After I learned of Robin Williams' death on Monday, I did what I often find myself doing when I learn that a celebrity has died: I watched clips of his work on YouTube. I watched the kitchen scene from Mrs. Doubtfire. And the "O Captain, My Captain" scene from Dead Poets Society. And a compilation of the best moments of Good Morning, Vietnam.
I knew there were more, though—many more. So, to complete the sad ritual, I typed "Robin Williams." Then I clicked "Video." And I realized how many—how much—I'd forgotten.
Bicentennial Man. Moscow on the Hudson. August Rush. Insomnia.
I'd forgotten in part because Williams had given me so much to remember. He had a career in entertainment that spanned more than 40 years. He was prolific. He was also wide-ranging. He was a dramatic actor. He was a comedic one.
The Birdcage. A Night at the Museum. The sequel to A Night at the Museum. Jumanji. The Fisher King.
He did TV (Mork!). He did voice acting (the Genie!). He did stand-up. He sang. He supported. He starred.
Good Will Hunting. Hook. Flubber. RV. License to Wed. The World According to Garp. The Awakening. What Dreams May Come.
Williams was perhaps best known for his improv—many of the Genie's speeches in Aladdin, not to mention the lines of his stand-up, were ad-libbed—and for a charisma that combined the antic and the austere. Even when playing himself, in his many guest appearances on late-night TV (and in his many acceptance speeches for the awards bestowed on him for his work and his talent), he wore a clownish camouflage. It was hard to tell, possibly even for Williams himself, where the man ended and the star began.