Somehow I knew that I eventually would let this out. My brain has been mulling this over ever since he died. My two favorite lunatics were Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams. Winters died last year and Williams recently. I have been searching my mind to think of anyone else who might be in that frantic comedic category. If there is someone, I have not seen him or her.
Williams has always given Jonathan Winters credit for many of the things that he had done. He was also beholden to Peter Sellers caricatures in the Goonies radio program and Dr. Strangelove. Funny, but all of those things are those that I grew up with and loved. Yup, I have heard the Goon show from the U.K. and it is as fast paced as anything that I have heard. There is also a Monty Python quality to many of these British comedies. Robin Williams devoured all of them.
However, Robin Williams was of another world entirely. As David Letterman described him when he was on the same nightclub bill with him, he was so far ahead of us, and we knew he would be great. Not only could Williams flip off funny things in riffs, but he could do things that no one else had the capacity or talent that he had.
I have known one other person like him in my life. My good friend Hanoch (Fred) McCarty had the same talent. He was as fast as both Winters and Williams, but never as professional or consistent. He was also a comic genius and we would verbally spar for hours. I am not sure that Hanoch knew how talented he was. His crowning glory was an audio tape called, “Sounds of the Human body.” There were many parts to his efforts. I still laugh when I think of it.
Improv is truly an art form and both Williams and Winters had it in spades. Although they were friends, they were of a different sort. Winters comedy came from his rural background. Williams schtick was honed by Julliard. Robin could never do Maudie Frickert and Elwood P. Suggins and Jonathan could never do Mork.
I have no idea who will come along and have the kind of complete talent that Robin Williams had. He was successful both as an improve and screen star. These days, I wait for a young man that I have known since he was born to mature and grow into a slower version of both Jonathan and Robin. He is the son of friends of ours. His is certainly more droll and less frenetic, but he has the improv gene. He is still in college and is still honing his talent.