This piece is a good appreciation of Robin Williams, the actor-comic who died of an apparent suicide yesterday at age 63. Millions of people loved him, and who am I to say they are wrong? This despite his comedy being an acquired taste at best.
I never did acquire it. I found it stupid and too offbeat. In one of his most noted performances, as "Mork" in the shitty Mork & Mindy, Williams was pretty much given free rein to do what he wanted in his part. You'd see lots and lots of ad libbing by him on the show, called "improv," with co-stars trying very hard not to laugh at him. However, Williams wasn't the first to do ad libs. Many other comics far more talented such as Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, and especially Red Skelton did it. Skelton, for example, was infamous on his variety shows for going off script. The scripts themselves weren't always that funny, but the audience was waiting for him to say something that would spice it up. He would never disappoint. He never had to resort to dirty humor to do it, either. There were very few out there who could break up the likes of Harpo Marx, but Skelton did it. Skelton received criticism in some quarters for being "unprofessional," but the ad libs were what made his show hilarious and had a lot to do with why millions loved him. It wouldn't surprise me if Williams, who had to have watched the same comics and television shows I did growing up, as he was just four years older than I was, was influenced by these great comedians.
I think you had to be younger and not have been exposed to the comic greats, not to mention be a bit offbeat yourself, to actually appreciate Williams' style of humor.