When a celebrity dies unexpectedly, particularly in the sudden and tragic manner that Robin Williams has, it's hard not to think of the many other brilliant talents who found wild fame, only to be seemingly undone by it.
It can be a bit morbid to dwell on the "curse" of celebrity at a time like this, or to try and analyze what Williams might have been going through in his final days. However, Williams himself addressed this topic more than 30 years ago, on an episode of the sitcom that made him famous, Mork and Mindy.
The episode, which aired on February 19, 1981, was called "Mork Meets Robin Williams." It's one of the truly bizarre episodes of a truly bizarre show, as alien-in-disguise Mork (played by Robin Williams) meets famous comedian Robin Williams (also played by Robin Williams) who he happens to be a dead ringer for. In the process, Mork learns about the nature of fame on Earth and the toll it takes on those who get swept up in it.
Yes, celebrities get money and attention, but they also get harassed and attacked and everyone who comes in contact with them makes unreasonable demands on their time and energy. The underlying message of the characters' conversation is that Robin Williams, Comedian, can't say no to anyone. He becomes a cautionary tale that if you can't learn to say no, then "there will be no more pieces for yourself."
As a melancholy "Robin Williams" sadly puts it, maybe some time alone is "the last thing I want."
In the final scene, Mork (as he does every week) reports back to Orson, a disembodied voice on his homeworld, to tell him what he just learned about the culture of Earth. He explains to Orson that “being a star is a 24-hour job and you can’t leave your face at the office… some of them can’t take it.” Then in a sad coda, he lists the names of those Earthlings who were destroyed by the pressures of fame: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon. The episode aired just two months after Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan. If it was written today, there would be a quite a few more famous names to add to it.
The whole episode is free to watch on Hulu, but you can watch the ending below.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.