1980sComediansComedyEntertainersHBORobin WilliamsSpecials

Comedy – 1981 – Special – Robin Williams – Live At The Great American Music Hall – San Francisco


Since we have multiple Robin Williams videos here at ImaSportsphile….I have written several pieces about the talents and challenges of this incredible entertainer….so, today I am going to give you some history on this uniquely gifted artist.  

In late 1963, when Williams was 12….his father was transferred to Detroit….where the family lived in a 40-room farmhouse on 20 acres in suburban Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he was a student at the private Detroit Country Day School….as he excelled in school while being a member of the soccer team and wrestling squad….and was elected as class president.

Due to Williams’ father traveling frequently for work…while his mother was also working…. Robin was attended to by the family’s maid….who was his main companion….so, when Williams’ father took early retiment…and Robin was 16…and was moved to Tiburon, California.  Following their move, Williams attended Redwood High School in nearby Larkspur. At the time of his graduation in 1969, he was voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “Funniest” by his classmates.

After high school graduation, Williams enrolled at Claremont Men’s College in Claremont, California to study political science….to which he soon dropped out to pursue acting….as Williams studied theater for three years at the College of Marin, a community college in Kentfield, California. According to College of Marin’s drama professor James Dunn….the depth of the young actor’s talent first became evident when he was cast in the musical Oliver! as Fagin….as Robin Williams was known to improvise during his time in Marin’s drama program…..leaving cast members in hysterics……as Dunn called his wife after one late rehearsal to tell her that Williams “was going to be something special.”  Awe Man, the wonderment of teachers old and past….far and wide….for so many good folks have taught the great ones….thanks Mr. Dunn.

In 1973, Williams attained a full scholarship to the Juilliard School (Group 6, 1973–1976) in New York City. He was one of 20 students accepted into the freshman class and one of two students to be accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year; the other was Christopher Reeve. William Hurt and Mandy Patinkin were also classmates.  According to biographer Jean Dorsinville, Franklyn Seales and Williams were roommates at Juilliard…..as Reeve remembered his first impression of Williams when they were new students at Juilliard….saying, “he wore tie-dyed shirts with track suit bottoms and talked a mile a minute. I’d never seen so much energy contained in one person. He was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released. I watched in awe as he virtually caromed off the walls of the classrooms and hallways. To say that he was “on” would be a major understatement.”  

Williams and Reeve had a class in dialects taught by Edith Skinner, whom Reeve said was one of the world’s leading voice and speech teachers. Skinner had no idea what to make of Williams, adds Reeve, as he [Williams] could instantly perform in many dialects, including Scottish, Irish, English, Russian, and Italian. Their primary acting teacher was Michael Kahn, who was “equally baffled by this human dynamo,” notes Reeve. Williams already had a reputation for being funny….but Kahn sometimes criticized his antics as simple stand-up comedy….to whichin a later production, Williams silenced his critics with his convincing role of an old man in The Night of the Iguana,by Tennessee Williams. “He simply was the old man,” observed Reeve. “I was astonished by his work and very grateful that fate had thrown us together.”

Williams and Reeve remained close friends until Reeve’s death in 2004. Reeve had struggled for years with being quadriplegic after a horse-riding accident. Son Zak Williams remembered their friendship as having been like “brothers from another mother”…..as Robin Williams paid many of Reeve’s medical bills and gave financial support to his family.

Williams left Juilliard during his junior year in 1976 at the suggestion of Houseman….who said there was nothing more Juilliard could teach him…..when fellow Julliard teacher, Gerald Freedman, notes that Williams was a “genius” and that the school’s conservative and classical style of training did not suit him….so no one was surprised that he left.

Oh my, what joy to have this video in our treasure chest of memories….for the more I watch it….the more I learn about this genius of entertainment. ENJOY !!!!!! 

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