Inside the Actor's Studio: Robin Williams

Inside the Actor's Studio: Robin Williams
Though it’s easy to take his comedic gifts for granted since he’s been an impressive, omnipresent Hollywood star for the past 25 years, Robin Williams simply destroyed when he appeared on James Lipton’s illuminating Inside the Actor’s Studio on January 29, 2001. Less an interview than a one-man tour-de-force, the most requested episode of this series has been a long-time coming to DVD but its impact on students was immediate. Lipton’s customary towering stack of blue card questions barely diminishes, as Williams reminds us why he revolutionized comedy, improvising and flowing from one preposterous tangent, character and scene to the next with a manic effortlessness. He pops up out of his chair and storms the set, screaming and ranting through crazed bits and creating props out of thin air. If Williams was a child, he’d be an unruly, hyperactive one begging for attention, and also the occasional smack, but the spectrum of cultural knowledge and intelligence he displays in seemingly random, tossed off one-liners (i.e., as a senior on Viagra: "I’m harder than Chinese algebra”; on his honorary degree from Julliard, which he attended but never graduated from: "It’s like a Nerf vibrator,” etc.) is simply astounding. And this all emanates from Lipton’s questions about Williams’ childhood, interest in theatre and comedy, his breakthrough on Mork & Mindy, his cocaine addiction, friendships, establishment of Comic Relief, and his ascent to ingenious actor in films like Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage and his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting, among many others. The actual Q&A lasted five hours and in his "Flashbacks” segment, Lipton recounts how difficult it was to cut it down to the unprecedented, doubled-up, two-hour episode that went to air. Lipton reveals all sorts of surprises about the night, not least of which is the fact that one student laughed so hard he had to be taken by ambulance to be treated for a hernia. From the show itself to a smattering of revealing "Great Moments that Didn’t Make the Cut,” it’s clear that Robin Williams’ candidness, unrelenting style, broad physicality and lightning quick comic reflexes on Inside the Actor’s Studio make for one of the most overwhelming television appearances of the 21st century. (Shout! Factory)