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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Robin, The Boy Wonder of Improv.:
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Friday, September 5,2014

Robin, The Boy Wonder of Improv.:

Embodying the Infinite Potential of Each Moment

By Cary Bayer  
Batman , the Caped Crusader, along with sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder, fought crime on the Gotham streets. Robin Williams, the Boy Wonder of Improv, fought dullness, rigid thinking, and the idea that Reality was predictable. He made our world more flexible and happier.     

To his mind, the world moved very slowly. That gave the many characters who lived inside that fertile mind plenty of time to find delightful ways to play. He took us to funny places few of us ever had the Imaginative GPS to find on our own.

One reason he could do this was because in his Cosmic Comic Mind, time didn’t exist. Everything he said came out of an infinite field of comic possibilities, and most of it showed us a more fun reality than we saw. He had plenty of realities living inside him, which he could live in at any given moment, and they were hugely enjoyable just to watch. It was a privilege to be invited into this world where anything could happen - and often did. How delightfully he expanded our consciousness, how deliciously he made us see every physical thing around us with polished glasses that could see that thing in a dozen possible new ways.

He was like Charlie Chaplin with the ability to speak. Or Groucho Marx with impish brother Harpo’s ability to play imaginatively with things. The first thing you notice about Robin and Groucho in their monologues is the sheer speed of their thought. Groucho was a locomotive, veering off in multiple directions and changing tracks, passing the dispatcher at each station at lightning speed. But then Groucho’s great comic riffs in the movies, at least, were written, honed by the best comic minds of his generation in creative brainstorming sessions over time.

With Robin there was no time - it all happened in the present moment, a moment that he made rich by mining the mirth that was latent in each and every one of those moments he was on stage. They were comic minds, channeling the Great Comic Mind of their Creator. Unlike Groucho, who honed a defined comic persona over decades, Robin had multiple comic personalities who fought for their space in his crowded crucible of consciousness. So there was never any way to predict where he’d wind up in response to an interviewer’s question. Watch the old clips and you’ll see the best comic minds of television - Carson, Leno, Letterman - simply sit back breathless, unable to keep up with the speed and change of Robin’s improvisations. They’d speak only when he finally came up for air. There was his Shakespearean actor, his gay director, his little girl, his French man, his Russian man, his Black man, the list goes on and on. Out of the consciousness these beings emerged. Like Zeus, he could have comic Athenas come bursting forth from the infinite creative potential of his mind. He showed us the Infinite Creative Intelligence of the Universe in human form.

Otherworldly as he was, Robin had not only the lightning mind that only a few such as Groucho and Mel Brooks had, but the s p e e c h rhythm of a bullet train r o a r i n g down the track. His improvisational skills, h o n e d a t Julliard and in the cauldron of comedy stand-up, transcended even that of his personal comic muse, Jonathan Winters. There’s a wonderful “60 Minutes” profile of Winters (https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDJjq0Pd0RM) in which Jonathan is turning objects into newfound comic art - and then Robin jumps in, too frenetic to watch from the sidelines any more, eager to play in the sandbox with his fellow improv mate. Winters, the Master, gets left in the lurch, unable to keep up with Robin’s rapidly changing riffs.

As rich as his mind was, so too was his heart. He co-hosted numerous Comic Relief fundraisers, helping to bring in more than $50 million to help the homeless. The depth of his caring for people was also evident in many of his movie roles.

With his lightning-quick mind and his loving heart he helped a world see the infinite possibilities in each moment; he made us laugh and he made us love. Like another Robin - of Sherwood Forest - he will be remembered forever.

 

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