Remembering Robin Williams

Like a lot of people, I heard about Robin Williams’ passing last night. As it happened my dad, who just moved out here to New York on Sunday, was sitting here as there was a special report breaking in on a Jeopardy rerun with the sad story. Thinking about it, this seems strangely appropriate because one of my fondest memories of the comedian involved driving around with my dad.

robin williams live at the met

When I was younger, as I’ve said many times, my dad introduced me to the world of 70s and 80s comedies like Caddyshack, Blues Brothers, Fletch and the like. But the comedy education carried over into the world of stand-up records, specifically Robin Williams’ A Night At The Met record. The experience was so surreal. Not only was it hilarious and opened my eyes to even more of this man’s talents, but was also a cool grown-up moment where he shared this thing from the adult world with me.

But my love of Williams and his films goes much deeper than that. I had a vague understanding of Mork & Mindy from childhood when that era of TV was a lot more accessible in reruns, but by the time I could really understand entertainment he was everywhere. I don’t remember seeing Good Morning Vietnam, but my folks had it on tape and parts of it just live in my brain. Between that and Dead Poets Society, he solidified himself as an actor who could handle mile-a-second comedy in addition to intense dramatic emotions.

As a child of the 80s and 90s he was everywhere thanks to Aladdin, Hook, Toys (so weird), Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, The Birdcage, Jack and Flubber and on and on and on. Even if you didn’t see some of those movies, they were so ubiquitous that you couldn’t help but for what seemed like a solid picture of this man, but clearly there was a lot more going on, a darkness that seems unfortunately common when it comes to incredibly funny people.

That darkness came to light with the underrated dark comedy Death To Smoochy and thrillers like Insomnia, One Hour Photo and The Final CutGood Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come also took some of those similar turns and came out during my most intense theater-going period. Some people weren’t down for this change in tone for the comedian, but I thought he pulled off these parts incredibly well. Many of these movies really stuck with me, even though I’ve only seen most of them once.

I’m not nearly as familiar with his more recent work, but I still feel a very strong connection to this Williams and the entertainment he created during my formative years. He was always there and he was always funny, even if the content might not have been what I was looking for personally. I’m sad to hear he’s gone and even sadder that he might have taken his own life, especially after making so many people happy for so many years.

What We’re Watching: Wednesday & Thursday

As it turns out, our Wednesdays and Thursdays are mixed between longtime favorites and brand new shows that are tickling our fancies these days. This batch includes mostly half hour comedies as well as my personal favorite comic book TV show Arrow. My wife also enjoyed this season of Cover Affairs, but I usually read or watching the other TV when it’s on because it just never quite grabbed me. If you’re interested, I covered Mondays and Tuesdays in a post last week.

WEDNESDAY

Arrow (8:00 PM, The CW)

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Arrow is one of my favorite shows on TV and probably one of the ones I look forward to the most in any given week. I was cautiously optimistic when it kicked off last season, but got sucked in with the story of spoiled rich kid Oliver Queen trying to make things right in his city while also flashing back to his time on a crazy island. Sure there’s a ton of melodrama involved in the proceedings (it is a CW show after all), but I love the solid mix of action, fun stories and deep cuts when it comes to comic book references. I couldn’t help but compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Arrow and in nearly every way, Arrow came off better.

Modern Family (9:00 PM, ABC)Modern Family - Season 5

I’m not really sure what to say about Modern Family that hasn’t been said a million times. It’s so intricately written and perfectly acted that it’s impossible not to fall in love. We’ve been watching the reruns on Fox at 7:30 every day after Jeopardy and even though there aren’t a ton of episodes, it’s a welcome addition to the syndication rotation.

Super Fun Night (9:30 PM, ABC)super fun night

I wanted to like Super Fun Night, but the first episode just killed all the excitement I had going in. The basic concept of the show is cool: three 30 somethings put a bunch of ideas for ladies night in a hat, pull one out and that’s what they do that evening. The problem? Star Rebel Wilson puts on a terrible American accent throughout the entire thing. There are pretty much three things everyone knows about Wilson after watching Pitch Perfect: she’s not America, she’s super funny and she can sing incredibly well. The first episode of this series tried to get you to forget two of these things as her character is nervous about karaoke. I was pretty much done at that point and tend to flip around or read during this time slot. I really think I would be back in if they just had her speak in her regular voice.

THURSDAY

The Big Bang Theory (8:00 PM, CBS)big bang theory season 7

We’re still big Big Bang Theory fans. I love how they’ve expanded the group to fully include Bernadette and Amy. It does kind of seem like the writers aren’t quite sure what to do with Penny lately. She and Sheldon work so well together, but they seem to be writing her a bit dumber than before. It’s a minor problem and I think they’re probably ramping up for something big at the end of the season, but we’ll see.

The Millers (8:30 PM, CBS)the millers

The Millers was a big surprise for me. We’ve liked previous Greg Garcia shows like My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope, but got burned out on the latter. I also didn’t much like Will Arnett’s two previous shows, Running Wilde and Up All Night. But I think this is enough of a departure for Garcia — it’s not about dumdums in a mysterious western town — and it allows Arnett to play awkward and put-upon in a way we haven’t quite seen before. I think it’s funny that last season saw all kinds of “adult kids moving back in with their parents” shows and this seasons has the reverse. Even though it’s not super original, I’m still enjoying two shows like that this season between Millers and Dads. As a nice bonus, the show features Jayma Mays who deserves a show better than Glee and Nelson Franklin who I’ve enjoyed on Traffic Light and his brief stint on New Girl. I hope the show succeeds just so I can keep seeing them all!

The Crazy Ones (9:00 PM, CBS)?????????????????????????

I’ll be honest, I wish Parks & Rec was on at 9:00 PM on Thursdays. I love that show and really miss it, but since we’re full-on into BBT, that’s the show we watch. Plus, it sounds like the schedule’s going to be all over the place. Anyway, since NBC doesn’t have much to offer, we’re watching The Crazy Ones, an ad agency comedy starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as well as the guy who played Bob Benson on Mad Men and the former secretary from The Mindy Project. The dynamics on this show are a ton of fun and really carry it through. This is one of two shows that I could probably just watch the outtakes of and have a great time. New Girl is the other for what it’s worth. Still, as enjoyable as the show has been, I’d drop it in a heartbeat if it meant I could watch Parks & Rec.

The Michael J. Fox Show (9:30 PM, NBC)MichaelJFoxShow1

I think The Michael J. Fox Show is the only show we watch on NBC these days which is crazy because it used to one of the main stops for us, especially on Thursdays. As a dyed in the wool child of the 80s, I have an almost inborn love for all things Fox going back to the days of Family Ties on through Spin City. The fact that the show puts his Parkinsons right on front street and just deals with it as part of the ongoing story is an ingenious move that brings everyone in on what’s going on and deals with it honestly.

Preferred Podcasts: WTF with Marc Maron

I don’t think an issue of Entertainment Weekly has been this influential on me in decades. I’ve read the magazine on and off for quite a while and only currently have a subscription right now because of an exchange for airline miles and no other real magazines that I’m interested in. I’m talking about the one from about three week’s back. I don’t have it anymore, but it’s the True Blood cover. Not only did it have an interesting feature on Wet Hot American Summer (much of which seemed lifted from a Jeff Goldsmith podcast featuring David Wain, but what do I know?), but also a story about comedian Marc Maron’s podcast WTF.

Now, I had heard about this podcast a little earlier because Kevin Smith was on it and I listened to that ep, but I didn’t really get the overall idea. See, if you haven’t read the EW article or been lucky enough to jump on the Maron train back when the show first kicked off nearly 200 episodes ago, the idea is that Maron talks to comedians of different ilks but really gets into their psyches, where they came from and what their views on comedy are. It’s the same kind of behind-the-scenes, in-depth stuff that makes me enjoy Jim Shooter’s blog about comic books.

I haven’t listened to a ton of episode, mostly because iTunes only goes back so far, but I have heard him interview Rob Corddy, Henry Rollins, Patton Oswalt, Gallagher, Dave Foley, Stephen Tobolowsky and Dino Stamatopoulos as I write this. I cherrypicked from what’s available on iTunes, mostly going with names that I recognized and then subscribing. I have 23 waiting to be listened to. Since they’re all over an hour, that should take me a while to get caught up.

I’ve been a fan of stand-up comedy for as long as I can remember. My dad had Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy comedy tapes that we would listen to–though I couldn’t tell my mom because there were some pretty serious F-bombs in there. I also happened to grow up in the golden age of Comedy Central back when they actually used to show funny things. ZING! After school I’d watch everything from Benny Hill and Monty Python’s Flying Circus to The Kids In The Hall and the comedians that were all over shows like Premium Blend and what not. I don’t pretend to be some kind of huge comedy fan, but I definitely remember seeing some amazing comedians on there that would go on to be big and lots that weren’t. Maron’s one of them, but his success level should be judged by someone other than me.

What I love about this podcast is how deep Maron goes. I think about the questions I ask on the interviews I do and they’re absolutely nothing compared to this. I get the feeling that other funny people don’t mind letting their guards down around him because he’s one of their own. He’s in the club. Plus, he usually records at his house, so I think that puts folks at ease. All of that mixes for some awesome interviews that get into a lot of personal stuff that these people probably haven’t talked about in public without throwing in a punchline.

I am completely inspired by what Maron has done with this podcast. I wish I had the vehicle to ask people these kinds of questions. The way he has real conversations with people just blows me away. I wish I could come up with a subject, forum or hook for something along these lines and do it on my own, but that idea isn’t there yet for me. I also love how Maron just went for it. He started this podcast on his own, utilizing some friends and connections he had made after years of being a stand-up and now it’s something that comedians seem to be falling over themselves to get on. Hell, there’s a Jonathan Winters episode! I’ve realized just in the past year or so that I actually really like interviewing people, but I want to get more in depth with this stuff. I just need a subject…

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Hook

Hook came out the year before I started getting into comic books on a regular basis, but one of the things I loved about the movie is that it had such a sense of continuity with the original story. Peter had grown up and was meeting back up with Tinkerbell and the rest, even if he was a man with kids. Oh, and Rufio was pretty rad too. As much as I loved the movie, I never got into the toys, so it’s fun looking back on this commercial. They don’t look like the best toys (poor articulation and bad likenesses), but that boat sure looks fun.

Conan’s Second To Last Show With Pee Wee Herman & Robin Williams

Thanks to the Jersey Shore reunion show last night I didn’t get over to watching Conan O’Brien’s second to lest episode on the Tonight Show until around midnight, so I missed a bit, but am glad I saw what I did. Like this bit with Pee Wee Herman explaining Conan’s legal ramblings with NBC using stuffed animals and action figures.

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Ben Stiller also popped up for a few minutes to chat with Conan, do an environmental PSA and offer up his favorite moments from Conan’s Tonight Show.

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And then, the human whirlwind that is Robin Williams came out and hilarity ensued, including a dirty Irish song he sang for Conan.

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Barry Manilow was on too, but you don’t really need to watch that. Instead, check out the mighty return of the Masturbating Bear from two nights back.

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