Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pure Robin Williams, Pure Wit

by Drew Martin
Since the death of Robin Williams I have watched some of his performances on Mork and Mindy on YouTube. As a middle-aged adult I remember Williams for his more recent movie roles but I wanted to see him as I would have watched him when I was only nine or ten years old, when the show first ran and Williams reached a national audience after his Happy Days debut.

Here (top) he is playing his guileless Orkan character, Mork, being tortured by his alien culture's enemy, the Necrotons. Raquel Welch plays Captain Nirvana, who commands her assistants, Kama and Sutra, to restrain him as they torture him by throwing him in a hot tub after tickling him with a feather. Welch pours bubble bath into the water to add to his displeasure. As Williams disrobes under their threats, he hangs his rainbow suspenders over the privacy screen and calls them "moral support."

I realize now how brilliant his character is for young kids trying to make sense of adult rules. Mork is sent to Earth by his superior, Orson, because humor is not permitted back on his home planet, Ork, and he cannot help himself from his constant jokes. His exiled mission is to report on human culture. At the end of every episode Mork reports to Orson what he has learned about human behavior from his personal experiences.

To make contact, a plain-clothed Mork meditates from his room in Boulder, Colorado, which places the alien-uniformed Mork in a black void. He typically waits for Orson to "pick up" on his call, during which time he ridicules his superior. Pictured here (bottom) is from an episode about gender equality where Mork tries out for the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. He body-spells F-A-T-S-O to poke at his superior's girth. Orson always catches Mork making fun of him, so in this case Mork apologetically explains that he was just doing a cheer for his "Pom-pom-posity."

I was always intrigued by these reports. They are brief, quirky, and something akin to a soliloquy and a stage performance, which was not typical for late 70's sitcom. The character addresses someone but the scene is always Williams on his own: pure Williams, pure wit.

Click here to watch Robin Williams performing with Raquel Welch in the Mork vs. the Necrotons episode of Mork and Mindy

Click here to see Robin Williams try out for the Denver Broncos cheerleaders in the Hold that Mork episode of Mork and Mindy