pretty a young around. This time. He's twenty five years old he's been going around. San Francisco's comedy clubs performing with cowboy boots and unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt his hairy chest and just lots lots of sweat. And he's starting to make a name for himself. Meanwhile his relationship with Valerie is ramping up and the two decide to go to Los Angeles to jump start his career. It's really astonishing. How fast everything happens for Robin once he moved to La certainly by the standards of that era era and even by the standards of today that right away because he has a little bit of a track record from San Francisco? He's able to get great. Gigs in the major clubs in Los Angeles Robin Robin began performing with a troupe called off the wall and West Hollywood and he took off his gigs. Bigger small really seriously he even had business cards printed up. which seems so uh-huh silly thinking back on it but he was committed as you worked the crowds night after night? He got really good at time. More traditions like shutting down hecklers. Ah I keep it back on okay. Another reason to legalize abortion in America. He also pulled from his more former train. I would like to Shakespeare's only unknown work. So that's the way lookit soon. He got a chance to who edition for Mitzi Shore Booker and owner of the comedy store. which was the comedy club of the time? And he managed to impress her he scored a salaried position that paid two hundred dollars a week. which doesn't sound like a ton but it's more about the stability of knowing that he was going to get that money in his bank account every week which was rare in something matt he'd never had before and this just want to show what weight class Robin was punching? That's where he starts to make inroads and friendships with people like Richard Pryor. Who would be a kind of a mentor and idol to Robin throughout his stand up comedy career but for just about about every comic who took the stage at these clubs? The dream was to perform a stand up set. That caught the attention of a talent scout. Like Howard Pap Ish. I was one of two the people who basically used to scour the the comedy stores and to watch people and to see if they were ready for the show were if there was tangible Howard was a talent coordinator for the tonight show starring Johnny Carson. If he liked your site it could open the most important dohrn comedy an invitation to say on Janis Couch and entertain millions. Johnny loves stand up COMEDIANS. So so that if we booked a comedian the first time and they really scored at life. Them He'd want them back right away. Howard met Robin in early nineteen seventy? I'm Nick Saban. And he immediately recognized that star quality. I was about to go to San Diego and I happened to be talking to Mitzi shore and I said listen I'm going to be in San Diego for the weekend. I may have some time to stick by head in the door. Will you leave a couple of passes for me. Absolutely I said in and who's peering there did anybody I know and she should feel walking. She had this winding voice and she said well we ham best wanted to be about one. And she's ever seen Robin Williams Howard hadn't he went to the comedy store with his wife that night as the two had done countless times before so I sat through two other comedians. Who Fine nothing special? But find and then Robin Williams comes on the scene and I mean like within five minutes of the stand. I probably went on for about an hour. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing there was just something so special about him and I was Struggling because a lot of material was blue there was a lot of profanity. All which of course we couldn't use on the tonight show so in my mind. I was sort of editing being about Does he have enough material for for fifty minutes here but I was so completely entertained. Detained and laughed so hard Howard went up to Robin after the show to introduce themselves and the to set up an audition in Los Angeles for the following week so flash flash forward to Ben when Robin came in and he Florida Howard yet again with his character bets and political references and then looked at him and I said to him do you know. Oh that you're a star that you're a star that just hasn't been discovered you looked at it blankly like what you talking about. Howard never did get the chance to book Robin though his content might have been hilarious? But it definitely wasn't tame enough for TV and Davis is a big chance that robin kind of blue. I mean the tonight show. Is the Golden Standard and Robin into this audition with the wrong type of material. Robin didn't fully appreciate what that meant men or it was something that was important to him but he also wasn't necessarily interested in doing this specific work that the producers of the tonight show expected in order for him to earn that he was the kind of guy who liked to show up at a club read the energy and do what came to him and so that made him a little bit uncertain leaving a little bit dangerous to the producers and they weren't willing to make that commitment now looking back. We know that this isn't game over for Robyn and by any means he's going to end up appearing on Johnny's show not once but many times over as his career progresses you'll become one of Johnny's favorite guests and his even invited headed by Johnny to be one of a select few who performs for Janis. Final show never cease to be amazed at the versatility and the wonderful work. That Robin Williams does. Would you welcome him. Please Robin Williams here. You see Robin coming onto stage to greet Johnny for this final time. Needs Pushing along this monstrosity of rocking chair. That has these kind of bent guitarist for legs trump. Free the girl something from the Elvis Estate and here comes the punchline. Sit on down. We'll give you an opinion but for now robin continued to hone his own skills. He was taking classes with Harvey lumberjack. Who was prolific comedic actor of the time and a really stern teacher and it was an harvey's class that Robin was noticed? By the wife of Larry Breath ner he was this big shot agent at Roland. Joffe which was one of the top management companies of that time they represented Woody Allen they represented Dick Cavite. They had just signed. I'm David Letterman and Billy Crystal and thought that both of them were going to be big deals and they were right about that. Robin signed on with the firm. So at this point he's been hacking it for just just under a year in one thousand nine hundred seventy seven. He appears in a few low budget films and he joins the cast of Richard. Pryor Scott Shut Cheshire Humpty dumpty of this man is obviously a master off. The Sky ahead of its time with sketches is that often satirized race in America. That's obvious is. This woman is ridiculous. You C- auto man. Stranger from the north comes kerm. Some calls I bel- of the soft ridiculous. Ma I beg you bringing medical guilty guilty guilty guilty. Don't but behind the scenes. Tensions were really high. Richard was known to abuse drugs and alcohol and he was often in disagreement with the network about the content of his this show which created a toxic environment that led to the show being canceled just three weeks after it launched after that Robin struggled to find a more steady GIG and it felt like there weren't any long term gains from all the work he was putting in for these one off jobs while he doesn't know though is that the stars are starting to line up when we come back from the break Robbins handed the role. He's been waiting for today. I want to tell you about another podcast. I think you'll enjoy. It's called the Ted interview and it's hosted by Chris Anderson the head of Ted. That's Ted as Ted Talks Hawks Ted ex and now the TED interview podcast. It's full of deep dives with great minds and season. Three's out now here from people like author a leaf Sha faulk on my populists are so good at manipulating human emotions in Stockton Mayor Michael Tubs on why fixing violence in America means helping victims and perpetrators and a whole lot more checkout ted interview wherever you listen. Today's episode is supported by the podcast film. Spotting film spotting was called a force for a good in the universe by Ryan Johnson Director of knives out in the last Jedi and it was dubbed the flagship film podcast by Indie wire film spotting has been producing adducing weekly show since two thousand five every week hosts Adam templar Josh Larsen share in-depth discussions of new films old favorites and revered classics classics. Find reviews on new hits like joker and Ad Astra and here indepth discussions of their favourite Tarantino characters. Judy garland moments horror. Movie scares and David fincher scenes and check out their nine from ninety nine series where they discuss classics from the year. Nineteen ninety nine including the Matrix Eyes Wide Shut Fight Club and the Blair witch project find film spotting wherever you listen to podcasts and that film spotting dot net in every Tuesday night eight families across America sat down to tune into. ABC's happy days by the late. Seventy S and become the second most popular television series but fresh ideas. We're getting harder to come by. Guy told me even though it had been a top rated program for a while all is starting to lose steam. They were kind of running out of ideas and the series creator. Garry Marshall had son who was very much a fan of star wars this at the time and went to his dad and said Dad. I want to see a space man on happy days and Gary Marshall being the dutiful father turned to his writings. Daven said Scotty wants to see a space man. We've gotTA figure out how to make that happen. And this was a show that set in nineteen fifties Milwaukee. There's no star wars characters. There's in that era so they come up with the character of Mork from ORC. Who is this kind of a good natured? Slightly naive alien. Who doesn't completely really understand earth customs and the way that humans interact and he shows up on the planet Beasley seeking perfectly average human specimen men that he can take back with him to his home planet and so essentially producers of happy days had to have this kind of fire sale audition where they just brought in every comedian and comic actor who was available at the time and they just kind of went through people one by one when they brought Robin in they had him sit down in their office and they said presenting with a chair and they say Okay Robin can you sit in this chair? The way that an alien would and so instead of You know sitting thing on it the way that humans are used to kind of went into the chair head first and then put his finger in a glass of water pretended to drink from the glass through his finger. They wait that became kind the signature news but it was robin invented in moment certain new new then and there had their remember me he wants me. Nuts from outer space and Robin was marvelous in the role but because it was a guest spy it looked like another short stint job. Where very little would actually come of it but meanwhile at ABC? There's this strange turn of events where they're starting to prepare for their fall season and they don't really like the shows that they have in development and they're kind of looking at the cupboard and I'm feeling like it's a little bit bear so the network turned to Gary Marshall to see if he had any ideas and he's like. Oh Yeah we we just had this kid who is great in happy days and You know maybe we give them a series of his own and maybe mork becomes his own character on a show. It's absurd that things fell into place for Robin in this. This very ramshackle process Larry Bresnan partner. Buddy more called up robin to deliver the good news that he was about to have his own show and that he'd be paid fifteen eighteen hundred dollars a week. Which delighted Robert but it turns out? That Moro was only joking about the salary. He then dropped a bombshell on him. And let Robin know that he would would in fact be making fifteen thousand a week. Robin was floored. Now I'll gary needed to do was find and more from the planet or a Co Star he decides to give more this kind of human roommate or friend or counterpart. Who can be the kind of straight man to more wildness? And that's the character of Mindy who's played by Pam Dober- at the same time. Robin was also moving ahead in his personal life. Life before they began filming Robin Valerie decided to get married so on June fourth nineteen seventy eight. They hadn't outdoor ceremony in a venue that overlooked the San San Francisco. Bay Robin was about to get his first taste of fame with Valerie by his side. Right before Robin started on Mork and Mindy. His managers basically really sat down with Valerie and said look your husband's going to be super famous. He's GonNa make a lot of money and you're going to have plenty of time to go shopping every day and that really wounded wounded her as you can understand that. That was not the ride that she wanted to go on. She wasn't somebody who just wanted to sit at home and decorate a Howson awesome twiddle. Her thumbs Valerie brushed off this encounter and in July of nineteen seventy eight robin began filming the first episode of Morgan. Mindy just by. Its its nature Morgan. Mindy becomes a kind of second home to Robina certainly a home base for him professionally. Where so much of his career to that point had been kind of disconnected and freelance and one job to the next job to the next? This is something that is at least in theory going to sustain him for a few years and a permanent place of operation for him. Robin liked to read the script for the week on Wednesday night right before the casts big morning read through on Thursday and he'd somehow remember all of the lines in that short amount of time and it soon became clear to Howard Storm. Who was the director of the a series that Robin had a sort of photographic memory? Robin was given a lot of opportunity particularly by Howard in rehearsals to to try to figure out new material or try to riff off of what was on the page. Or if Howard identified something in a scene if he thought Robin could do it. Better do it in a different way. That was more comfortable or better fitting for him. He would let Robin do that. So giving robin that permission and having that kind of give and take was very valuable to robin but it also created this kind of perception in the outside world that this is Robin Show and everything thing. That's good about it is what's coming off the top of his head. Robin fueled that perception in press conferences. Which really frustrated his writing staff and one day they would get their revenge? They sent down a blank script with just four words. Robin does his thing and it wasn't just the writers who felt left out. Pam D to You too. Sometimes she would find out about say a photo shoot for a magazine article and they only wanted Robin and not her. She would literally be picking up a magazine the only him on the cover and not her and so she would go to him at times and tell him her feelings not that she was specifically mad at him because she knew you. He wasn't the one engineering. It was coming from the studio and the network in to some extent robbins managers who were very powerful and we're pushing him as lead of the show and he would say I understand your feelings. I know this must be so hurtful empathize with her but not necessarily go the distance and draw a line and say. I'm not doing this unless Pam is in it to the way that robin treated Pam was problematic. Not all all the time but fairly often pam daub or talked about the fact that a lot of her interactions or the behind the scenes kind of humor relationship that she she had with Robin on his end you know was very body and was very inappropriate. That sometimes he would just you know. Get undressed or be undressed in in front of her as a way to kind of shock her or you know he can be very physical with her. And sometimes we'd Grope her in ways that you know he never intended to be Sexual or come on and was just trying to be Funny and familiar with her but in a way that I think we understand is is completely inappropriate. I mean the sort of behavior certainly wouldn't fly today. Yeah You know you can try to say well. It was just the time that they were in. And that's people behaved but there is also definitely this aspect aspect of a person who is starting to get his first taste of power. This is his show and he knows it's becoming successful and there's things that he can do and in and ways that he can be with other people that people can't really push back on her. They can't tell him you're not allowed to do that now. Pam Did tell you that she never took these encounters too seriously. She saw that Robbins. Intentions were more playful than predatory but his actions toward her were a revealing character flaw. Aw It's part of what's going on in his mind at that time and how he thinks about women how he thinks he can be with women and there's something that's kind of In a pretty juvenile to even though by this point he's already in his late twenties a is understanding and his appreciation of women is still kind of narrow in its first season. Morgan Mindy was widely watched highly enjoyed. And that was thanks in no small part to Robin. Who is now a fixture of Hollywood's elite? He continued to prove himself through his stand up to live at the roxy was one of the very first cable specials that Robin appeared in and it was totally built around him. It was really important for him to kind of draw. A distinction between who the more from ORC character was and and who he was. I have to explain one during the mark because this is why I perform here to do something different that as a stand up. He did things that were much more adult much more sophisticated Much more sexualize. At times things that work would never do on the show and that was okay That he could say this is my act. This is my TV the character and we're not the same person near the end of the special. Robin did a character. A bit of himself as an old man. Forty years in the future from me to you. You've got to be crazy not I'm talking about four Goose Bozo because what is reality and he saying what's going to happen to me when I reached that age. What is life going to be like for me? What happens if my career starts to collapse? If the wheels come off if my fans start to abandon me what's going to happen to me if my mind mind and my body start to deteriorate what if I can't operate at the speed and the pace that I am known for and the thing about Robin is he loved the Hustle. He loved to work and he kept a grueling schedule. Between MORK and Mindy to stand up appearances but it was all all of his own choice. Eventually managers decided to bring in a helping hand. I live right near the Improv in West Hollywood that's been at tremor he's best known for writing ever-popular Early Ninety s Sitcom saved by the bell. He also helped robin write new material but before he knew robin as a trusted colleague and friend he I stumbled the upon him performing at the Improv took about thirty seconds to realize this guy is just unique. He exploded on the stage. Just as this burst of energy he would do one character after another and completely changed. It's transformed from one character to another like morphing in split-second can completely different body language. Different voices different facial expressions now. I want to Preface Bennett Story of meeting Robin by saying that it really shows how small the industry is and how much the whole I know a guy who knows guy plays a role blurry president read a script of mine on the my agent submitted committed to him calm. Horseradish was a story of data out producer who discovers the lost tribe of Israel but doesn't realize it and it was funny. Larry loved it. He tell her agent this historical but it makes the Talmud the book of Jewish wisdom and makes it the Goyeneche thousands really finding so got me a meeting with with Charlie Joffe and Hollywood Charlie Joffe president. I said you know your new clients. They knew Robin Williams insider them and love to write something for him and they said Great. You know we're all for sort comeback with ideas we'll get going then. It also happened to be friends with Ken Lerner. Who was a buddy of Robin and Valerie's and the two went to see Robyn performed for Bennett thirtieth birthday so I went to see them and can introduce me and I told Robin that his managers like my script and he's very particular that was our talk and he said look good love to read the script? Drop it by my apartment sometime. He stopped by Robin's place in West. Hollywood a few nights later these outrageous colorful shirts to the always wears and he introduced me. I remember the first introduced me to Perritt whose his name was. Truman capote and the parrot had been taught to say parents can't talk. The two began working together on Robin's first comedy the album reality. What a concept Robbins Act? That time was great as nightclub act but yeah so visual to see the facial expressions Russians the body language I was hired to create more verbal material. Robin began to see Bennett as an antidote to Hollywood he. I was hearing a lot of you know you're going to be bigger going to be great. You're going to be the next big star and I think I was sort of a safe refuge for him. I was a little skeptical. Skeptical of the whole Hollywood deal. You'll be great and you're the greatest I mean. His case it was true fame created smokescreens. That made it difficult for Robin to judge his work. I'd say he knew he was funny. But like all really talented people. He worries about how funny he is. And Jesus people love me so much a really worthy of Robin relied on Bennett. As a sort of litmus test or has work and saw his opinion on a project managers really wanted him to do a movie musical version of Popeye with Robin playing iconic cartoon sailor it would be Robbins first leading role in film. Would've gave me the script of Popeye. He said what do you think. Honestly I said honestly it'd be honest and I said well I hope you talking like Popeye is enough to make this movie work work. Because there's no story here ultimately though Robin decided to do the film the film again would I am despite tender. Performance has garbled voice in the films highly stylized feel left audiences confused and and. He'll never come to me with in. The poor reception. Weighed heavily on Robin. who was also getting a better taste of the film industry? He and Bennett tried to pitch their own film. We have the idea that Robin would play. Six characters. Sextuplets separated at birth unaware of each other's existence so we pitched it to Robbins Robbins managers and we were all excited and they said it sounded contrived so it's back to the drawing board next be thought of There's a lot of protests going on in the Soviet Union and people trying to get out so we thought Robert implying a Polish dissident his managers. You know. That's that's sort of politics and The Soviet Union dissidents and we. We don't have this. Is Robert Political movie. So let's see next. She came up the idea of robbing a boy who turns thirty but we pitch that rapids managers and they said Robin these personal blows. He tied his identity to his work and felt only as good as his. Most recent accomplishment be kept getting projections and that's all part of it. I'm a writer you you've got to pitch a million things to go somewhere. But for Robin he didn't didn't totally lose interest but it was like Jesus shooting on everything we come up with. I could be just as he felt. He got the win that he needed reality. What a concept? The comedy album he'd worked on with Bennett was released and it became an instant hit. Billboard placed it on their top ten list and Time magazine gave gave Robin a cover Bennett. Congratulated Robbins publicist. Still end lower on the win so I said to his style guide you arrange. This is great. Isn't it and she said about that. Happy be about. It's a really. It's a real cool isn't it. And she said don't you realize they build him up just so they can tear them down the almost need someone that big to to say. He's not really what people think he has. His team is why for fighting. He's having affairs with a drug addict and is still saw. Ah that whole star making machine and even though she was helping to create it she could see a young twenty six year old guy. And you're going to get after him later. Hollywood is a fickle lover. Though and while Robin has seen the pendulum sway a little. His career was about to swing into force force. That's all for this episode of knowing Robin Williams when we come back next week. We're taking a moment to sit down and listen to some classic Robin stand up and Improv with a special guest author I got I got everything I got. Every part of your robin the nicest sweetest guy to being again complementary to to try to force thanks to Dave. It's cough checkout his book. Robin to learn even more. And please be sure to subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts. spotify stitcher or wherever you like to listen. Robin had an impact act on your life. We'd love to hear about it. Send us an email at knowing at Macmillan dot com. I'm Christie West Guard your host and producer. Thanks so much for listening C._U. Next week.