Happy Birthday Robin Williams: Remembering the Comedy Icon on Would-Be 70th Birthday

by John Jamison

The late Robin Williams is among the most beloved entertainers the world has ever known. A comedian, actor, and all-around character, Williams seemingly stopped at nothing to put smiles on our faces. Today would have been the “Good Will Hunting” star’s 70th birthday. The occasion calls for a celebration of the funnyman’s talent and iconic career.

For all the credit Robin Williams has received for his comedic efforts over the years, his dramatic accomplishments are even more impressive. It may be hard to picture the bubbly, often-wacky actor in such a serious setting as a youth, but believe it or not, Williams attended The Julliard School for theater.

His first big break came in the mid-1970s when he landed the role of Mork on “Happy Days.” He made the most of the opportunity, leveraging the small part of the alien from planet Ork into his own spinoff show called “Mork & Mindy.”

Role on ‘Happy Days’ Set Robin Williams Up for a Legendary Career

In 1980, he made his big movie debut in “Popeye,” and throughout the early and mid-1980s, Williams established himself as a major talent. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw him turn in some of the most iconic performances of all time. He was nominated for three separate Oscars during this period, all for best actor in a leading role. The first came for “Good Morning, Vietnam” in 1987. Then it was “Dead Poets Society” in 1989. And finally, the 1991 film “Fisher King.”

In 1997, Robin Williams finally won the award, this time in a supporting role, for his performance as a psychologist tasked with helping a young, troubled genius played by Matt Damon. After winning, Williams turned a few more classic performances in “What Dreams May Come” and “Patch Adams.”

A Tragic End to an Iconic Talent

Robin Williams continued acting all the way up until he took his own life in 2014. His suicide came just months after finding out he had Parkinson’s disease. And that was very possibly a misdiagnosis, based on the results of an autopsy.

In fact, Williams was suffering from Lewy body dementia, a neurodegenerative disease that hit the comedian particularly hard.

Robin Williams’ tragic death puts the pressures of fame in perspective. While it was ultimately a disease that ended his life, the actor/comedian’s career had been in decline for a few years. In part, due to the disease itself.

In an editorial that she wrote for Neurology, Robin’s widow, Susan Schneider Williams tried to paint the picture of what the disease was like for her husband.

“I experienced my brilliant husband being lucid with clear reasoning 1 minute and then, 5 minutes later, blank, lost in confusion,” she wrote.

The symptoms contributed to Williams forgetting his lines on set, bouts of paranoia, and overall frustration. The loss of Robin Williams is still a tough pill to swallow. But his work continues to make us smile today.

Rest easy, Robin.