Shazbot... very, very sad to hear about Robin Williams' passing today. He was my first and all-time favorite stand-up comedian and comedy actor! Since I first saw him in an episode of "Happy Days" as 'Mork from the planet Ork.' Then, he appeared as the same character in a short lived ABC-pilot sitcom called "Out Of The Blue" during his juggernaut success of "Mork & Mindy" (despite being a boy, all the sexual jokes & innuendos went over my head but, laughed anyway). I collected all of that show's bubblegum cards (still have them) and read his first autobiography (still have it). Then, he hosted SNL, then, did movies & TV (sometimes in dramatic turns which, in my opinion, he excelled in), a Broadway play with his then stand-up rival, Steve Martin in "Waiting For Godot" (I missed) in New York and more of his rapid fire stand-up especially for the cause, "Comic Relief." I've never met him in person despite I've been to iO and UCB for shows. But, at least I saw him again...on television in "The Crazy Ones." Below are my favorites from Robin ~ both comedy and drama!
Prior to that, he spoke of his continuous pain, his love for his family, his children and grandchildren...in a sad, almost surrendering, tone. Generally, people will agree with me and tell me that suicide is an act of desperation by someone in intense pain. Let me take it further by adding that with people who suffer with depression (and it doesn't have to be physical pain but mental pain, social pain, stress, everyday pressures of life, basically surviving), all that will blind common sense thus "deciding" that the act in itself is the only way to get rid of the pain, escape, OR, just to let go. There was a late '80s report about a Chinese UCLA student jumping from her dormitory window because her parents were dissatisfied she scored an A on her term paper. Her parents expected their daughter to only excel with A+ scores. Never anything lower than an A+.
I know from this week to the next, we'll learn more. As for myself, I am at a loss. Most definitely, I will be crying for a while. It's like losing a funny uncle. Other than my parents' funny people like Don Rickles, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Johnny Carson as well as the ones I grew up with but were well before my time (Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny), Robin Williams was my first contemporary funny man that enabled me to break out of my own shyness growing up and that being crazy is okay....but, to me that was a private thing I did with my family and friends. Never thought I'd consider publicly pursuing it. I became an actor because I wanted to do the dramatics! Until the late '90s, I almost got the nerve to walk inside The Groundlings to take my funnies to professional and public opinion. Almost got the nerve...because I walked back to my car and drove away. In 2004, I studied short form improv but, it was the safe kind. In July 2008, to celebrate my sibling's birthday, we went to check out Anthony Cools in Las Vegas. And, when he asked for volunteers who wished to be hypnotized, I was the first one to jump on stage initially to debunk hypnosis. And, I'm still not a believer. I proved to myself that hypnosis didn't work on me but, I was already knee deep as a participant in his show (his people were eyeing us so they can remove those who were just messing around). In my silent observation, I didn't want to call his bluff and publicly cry out fraud live on stage (because it wasn't him - I just wasn't a believer). But, since I was already on stage, the show must go on. So, I decided to commit. So, ninety-nine percent of the suggestions he gave me, I did them without hesitation. It's that one suggestion which is NSFW for me to say here, I almost didn't do. I discovered this suggestion was a test to see how far I would go. So, in a split second without showing too much hesitation for the audience to notice, "I gave that chair a good lickin'". (if you can paraphrase that last line, then you know what I did on stage). The laughter was overwhelming. That experience proved to me that I'd give long form improvisation another shot. Robin studied improv first before he studied the craft of acting and before he did stand-up. I studied at Monkey Butler Comedy in 2009 and the Upright Citizens Brigade (above photo) in 2010 while taking improv bootcamp & intensives between them. I'm glad I did because honestly, it's freeing. And, very supportive. And, finally a place where I can share my experiences with others. Below is Robin Williams' 1983 HBO comedy special (my first time seeing his standup) and the second video is from the non-televised 8th Annual Critics' Choice Awards in 2009 where you can see Robin just improvising all his own!
In 2010, I was invited by Kristina Wong to be one of the suitors to win a romantic date on the live stage show, "The Fix Up Show" hosted by J. Keith van Straaten at the ACME Comedy Theater (right photo). Alex Borstein was guest matchmaker. I had no intention getting a date but no one knew. My intent was to see how I can take a real life situation (finding a date) and make it funny. Much like Robin Williams, a lot of my memories of dating are already written inside my head and all I had to do is pull one out of my hat trick and use it as a response! It paid off. Audience members came up to me saying I was very funny and they had a great time. One nice lady said, "my image on stage didn't fit what was coming out of my mouth." I took those notes and co-wrote an internet dating web series in 2013. It was fun because I was able to take my real-life dating experiences into hilarious situations either as a character of myself or just a character (as shown below). The Santa Monica photo was not scripted. Every response I gave to her questions about dating have all been written and archived in my mind's memory banks! Later that year, I created my own web series to premiere this October. Below the small thumbnails is a preview episode of "No Regrets," a lightly scripted and highly improvised series.
In the Summer of 2012, a friend of mine found out I do comedy and offered me to perform stand-up at the Comedy Store (left photo). He was (and still is) hosting a weekly show there in the Main Room. (Improv and stand-up are two different animals). I've never written material before; my jokes comes to mind at the spur of the moment (much like Robin Williams and improv). Anyway, to make this long story short, the stand-up comedian I was sent to didn't do a great job teaching me the fundamentals of technique. He wanted me to watch Jim Gaffigan and do his style. No offense to Mr. Gaffigan, but, my standup heroes are/were Robin Williams and Steven Wright. Yes, two sides of extremes. But, it was the teacher who said to me, I have to find a middle ground. Before my stand-up debut at the Comedy Store (which was the same place Robin Williams made his stand-up debut), I sent this out on my Facebook: "Due to an unforeseen event, what was originally scheduled as my standup comedy debut tonight, August 16, 2012 at the World's Famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip is cancelled." However, I did go to the Comedy Store to see and support two other friends' first times. In standup, you're on your own. I'll be ready soon. The door is always open...to take on a new risk and succeed. And, if I don't, at least, I can say, I did it. Like the time I was invited to an optional clothing resort and the year after, to a private naturist barbeque party at someone's backyard. I went au natural (with beginning with fear first) but, now I can say, I did it. Both are the same -- "you got to be raw to take a risk." :)
Rest in peace ... and a final Na-nu, Na-nu, Robin Williams... You'll always be an inspiration.