HBO News Blog

HBO Classics: Comic Talent Robin Williams On HBO

By Jef Dinsmore on Aug 14, 2014 to HBO Classics

People_RobinWilliamsEveryone we know has been rockin’ and reelin’ over the loss of the top notch talent Robin Williams. The biggest shock of it all is not that a 63 year-old died, but that depression was the driving ailment that caused the actor to take his own life. It has been quite saddening for many. News reports across the dial have been airing retrospectives on his life and career and even have been addressing the mental illness that has destroyed more than just his life. There have also been online acknowledgments from blogs to tweets and every colleague of Mr. Williams from actors to comics has reflected on the man and his contributions. 

In some small way we too at HBOWatch wish to honor the memory of Mr. Robin Williams. What better way for us to do so than to look at his career on HBO. Upon his death HBO has offered the following statement, which we discovered on Deadline among other comments worth looking at. HBO said –

“Robin Williams graced HBO for so many years with his uncommon gifts.  He never failed to elevate his art and did so with a full, generous and loving heart.  Always humble and gracious, Robin was a prince and holds a special place in all our hearts.”  

Mr. Williams always went back and forth between comedy and drama, though he was noted as a comedian first most. He offered a manic style of improvisational rifts that started with guest stints on a few shows in the late ‘70’s before launching into his Mork character on Happy Days and Mork and Mindy. His first ventures onto HBO were appearances on HBO’s comedic specials ON LOCATION and THE YOUNG COMEDIAN SPECIALS hosted by Rodney Dangerfield. Luckily, we can find some of those early works and some of them are a bit lengthy. For example, head to YouTube for the one hour ON LOCATION: ROBIN WILLIAMS LIVE AT THE ROXY from 1978. Here  also is a more manageable clip from one of those early appearances on HBO.   

Soon after these successful stints he got bigger concert deals with OFF THE WALL in 1978 and AN EVENING WITH ROBIN WILLIAMS following in 1982. You can watch all 1 hour and 22 minutes of that special on YouTube as well. Then he slipped on to the network with a dramatic appearance in 1988. He did voice over work for a documentary entitled DEAR AMERICA: LETTERS HOME FROM VIETNAM. It was a piece in which real life letters from military personnel were read over archival footage of the conflict. Mr. Williams voiced one series of letters.  He later appeared on camera on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW in two separate episodes. Here is a clip.


Talk of Robin Williams would not be complete without a mention of his dramatic cinematic endeavors. Though he never starred in an HBO Films presentation his movies were (and sometimes still are) seen on HBO. This writer is fairly sure that he at least seen The Fisher King, Awakenings, Patch Adams (pictured) and Dead Poets Society on the network and HBO Family has aired Popeye and Toys. To these titles you can add many more. 

On HBOGo right now youWilliams_PatchAdams can watch Jakob The Liar In this movie a Jewish man (played by Williams) provides hope to his neighbors–via imaginary radio transmissions–amidst Nazi persecution. Jakob, a man sequestered in the Jewish ghetto of Lodz, Poland, is suspected by his neighbors of having a secret radio. Sensing an opportunity, Jakob makes up fake broadcasts that provide a ray of hope in dramatic contrast with the horror and danger around him. Keep your eyes peeled Williams’ work is sure to continue to air from time to time. In fact, HBOGo could package a Williams Collection if it were smart.

One of Robin’s largest contributions to HBO and to society was co-headlining COMIC RELIEF with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. It was a charity event that was designed to raise awareness and funds for America’s homeless. A large line-up of comedic talent headlined the entertainment as the pledge drive went on and Robin Williams and his close friends kept the whole shebang rolling. The event raised $2.5 million its first year. The three comedic amigos led the way with the event (on HBO) in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1998, and later morphed into supporting other causes. This HBO fan was eager for the event each time it rolled around and Robin Williams was a huge factor in returning each time.

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To be truthful, this post could go on and on. There are many clips from COMIC RELIEF and other comedic routines, manic interviews from talk shows and movie moments from one great career that can be replayed. If you want more or don’t like the clips chosen go seek them out. Also feel free to comment and/or pay tribute below; and since there is no fitting clip or great way to wrap this HBOWatch Tribute we leave you with these now famous words.

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  • sal

    I miss him.

  • dj

    Until we meet again……Nanu, Nanu.

  • So many great memories.
    What an incredible loss.

  • Eleonora Iafano

    I’m not one to get torn up over celebrity deaths, but the ones that really hit me the hardest have been Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and Robin Williams. As a little girl, my parents both loved the movies that Paul and Liz made respectively, as I watched many of them. I think I adored Paul and Liz more for their charitable endeavours – Paul funding the Hole in The Wall Camp for children with Cancer and Newman’s Own, with the proceeds going to drug and alcohol prevention programs. And Liz – that sassy broad helped get AIDS/HIV victims a voice and support with AMFAR. Robin Williams gave a lot of money to homeless shelters and children’s charities in San Francisco but not too many people were aware of that. He gave everyone a good laugh with his unique brand of comedy. He also proved that he could carry some serious roles – just watch Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. I felt a big lump in my throat when I saw the news a few days ago. What a loss, to his children, his wife and to the world, who he gave so many fond memories. My older brothers and I grew up watching Mork and Mindy. Thank you, Robin, for your gift of laughter. You will be missed.

    • Dee

      It’s weird you should say that, because when Robin Williams died, my first thought was: “I haven’t felt this way since Paul Newman.” I also ADORED Newman and I thought he and Williams represented what was good in mankind, and the world feels less kind for their absence.

  • Dee

    Great tribute (and great clips) for a great talent.










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