Robin Williams had so many memorable roles throughout his career. One minute he was a doctor using humor to help sick children smile, the next he was a wise-cracking animated blue genie, and then he would completely transform into a psychotic photo developer. He was known to many as the loud, energetic, funny, and warm man that would spend his spare time giving back to people who needed humor or help. In the new HBO Documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, you get to see this man in a different light and explore his thoughts throughout his crazy life.
Since his unfortunate passing in 2014, there have been numerous documentaries and books about Robin’s life in the public eye. What makes director Marina Zenovich’s documentary so unique and insightful is the use of behind the scenes footage of Robin at various points in his life. These raw looks at his insane comedic timing and child-like nature when interacting with a large crowd of people are so special and hilarious to see. What I wasn’t expecting, however, is the emotional impact this footage had on the audience (myself included).
This footage consists of things like outtakes from Mork and Mindy, the television show that launched Robin into the film and television industry. These outtakes are sometimes almost more entertaining than the show itself. Seeing Robin making his castmates and crew laugh and lose their concentration is very difficult not to enjoy. There’s also an outtake from an episode of Sesame Street that I won’t spoil, but it got the biggest and hardest laugh from the audience.
Most of the other documentaries that look into Robin’s life focus on the negative and somber aspects of his life and his suicide. Although this documentary does touch on these, it focuses more on the influences he had in his life that made his comedy as infectious as it was. His story is told through a mix of interviews with some of his family, close friends, colleagues, and even Robin himself from early in his career. These interviews paint a much more detailed account of moments in his life that were surrounded with controversy.
The biggest of these controversies was Robin’s second marriage to the nanny he hired while he was married to his first wife and the mother of his first child. The tabloids at the time said that Robin broke up the marriage by getting caught with the nanny. He was labeled a cheater and faced a lot of scrutiny over it. In this documentary, his first wife reveals that she and Robin were already separated when the news of Robin and the nanny came out. She regretted not telling the world this information and allowing all of the scrutiny to occur.
One of the big topics concerning Robin’s personality was his need to perform. His friends, such as Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, recall the massive difference in Robin when they were alone with him versus when anyone else was in the room. Robin was a very quiet and reserved man when alone, but immediately flipped on his comedic side when he had an audience watching. His friends saw this as a form of addiction to the attention he got when performing. Along with this addiction came Robin’s other addictions to drugs and alcohol. He was known to perform multiple shows in one night and would then stay out until the early hours of the morning and show up to set looking like a mess.
This documentary is a very unique look into the mind of a comedian. Everyone thinks of comedians as people who are just naturally funny all the time. This film shows that comedians could have their own demons and issues that can either strengthen their career or slowly break them down over time. Robin fought feelings of depression, loneliness, and addiction all throughout his life. He would use his comedy as a means to express his feelings and relieve some of the stress of living this daily struggle. In the end, Robin Williams was a man loved by his family, his friends, the people he worked with, and by fans all over the world. This documentary serves as a collection of happy memories of an entertainment legend, and the story of a man who felt alone in a crowd of millions who loved him.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres July 13, 2018 on HBO.