When Robin Williams broke out back in the late 70’s he had a hugely visceral impact. There was no one else like him. Last night I watched his first appearance on Happy Days and every little, nutty thing he did elicited a wild reaction from the studio audience. There were even a few moments where you could see the other cast members trying not to laugh; what a boost of energy he gave to a show that was withering on the vine at the time. It was obvious this guy was going to be big. He was like a human funnel cloud; you had no choice but to be caught up into his universe. The problem with artists that thrive in that high energy zone is that, over time, it can be exhausting to the viewer. In the last few decades I have preferred Robin Williams minus his manic shtick perhaps because he danced on that high wire for so long that I was personally tired of it. Thankfully, he branched out in so many wonderful ways following his initial success; a movie career that included more than a few roles that could be legitimately labeled classic.
But watching him last night, young and about to bust wide open, it was clear that he had arrived at just the right time. And he was hysterical. Out of this world. Playing a man from outer space was probably the only thing that made sense at the time. He brought an otherworldly level of crazy to our planet and that was indeed a good thing.