Robin William’s mind was a whirlwind of ideas, and to build a joke, he’d reach into the storm and pull out some debris. And the topics could be on just about anything from any time. They didn’t even need to be in English. That’s something the producers of Mork & Mindy learned the hard way.
Williams was famous for going off-script and improving entire scenes. The director of Aladdin said Williams recorded so much material they could have made multiple movies from the outtakes. That manic energy made him a marvel to watch, but a nightmare to contain. For Mork & Mindy, Robin Williams had the bonus of playing a character from another planet. He realized he could sneak in offensive words or phrases in other languages and the producers wouldn’t notice.
“They had to have a sensor who spoke, I think spoke Spanish — three or four different languages — because I was sneaking things in different languages,” he said in a Pioneers of Television interview. “… It was just kind of to see what could get under the radar. And we had a great director, Howard Storm, who was a comic himself, who just let us you know go crazy and do things with it, which was pretty wonderful.”
Williams said that most of the first season of Mork & Mindy came from his stand-up routine. They built the character around jokes he’d road-tested. But after that, they were working without a net.
“(The show) was just me playing, having a good time, and having Pam (Dawber, who played Mindy) standing there and kind of holding the middle and explaining things and being patient,” Robin Williams said, explaining the series. “… But the weird thing is, it came at a time and people are asking ‘What’s this?” And we got lucky. And then it was just this thing that became every Thursday night people wanted to see how crazy it would be.”
Robin Williams Said He Couldn’t Shake Character of Mork
Robin Williams put together one of the most prestigious careers in film history. He had critical and commercial hits in nearly every genre during his more than 40-year-long career. He won an Academy Award for his role in Good Will Hunting and was nominated for three others.
But despite all of the accolades and iconic performances, Williams was always just Mork from Ork to most people.
“Even after winning an Academy Award, people going ‘Hey, Good Will Hunting. Way to go.’ Two weeks later: ‘Hey Mork!’” he laughed, recalling the memory. “It doesn’t change. It’s still in people’s consciousness from that time. … It struck a chord because it was so out of left field in that way.”
When Robin Williams died in 2014, fans set up a makeshift shrine to the icon in front of the home shown in the opening of credits of Mork & Mindy. They hung photos of the actor, laid flowers in front of the picket fence, and left signs that said “You will be missed, Mork.”