TIME remembrance

Bill Maher: ‘You Could Just Tell There Was a Humanity in Robin Williams’

Robin Williams Death
Mireya Acierto—Getty Images; Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage/Getty Images

Williams "only let you see so much," Maher says

Robin Williams, who died Monday at 63, knew the secret to being a good television-show guest: adapting to the program without losing yourself. Not everyone can do that, says Real Time host Bill Maher, but Williams could do it as well as, if not better than, anybody on his show.

Here, Maher remembers Williams’ shape-shifting comedy:

“Robin and I had a nice friendly relationship. I can’t claim I knew him well, but honestly, I don’t know how many people did. He seemed like the kind of guy who didn’t open up to a lot of people. That is not unusual in this business. I know a number of people I would count the same way, and some of these people I know a lot better than Robin, comics I’ve known for 35 years and spent tons of hours with, and I still don’t really know them, because they only let you see so much, and they speak through their art.

The thing about Robin that I loved the most — and again, with limited experience — is that when he did my show, he was so great at it, because he was able to achieve something that eludes a lot of comedians who have tried to do Real Time. It’s not an easy show to do, because you have to be very smart about politics. We don’t use a lot of show business people on the panel. I can name the show business people who can do it on a couple of hands — Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Kerry Washington — people who are very politically aware and involved, and that is their passion. But mostly, show people don’t do it — we have them on, but in one-on-one settings in the mid-show. But Robin did the panel, and he was able to both modulate his normal manic persona down to what was appropriate for the show he was doing, and also, completely still be Robin Williams. That is not an easy trajectory to find, and he did, and I always loved him for it. First of all, it means you’re humble — that you understand that you have to shape-shift a little to the show you’re doing. Some people don’t do that. Some people just refuse to do that. They wanna be exactly who they are, on whatever show they’re doing. I don’t agree with that. I think when you’re the guest, you have to bend a little. He did that. He was still Robin Williams, but he was exactly right for the show he was doing.

His style, when it came on the scene, looked completely new to people, and in many ways it was. He was fast and furious, and I think there’s something else that’s behind there that you can’t really quantify or define, but you could just tell there was a humanity in Robin Williams. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, like a good person who cares and tries to give back to the community. Some people, you get the impression that they’re putting on an act all the time. I didn’t get that impression with Robin Williams. I didn’t know him well, but I always thought, there’s a very decent person there.”

TIME remembrance

Joan Rivers: Why Robin Williams Was a Great Red Carpet Interview

Robin Williams Death
Bruce Glikas—FilmMagic/Getty Images

"You popped the champagne cork when you said hello to him," she says

Joan Rivers, who died on September 4 at the age of 81 after complications from throat surgery, reflected on Robin Williams the month before her death.

Joan Rivers is an authority on red carpet interviews — and the veteran comedian says Williams was one of the best celebrities to chat with, both for his candor and his zany humor. Below, Rivers reflects on his more serious roles:

“Robin was one of the great interviews. You’d see him coming down that red carpet and you knew, OK, now we’re gonna have fun. We’re not gonna hear the usual, ‘Yes, we all love each other on the set.’ The one I remember most is, I had this incredible dress, I think it was Dior, with great big gold feathers on the top, absolutely beautiful. I was looking so snappy, I thought. And he came up and did five minutes on looking for eggs in my top, because I looked like a chicken. It was fabulously insane. He made like a chicken, and was clucking, and looking for eggs. Hilarious.

He was very wild. The only one you could compare him with in terms of style was Jonathan Winters. Both of them crazy mad, going into characterizations, in and out, in and out. Such ADD. It’s like you open the capsule and everything came out, all the air came rushing out. You popped the champagne cork when you said hello to him.

He was an incredible actor. [His comedy bits] were all acting bits. They may have been funny, but he became the crazy man, he became the duck. You forget, for all the things he did, he also did Waiting for Godot on Broadway, he did Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. I was waiting for him to do King Lear. I think he would have been great. He came from Juilliard with Patty Lupone and Christopher Reeve. That was a big class he came from. He also had a really formal upbringing. He came from an upper middle class family, very educated, very well-read, very knowledgable about everything, about literature. The references would be so amazing. Even to do Dead Poets Society, he knew what he was talking about when he was talking about the poetry. He was incredible. Everyone’s talking about the comedy, but I’m talking about The Fisher King, What Dreams May Come, Awakenings. Everyone forgets all the serious, wonderful things he did, not just Mrs. Doubtfire.

We all flew into New York to do a Richard Pryor roast, and everybody was on the dais — Don Rickles, David Brenner, Garry Shandling, All of comedy was on the dais at the Waldorf Astoria. Next to last was Robin, and he blew everybody out of the ballpark. He was so above all of us. He was incredible. Very special.”

TIME celebrities

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams
Peter Hapak for TIME

Complete coverage from TIME.com


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Lewis Black Remembers Robin Williams: He Was “On Another Level”

Gilbert Gottfried on Robin Williams: “It Was Such a Workout Playing Off Someone Like That”

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Margaret Cho Remembers Robin Williams: He Was a ‘Father Figure’

Louie Anderson on Robin Williams: “He Came Through Loud and Clear to Your Heart”

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Joan Rivers: Why Robin Williams Was a Great Red Carpet Interview

Bill Maher: ‘You Could Just Tell There Was a Humanity in Robin Williams’

Patch Adams: ‘Thank You for All You’ve Given This World Robin, Thank You My Friend’

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Robin Williams’ Family Remembers the ‘Gentle, Loving’ Actor

Robin Williams’ Daughter Quits Social Media After Being Trolled

The Psychology of the Sad Clown

Robin’s Pain: The Mystery of Suicide—and How to Prevent It

Check back as we continue to update our coverage.

TIME movies

Robin Williams’ Most Memorable Lines

O Captain, my Captain!

Robin Williams’ diverse films have been been enjoyed by millions around the world.

Take a look back at some of the most memorable lines he’s brought to life in a career spanning more than thirty years.

TIME remembrance

Gilbert Gottfried on Robin Williams: “It Was Such a Workout Playing Off Someone Like That”

Robin Williams Death
Dave Kotinsky—Getty Images; Vera Anderson—WireImage/Getty Images

Williams was "the same onstage and off," Gottfried says

It wasn’t easy keeping up with Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63. Comedian and friend Gilbert Gottfried described joking around with the late actor as dizzying. Here, Gottfried remembers the first time he met Williams:

“We would run into each other at comedy clubs when he’d be on stage, and we’d riff off each other. That was always very invigorating, because with someone like him you had to keep on your toes every second. I don’t really remember much about the times we were on stage because it was so strenuous. It was such a workout playing off someone like that, that when I got offstage, I was pretty much dizzy afterwards.

He worshipped Jonathan Winters, and you definitely could see the similarities. One big one is that they were the same onstage and off. Every now and then he would talk seriously, but more often than not, he was that guy. Every now and then, another part of him would pop up that was quiet.

The first time I met him, he showed up at the Improv. I was supposed to go on next, and they told him he would go on next, and he said, ‘Let Gilbert go on, because there are some people in the audience and I want them to see him.’ Then, when I got off stage, I was very pleased that he was laughing and rubbing his eyes. He went, ‘Oh, you really baked my cookies.’ I wasn’t quite sure whether to take it as a compliment.”

TIME remembrance

Lewis Black Remembers Robin Williams: He Was “On Another Level”

Robin Williams Death
Lewis Black and Robin Williams Kevin Winter—Getty Images

Williams was as smart as he was funny, the comic says

Contrary to popular belief, Robin Williams, who died Monday at the age of 63, wasn’t “always on” and going a mile a minute. But comedian Lewis Black says Williams’ ability to jump from one topic to another was unparalleled among his peers. Here, Black remembers Williams as an endlessly giving and energetic person:

“I had met him before, but I really got to know him when we went on two USO [United Service Organization] tours together [in the late 2000s], and spent time with him on the film Man of the Year.

The first thing was: I got on a plane with him, and he was reading a book which was a history of Iraq. He sat there and talked about it for 35 minutes, going through the history of Iraq with us. That’s astonishing. I thought, this guy is kind of brilliant. He was a really bright guy who may have had a photographic memory.

[Trying to figure out how he does what he does] is like standing in front of a hurricane and going, gee, I wonder how that happened.

He wasn’t someone who was always on. It’s very much a misconception.

There were jokes of his that made me laugh hard, but it was the going from one thing to another, making those connections. It’s like how you watch an improv group take suggestions. It was like Robin had the most brilliant audience inside his head throwing out suggestions, because he would put combinations together that were just crazy. And how he could work out of the moment. That working out of the moment is a gift, but he did it on another level.

[On the USO tours], the amount of energy he brought when we would get off of a helicopter and walk towards the troops — the amount of energy he gave to them was unbelievable. It was really incredible to be in that kind of giving presence. I was exhausted. We’re going from place to place, he can’t give enough to them, and I’m trying to think, ‘Where can I take a nap?’ It was inspiring. Wherever we’d land, until the point where we would leave, he’d be talking to them — and not just going off, but being straight with them. I adored him. If you look at the outpouring that’s gone on, that someone of his stature would come to see them was kind of amazing to them.

It’s proof again that the good die young, and pricks live forever. He’s gonna be missed. There’s a hole, and it’s gonna take a long time to be filled.”

TIME Music

Robyn and Roysköpp Go for Gravity In “Monument” Video: Watch

It's the latest clip to be taken from their Do It Again EP

Swedish pop star Robyn and electro-artistes Röyskopp have always pushed limits with their innovative collaborations — and in their new video, they head straight to the outer limits of outer space.

To accompany their Do It Again track “Monument,” the video takes visual cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos and (maybe!) the classic Martin Short/Dennis Quaid/Meg Ryan comedy Inner Space to take viewers on a journey through the stars.

Given those influences, the song and video are extraterrestrial and introspective. “It’s about exploring the space around you and finding your own space in it all,” director Max Vitali told The Creator’s Project, who produced the video.

“[Vitali] had a very strong feeling and he started developing it,” Robyn said about the video. “We had all these conversations about what this place could look like, how do you explain these emotions, how do you communicate these things in a way that feels sincere.” The results are trippy and dreamy and, yes, sincere, as viewers seemingly float above the musicians as they move across the moon to hypnotic effect. It’s a suitably beautiful and strange visual for the avant-garde artists.

Want to find out how they did it? A behind-the-scenes video features interviews with Röyskopp, Robyn, Vitali and choreographer Jefta van Dinther:

Here are Röyksopp and Robyn’s Do It Again tour dates:

August 15 Pukkelpop (Belgium)
August 20 Pier 97 (New York, NY, US)
August 21 Wolftrap (Washington, DC, US)
August 22 HB Pavilion (Boston, MA, US)
August 24 Pritzker Pavilion (Chicago, IL, US)
August 25 Echo Beach (Toronto, ON, Canada)
August 30 Zurich Open Air (Switzerland)
TIME Opinion

Why Robin Williams Was a Millennial Hero

Robin Williams in Hook in 1991. TriStar Pictures

To the generation of kids who grew up on his movies, Williams was a revelation, a teacher and a lifeline

It might seem ridiculous for a generation to claim a universally loved celebrity as their own, but if there was ever a Millennial hero, it was Robin Williams.

The news that Williams had died, at the age of 63, hit the world like a shockwave yesterday. For many older Millennials, like me, who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, the loss strikes as a particularly hard blow. Williams’ career spanned five decades, but his best films, many of which were for kids, were released when we were kids. As a result, his work became entwined with our childhoods — and how we felt about comedy and art and divorce and growing up — in a way that’s evident now with the overwhelming outpouring of love for him.

I was born in 1984 and, sadly, missed out on the staggeringly popular Mork and Mindy. No matter: my earliest experience with Robin Williams was Aladdin at the age of eight and it was wonderful. I didn’t know enough about Williams at that age to recognize his particular style of comedy at the time; all I knew is that I adored the Genie. It was the first Disney movie I properly loved. My sister and I watched it over and over and quoted it constantly (a particularly annoying Millennial habit, I know). It was my first taste of Robin Williams, but it was only the beginning.

A year later, Mrs. Doubtfire was released, which saw Williams playing a divorced dad who poses as an elderly woman nanny so that he can spend more time with his children. It is insane, but Williams embraces the role so fully, with such sincerity and devotion, that it’s no wonder it’s routinely included amongst his best work. But what made the movie so important to me — and the kids of my generation — was that in spite of how over-the-top the scenario was, Williams didn’t oversell it. Just because it was a children’s movie didn’t mean he wasn’t going to put his best comedy chops into it. Having rewatched it for the first time in years just a few months ago, I can honestly say that it is just as funny now as it was back in 1993.

Beyond the laughs, for kids with divorced parents locked in an ongoing custody battle — kids like me, that is— Mrs. Doubtfire was a real comfort, without being after-school-special cheesey. Don’t get me wrong: there was heart in it. But it was a movie with a message that didn’t look or feel like a movie with a message. It feels almost corny to say this now but at the time I needed reassurance that no matter how ugly the divorce was, my parents had nothing but love for me. Williams, who never panders to his onscreen kids or the kids in the audience, seemed to get it, and that was a rare thing.

Throughout the ’90s, Williams took on roles in kids’ movies that have stuck in our minds and culture: Peter in Hook; Alan Parrish in Jumanji; Professor Philip Brainard in Flubber; Andrew Martin in Bicentennial Man. Williams embraced roles in family movies unlike almost any other actor I can think of and in turn, we embraced his films. To this day my husband— also Millennial, though a British one— still raves about how much he loves Hook. (Not loved. Loves.)

Obviously not all of his films carried the emotional weight that Mrs. Doubtfire did for me, but there was always something that deeply resonated. The 1996 film Jack — wherein Williams plays a 10-year-old boy with a genetic disorder that makes his body age very quickly — was widely panned by critics. Yet it was one of the movies that struck a chord with my best friend, who sobbed so hard while watching the VHS tape that her mother had to turn it off. But it stayed with her. Last night, nearly 20 years after she first saw the movie, my best friend sent me a text in the middle of the night that simply said, “Thinking of the movie Jack.”

But it wasn’t just the kids’ movies that we Millennials adored. I first saw both 1997’s Good Will Hunting and 1989’s Dead Poets Society around the same time, just when I was about to start high school. I was just entering my angsty, teenage years and the last thing I was susceptible to was an idealist mentor-type, even if it was played by a beloved actor. But Williams’ Dr. Sean Maguire, a counselor who becomes a father-figure to the troubled title character in Good Will Hunting, punctured even my teenage gloom. He wasn’t jokey, he wasn’t zany, he wasn’t any of the things I had come to associate with Robin Williams, but his warmth was wholly recognizable and I was in awe.

And then there’s Dead Poets Society, one of the ultimate teenage movies and Millennials just lucked out that it was available by the time we were coming of age. Though I was only five when Poets hit theaters, the film enjoyed cult status among kids throughout the ’90s. The movie’s plot, which centers on a conservative boys school where a radical teacher works against the system to inspire his students, is hardly original and I knew that even back then. But the zeal and honesty that Williams poured into John Keating almost single-handedly elevated the movie from a cliché to an actual inspiration. Like any teenager, I was a bit disillusioned by school in general, but books and learning and truth were still things that could lure me and Williams’ Keating made a great case for them.

To this day, I still can’t resist Williams’ line, “But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Yet even with the years of cinematic evidence, I didn’t quite realize how much of an influence Williams had on my generation until today. When I woke up this morning, every single Facebook status in my News Feed and every single trending topic on Twitter— two clear indicators of Millennial mindsets — were related to Williams. Everyone seemed to have their own personal memory about watching his films growing up. He was the teacher we always wanted, the baby-sitter we would have loved, the best friend who knew exactly how to make us laugh.

It feels like I have always known that Robin Williams was an amazing actor, but I never understood just how amazing. Because looking back on it, I realize that his best roles didn’t define him — they helped define us.

TIME Television

George R.R. Martin Admits Die-Hard Game of Thrones Fans May Have Already Uncovered the Show’s Biggest Surprise

Kit Harington as Jon Snow
Kit Harington as Jon Snow Helen Sloan—HBO

Jon Snow really knows nothing — but the fans might

For awhile now, there’s been a theory floating around Game of Thrones forums and discussion boards that centers around the notion that Jon Snow isn’t entirely who he appears to be. Up to this point, both viewers of the television show and readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire know Snow as Ned Stark’s bastard, a more-than-competent member of the Night’s Watch and a knower of nothing. But according to this theory, dubbed “R+L=J” by its proponents and endorsed in recent weeks by no less than Ned Stark (Sean Bean) himself, Snow is much more.

R+L=J suggests that Snow is not, in fact, the bastard son of Ned Stark. Rather, he’s the love-child of Ned’s sister, Lyanna (the betrothed of Robert Baratheon) and her captor/suitor Rhaegar Targaryen, (son and heir of the mad king, Aeyrs II Targaryen). There are many little clues sprinkled throughout the series to support this theory, but it didn’t start gaining mainstream traction until earlier this summer when Bean apparently confirmed it.

Now, it seems, another person loosely tied to the Game of Thrones universe is hinting at its veracity: George R.R. Martin. Here’s what the author had to say at the Edinburgh International Book Festival:

“I want to surprise and delight my reader and take them in directions they didn’t see coming. But I can’t change the plans… So many readers were reading the books with so much attention that they were throwing up some theories and while some of those theories were amusing bulls**t and creative, some of the theories are right. At least one or two readers had put together the extremely subtle and obscure clues that I’d planted in the books and came to the right solution… So what do I do then? Do I change it?! I wrestled with that issue and I came to the conclusion that changing it would be a disaster, because the clues were there. You can’t do that, so I’m just going to go ahead. Some of my readers who don’t read the [online fan] boards, which thankfully there are hundreds of thousands of them, will still be surprised and other readers will say: ‘See, I said that four years ago, I’m smarter than you guys’.”

It’s possible that Martin could be talking about an entirely different major twist — but R+L=J would be huge for the Game of Thrones universe and has certainly been the most prominent theory in recent months.

As for what this revelation would mean for Westeros, that’s less clear. Though Snow’s Stark-Targaryen parentage would be an impressive pedigree, it wouldn’t change his status as either a bastard or a member of the Night’s Watch (and as such, has resolved to “hold no lands” and “wear no crowns”). That said, virtually every claim to the Iron Throne is contested and convoluted at this point. Maybe Snow could throw his cloak into the red keep after all.

TIME celebrities

Robin Williams Hanged Himself, Police Say

Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk
Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 28, 2009 Jay Paul—The New York Times/Redux

Confirming reports he committed suicide

Robin Williams died because of asphyxia from hanging himself in his California home, police said Tuesday, confirming a day after the actor’s death that he had committed suicide.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office also said Williams, who was 63, suffered “acute superficial” cuts to his wrist, and that a pocket blade was found near his body. A forensic examination showed no signs of a struggle, and toxicology results for Williams, who had long struggled with substance abuse and depression, won’t be available for about two to six weeks, police said.

Williams was last seen by his wife at 10:30 p.m. local time on Sunday when she went to bed. Williams’ personal assistant became concerned the next day when the actor failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. Upon entering, the assistant found Williams “clothed in a seated position, unresponsive, with a belt around his neck,” Lieutenant Keith Boyd told reporters during a news conference. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon on Monday.

Fans of the late comedian and actor gathered near the news conference in San Rafael, Calif., on Tuesday.

“It surprises me that someone who was so loved felt so alone,” said Leigh Carliglio of Contra Costa County. “He was loved, he was wonderful. This is devastating.”

She particularly remembers Mork & Mindy and then quickly adds Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin. “All of them.”

She was surprised to find out how he died. “We need more care for mental-health patients. We don’t understand how deep depression runs.”

Other fans filmed the news conference with their cell phones, lamenting how “a whole generation” grew up with Williams’ character in Mork & Mindy.

Outside Williams’ home in nearby Tiburon sat flower bouquets and notes address to “Robin.” A few fans lingered. “Anything he was in, I would go see it,” one said. “It’s just devastating. I have depression in my family.”

— Katy Steinmetz reported from San Rafael and Tiburon, Calif.

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