"Now don't sit on the keyboard!" Williams said, coaxing laughs from a few dozen people in a
How did he get there? Explaining it would take twice as long as it took to actually happen. Would anyone else in the world have made such a leap?
Not a chance. Williams, who died in an apparent suicide Monday, was a comic force of nature. The world got to know him as the wild alien in "Mork & Mindy," a comedian who elevated improvisation to an art form and also demonstrated a rare versatility in more serious roles. He moved seamlessly from comedy to drama to tragedy to comedy again during a
He touched every generation and demographic, making his entrance in a 1970s comic generation with
Williams was the voice of a genie in "Aladdin" and a hyper disc jockey in "Good Morning Vietnam." In "Mrs. Doubtfire," he played a dad who dressed as a woman to see his kids, and in "Birdcage," he played a gay man. He was an English teacher in "
On a stage, in front of the lights, is where Williams shined most brightly. The riffs, tangents and impersonations came rushing at the audience, a seemingly endless torrent. It looked like onstage cocaine, a drug he abused in real life and, of course, made part of his comedy.
"Cocaine is God's way of telling you you are making too much money," he would say.
On a television talk show, hosts knew Williams barely needed to be wound up. Sometimes, he needed only an audience of one: Williams visited
The roles became less prominent as he aged and a different generation took the spotlight. Last year.
That didn't make Williams unique —
Like many comedians, Williams often seemed driven by demons. He had a complicated personal life, suffered from depression and was treated for substance abuse, most recently earlier this summer. He did a few lines of cocaine with John Belushi on the last night of that comic's life.
A darkness seeped in during an interview with comedian
Stand-up comedy was where Williams got the most satisfaction.
"You get the feedback," Williams said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. "There's an energy. It's live theater. That's why I think actors like that. You know, musicians need it, comedians definitely need it. It doesn't matter what size and what club, whether it's 30 people in the club or 2,000 in a hall or a theater. It's live, it's symbiotic, you need it."
In the 2013
Instantly, "Elmer" was singing
Ultimately, Williams had needs no one could meet. The millions of people he made laugh over nearly four decades in the public consciousness weren't enough.
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