There are a lot of comedians I love, but very few that I feel I genuinely connect with. What I mean is, there are some comedians that I just “get.” I feel like I get their humor. I get their mannerisms, tones and timing. There are times when I watch them and no one is laughing and I’m sitting there rolling in laughter because of some facial expression. It’s a rare thing.
Steve Carell is one of the comedians I feel like I get. Billy Crystal, of course. Jack Black is another. Martin Short, too. And yes, Robin Williams made me laugh perhaps more than all of them.
I have watched more YouTube clips of him than probably any other comedian. Mostly I loved watching his interviews. I loved watching him on late night TV because it wasn’t scripted; it was just him being himself. Off the cuff the whole time and having a ball.
What I loved about Robin Williams is that he’d pretty much try anything. He’d start on a tangent and just go with it. His interviews were so much fun to me because they never sounded the same. He would play off of his surroundings and the hosts in so many different and vibrant ways. I once watched Adam Sandler in three different TV interviews in the span of two days, and I heard the exact same jokes every time. Robin always gave me something new to expect.
Anyone that is familiar with his work has admired his gift of comedic improv. So many movies you’ve seen include him making things up on the spot. There’s a certain power with improv that captures people in the moment. And it gives you a moment that can never truly be repeated.
I think that’s true, not just in comedy and acting, but in life. For all of our efforts to write out the best stories for our lives, life is a horrible screenwriter. It forces us to improv constantly. Every day. All day.
There are many actors in the scenes of our lives trying so desperately to stick to the script. But no matter how hard you try, something always happens. The lights go out. The set breaks. Someone forgets their lines. You have to embrace the unexpected and go with it.
There’s a rule in improv you may have heard Tina Fey talk about called the “Yes, and” rule. In a nutshell, it says that if you are doing an improv scene with someone, you never go back on what they say or bring into the scene. You have to agree with it and then add to it. If you disagree with what they say it will make the scene stale.
Maybe it’s time to quit saying “No, but…” so often when the scene changes and just learn to say, “Yes, and.” We can’t control every aspect of our lives. Sometimes we can only adjust to them. The more we learn to roll with the scene and look for the good, the easier it will become. And it will be more entertaining, as well.
Watch the episode of him on “Inside the Actors Studio” on YouTube. I’ve literally watched it dozens of times and it never gets old.