Robin Williams is regarded as one of America’s greatest comedians. His fame grew exponentially following his appearance in Mrs. Doubtfire, but before his role in that 1993 film, he had been cast as Mork, first in the TV show Happy Days and then in the spin-off Mork & Mindy. In the sitcom, Mork was an alien from the planet Ork who came to Earth to experience a primitive civilization in the company of his friend and eventual, love interest, Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber), reporting home on all he discovers.
The character of Mork proved itself to be the perfect showcase for Williams’ remarkable talent. Beyond that, he realized he could use his ability to speak a variety languages to sneak some naughtiness into his performance, thereby getting past the sitcom’s censors. Well, it’s safe to say he got away with it on some occasions due to the fact he was given the freedom to improvise his lines on the show.
Caught by Censors or not?
In an interview with Pioneers of Television, Williams detailed how he got some of his dirty jokes past censors and how they had to employ a polyglot censor — one who understood several languages — to rein him in.
As Williams said, “Eventually they had to have a censor who spoke three or four different languages because I was sneaking things in in different languages. They went, ‘She knows what that means.’ Really? Oh, sad. Because I was using – sometimes Mork would speak Yiddish, ‘Was machst du, Mindy?’ There must have been some Hassidim watching, ‘Thank God, it’s Thursday, we can watch!’ But the idea that, you know, we would try different things, and it was just kind of to see what could get under the radar.” Pretty good proof of his unique talent, creativity and innovation, isn’t it?
‘How I got Happy Days gig’ — Robin Williams
Another thing Robin spoke about during his interview was his experience while auditioning to be cast as Mork. Williams said, “I went in and basically just started talking in a weird helium voice, and sat on my head, and started off just playing, because I went ‘what have you got to lose?’ And they went, ‘Yes.’ And I went ‘Serious?’ So, I got the gig.”
Williams also remarked that Mork & Mindy was birthed when the son of series creator Gary Marshall suggested it to his father after his mind had been blown blown away by the science fiction fantasy movie named Star Wars. And Williams obviously agreed with the idea: His performances on Happy Days opened the door for Mork & Mindy.
The journey into the limelight and the death of Robin Williams
Mork & Mindy was only Williams’ first step into the limelight and would lead to an extremely successful film career. Sadly, he was discovered dead in his home in Paradise Cay, California, on August 11, 2014. His autopsy report concluded that his death was due to asphyxia from hanging himself. A careful inspection of his brain tissue suggested Williams had “diffuse Lewy body dementia,” a disease his widow, Susan Schneider Williams, referred to as “the terrorist inside my husband’s brain.”