Robin Williams is an actor and comedian who was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. Williams appears to have had a sense of humor from an early age. He was bullied by classmates in middle school, and Williams came to use his comedy as a way to mask the pain and to also make his mother laugh and pay attention to him. He was an only child and has admitted that, “My only companions, my only friends as a child were my imagination.”
It took Williams joining his high school drama department to overcome his shyness enough to begin to share his acting and comedic talent. Williams excelled quickly, becoming one of only 20 students accepted into the 1973 freshman class at Juilliard. Williams left the school before his senior year after his teacher, John Houseman, advised him that there was nothing more he could teach him.
Williams gave his first stand-up performance in the early 1970s at Holy City Zoo in San Francisco where he had first started working as a bartender. Williams continued to appear at comedy clubs in the area, and critic Gerald Nachman credits him with leading the “comedy renaissance” that took place in the Bay Area during the 1970s.
Williams got his debut appearance on television in 1977 as part of the revival of the Laugh-in show. Williams pursued both acting and stand-up at that point and credits Jonathan Winters, Nichols and May and Lenny Bruce as some of the people who influenced his work.
Williams won his first GRAMMY Award for his 1979 live show, “Reality…What a Concept.” He went on to have several other successful comedy tours and movie roles, but he began battling with the demons of addiction to alcohol and cocaine that had begun while he was working on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. His struggle with addiction lasted for decades. In addition to his battle with addiction, he also struggled with depression, and it was this battle that he ultimately lost when he tragically committed suicide on August 11, 2014.
Despite having battled depression, Williams brought laughs to millions over his decades long career. Take a look back at some of his most memorable moments in the following video.