Nanu Nanu, Bye Bye Robin Williams

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Posted August 12, 2014 by Jeff Prince in Blotch
(Courtesy U.S. Navy)(Courtesy U.S. Navy)

Robin Williams splashed colorfully — literally — into pop culture in 1978 as Mork, wearing a bright red alien suit with a silver upside-down triangle on front.

Once he met Mindy and became acclimated to his Earthly surroundings, he donned an orange and black horizontally striped shirt and baggy blue pants held up by rainbow-colored suspenders. His wild hair shot off in different directions, just like Williams himself.

I was a senior in high school when Mork & Mindy debuted on ABC, and Williams immediately had an impact on me and my friends.

He was fresh, strange, funny, and unpredictable, and we loved him.

One reason the Mork character was so effective and instantly beloved on TV is because Williams’ natural sweetness shone through.

Sure, his manic behavior and endless cast of characters were a blast to watch, but it was that sweet, impish grin at the end of one of his rants that made everything even funnier.

I doubt much of his dialogue or his sweet nature were written into a script; Williams simply was Mork, then and ’till the end.


20 Comments


  1.  
    Who Really Cares

    I really don’t understand how people are so moved and upset by the death of a person they have never met. It seems like everyone I follow on Twitter had to make their sympathy statement (so everyone knew they cared and was impressed with their sorrow, the news stopped down and Jeff Prince even got off his ass and posted this gem. Why? Because some actor killed himself? People are so stuck inside their information world bubble that they think the death of a guy like this somehow involves them. It doesn’t. He was an actor that you paid companies he worked for so that they could funnel the money to him to entertain you. Not much different from the guy who makes Cheerios for you that you eat in the morning.




    •  
      Tim Ruggiero

      Because those of us who live in this sometimes cruel and unforgiving world need a laugh now and then, and Williams never failed to make us laugh, often at his own expense. Try caring about somebody-anybody, other than yourself for once.




      •  
        Who Really Cares

        It’s very comforting you know me so well, Tim, that you can instruct me to care about “somebody-anybody, other than yourself for once.” Glad to see you can make the connection that a person who does not care much about an actor he never met dying, is therefore someone who cares little about anyone in the world. Your reasoning is astounding.




  2.  
    Ginny

    What a sad, damaged person you must be.




  3.  
    Jenni

    Robin Williams probably made every currently living person in America laugh hysterically at one time or another. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to mourn the loss of a public figure who had that kind of impact. It’s ok for a person to feel nostalgia remembering watching Mork and Mindy as a kid and it’s ok to feel a little sad that after all those years it had to come to an end like this. Yeah, people die all the time and people are always going to be sad about it. So why is it so wrong to mourn the loss of a famous person whom many had personal fond memories of?

    Also, I’d like to say that I’d be sad if that guy stopped making me Cheerios. Cheerios have been a breakfast staple for millions of Americans, including myself. When that guy dies, what are we going to do without Cheerios?! :)




  4.  
    Jeff Prince

    If the guy who makes Apple Jacks dies, then I’m going in a deep funk. Also the guy who makes cheese.

    As for you, Who Really Cares: I respect your opinion but disagree with some it. Anytime someone dies who has made an impact on my life, it affects me. And since I’m a writer, I write. You might say, “How can you be impacted by someone you’ve never met?” If you don’t understand, I doubt anyone can explain it to you. Humanity, to some degree, is felt rather than learned. You say people are expressing their feelings about Williams so that “everyone knew they cared” and so everyone is “impressed with their sorrow.” You’re right on the first part, jaded on the second. You sound like a guy who could use a laugh. Watch Mrs. Doubtfire or The Bird Cage and you might feel better.




  5.  

    Its very very sad Robin Williams has passed on, he was such a shinning Star, and was so charming and hilarious, he will be missed by most everyone, and was loved by thousands, very sad, what might have been if he had gotten help. RIP Robin.. .. ..
    Jimmy Clark




  6.  
    Who Really Cares

    No, I don’t torture kitties. That would make as much sense as glorifying actors who pop up into your life to entertain you in the way they do from time to time. I’m not saying he did not have some talent. I guess I am just amazed by the celebrity culture we live in these days. I was talking to a friend’s kid the other day about an autograph he got of an athlete and when I asked him why he got it, he basically told me that guy was more famous, and therefore better, than him in the whole scheme of things. I just find it amazing that any kid would think a backup linebacker for an NFL tream was better than him in any way. How Robin Williams fits into this is that we blame the excesses of celebrity culture on the celebrities, but the real nuts and bolts of celebrity culture is the public that joins in and worships. In this case, we had a comic/actor who entertained us for some years. We can argue if his work was artistic or groundbreaking or highly signficant, but in the end he was a guy who read scripts pretty well and made funny faces and added his own signature moves to the projects when he needed to. So I am not a “damaged person.” I just don’t find this celebrity worship post-mortem all that interesting or worthwhile, especially for those who feel they must always live vicariously through the celebs they worship, even after they kill themselves. And in the Cheerios argument, if the guy who makes the Cheerios dies, there are others who make it just as well. And others coming along who will do the same thing.




    •  
      Jeff Prince

      The celebrity culture isn’t a new phenomenon. In some ways, it’s less pronounced now than it was in the past. For instance, in the old West when famous lawmen or gunfighters and bank robbers would get killed, people would cut off locks of their hair or even parts of their bodies as mementos. I can’t imagine anyone today wanting to cut off Robin Williams’ ear as a memento. In 1926, more than 100,000 people showed up for a public viewing of Rudolph Valentino’s body after he died. Human beings have always been curious and/or obsessed with fame. Even famous people obsess over other famous people. JFK and Marilyn Monroe obsessed over each other. I remember Willie Nelson being interviewed once and saying he was so excited to meet Gene Autry he could hardly talk. That seemed so funny to me, because I would feel that same way about meeting Willie, but couldn’t care less about meeting Gene Autry. Idolatry is in our DNA to some degree, and I don’t see anything unhealthy about it unless, like your friend’s kid, you think your life sucks compared to celebrities and that you are inferior to them. All you got to do is look at Robin Williams to see that it’s not true. He might have looked at non-celebs with envy, wishing he could have their privacy.




  7.  
    terri gayle

    sweet jeff: thanks for honorably mentioning robin williams, he was phenomenal, one of the great loves of my life and i am grief stricken. if someone doesn’t really care then shut the fuck up and change your name to asswagon.




  8.  
    Who Really Cares

    Ok, Mr. Prince, you got me. You’re argument rings true. People were stupid in the past, and they are stupid now, because mindless idolatry is in our DNA. And that people who don’t espouse the mindless DNA stupidity are non-human, sad and pathetic creatures. I personally don’t dislike people who have mindless idolatry DNA in their makekup — that’s how most people are — but I do find it odd that people think I am such an aberration because I don’t. And to call me a “damaged person” and say “I sound like a guy who could use a laugh” I find somewhat stupid. It’s part of the old mindless DNA that says “people who don’t think like me must be idiots.” BTW, they reported that Robin Williams hung himself with a belt. I would hope someone might come out with a commemorative belt buckle to celebrate this part of his life. Maybe “Dead Comics Society” engraved on it. See, that’s funny, right?




    •  
      Jeff Prince

      I don’t think you’re fucked up for not having a sense of idolatry in your DNA. That’s probably an admirable quality. But you’re fucked up for mocking people simply because they have the gall to feel and express emotions about someone who just died, someone who brought them a lot of laughs for a lot of years.




      •  
        Jeff Prince

        A final thought: People (myself included) personalize their thoughts about celebrity deaths because the deaths of people who seem so much larger than life tends to make us ponder our own mortality. Most of my idols (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Don Meredith, Lee Roy Jordan, etc) were music and sports figures who just happened to be prominent during my formative childhood-teenaged years. Few if any modern celebrities make me feel that way. I would get more butterflies if I interviewed Merle Haggard than if I interviewed George Strait because I was already grown when Strait hit it big. Anywho, I’ll bet that’s pretty common. Idolatry, then, is a cousin to nostalgia. Maybe idolatry is a person trying to remember and rekindle old feelings and thoughts from a simpler time in their lives. The human brain is a complicated machine. I’m obviously no expert.




        •  
          Who Really Cares

          A final thought. I originally posted that I didn’t understand how people could be so moved by by the death of someone they didn’t know, and it was turned into you determining I was “mocking people.” And that’s what distrubs me about the current state of affiars in the social media world. I gave the opinion that I didn’t understand this huge outpouring of support for an actor who killed himself, and that turned into people calling me an “asswagon” and “damaged person” for expressing that. What I thought was discourse was interpreted as me being an unemoitonal degenerate. My point might be better put by saying is that social media is turning into the latest human foible where we are required to fall into line with the rest of humanity in ways that are bigger than they used to be. It used to be one might express their love for a celebrity who dies by telling a freind or two how much they loved their work or inlfuenced them. Now, one must shout to the world how much they loved him — on FB or blogs or twitter, etc.– and you better shut up if you feel otherwise. I thought Mr. Williams was very good in the movie “What Dreams May Come,” but don’t mention that in the twitter world because their knowledge of his work does not go much beyond “nanu, nanu.” So in the end, what is striking me about some recent celebrity deaths is the reaction seems to be “that’s the way we’re supposed to react,” and I always found that sort of idiotic, but I realize more and more that I’m on the wrong end of that argument. In the end he was an actor who killed himself. Some people are “grief stricken” by that. Some people are “grief stricken” because they think that’s the way they are suposed to react. Not me.




  9.  
    Jeff Prince

    A final final thought: Yes, it is mocking to comment on a blog post within hours of Robin Williams’ death to say people are only expressing their sorrow to impress others, and all because “some actor” killed himself who’s no better than the guy who works on the Cheerios assembly line. On the other hand, social media involves so many people of different opinions it seems like everybody is getting upset about everything everyday. But things go round in circles, and I get the feeling that Generation Z is going to burn their laptops and go organic.




  10.  
    Candy

    I mourn Robin because he was a friend of mine. I mourned Princess Diana and I didnt know her, never met her, but admired her mightily. I still mourn both Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy because of what might have been and they were both cut down in their prime while doing great deeds. I mourn all kinds of people–met and unmet, just because I do and I dont have to justify these feelings. Thanks Jeff for writing your article on the passing of the unique and wonderful Robin Williams.




  11.  
    Reader

    To Who Really Cares:

    If you can’t understand how people can be upset in regards to someone they’ve never met, ca you understand how people can be happy for someone they’ve never met?

    For example, I’ve never met Usain Bolt, but I am thrilled and happy for him when he crushes records on the track.

    I’ve never met Martin Scorsese, but I was happy for him when he won his Oscar.

    If you can comprehend how someone can be happy for those they’ve never met, you should be able to understand how people can feel sad/upset/moved.

    If this still doesn’t make sense to you, you may be an emotionless robot.





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