As the heart numbing sadness from last week’s news concerning the Death of Robin Williams subsides, i struggle to put into words my recollection of my times with him and his wayward genius, intersecting as those memories do with the time Robin met Rick Mayall in my Earls Court basement late in 1988. This meeting was no coincidence. I had been acting as confidante and life-coach to them both throughout the eighties as a i plied my trade either side of the pond.
With Rick we worked on the transition from the carnage that the Young Ones had become towards an emerging maturity as a solo tragicomic force. With Robin it was all more complex, post the charming but infantile Mork stuff. Looking backI felt that our crucial coaching session prior to his taking on Good Morning Vietnam was pivotal in his transition towards something darker and more telling. It irritates me now to read eulogies from those who claim to have known him that he was soley a ‘depressive’, when clearly he was manic-depressive and that the comedy lay in the interstices of his mood swings.
And on behalf of both Rick and Robin it feels insufficient for me to read praise for their ‘improvisation’ without seeking to discover what the wellspring of that impro urge might have been. As the only person ever to have been close enough to each of them to have known the truth in this – close enough to have brought them together that one and only time – then i can with confidence reveal that the source of their common gift for manic outpouring was a deep embracing of the absurd that made my Dadaist heart swell.
i engineering the meeting between them at a time when they were each at career choice points and short of inspiration and partners that could sustain their high octane output. Though they each resisted the thought of meeting a comic counterpart – a mirror self – each conceded that no harm would be done if the purpose was to trigger fresh purpose and direction. The day that we three planned together stretched into two then three days. We never left the flat, but bounced off the walls sufficient to have broken them down. Robin watched one episode of Young Ones then launched into a US parody of the same set in a Frat House that would have run for years if it had ever made the TV screen. He played every part, including the Russian Janitor, to telling effect. Not to be outdone, Rick then staged “Good Evening Crimea’ transposing all the memes of Robin’s masterpiece onto a caricature of a Times reporter dictating events to a mesmerised audience in a Pall Mall club.
As we staggered into day three a silence descended. We were all three spent quite spent. ‘What next? ‘ i essayed but was met with blank eyes. Each had met an equal talent and in there attempts to out-impress each other something had broken inside of each of them perhaps irrevocably. There was clearly no next. My mad plan for the ‘Rick ’n’ Robin Roundabout’ could not even be uttered in this funereal mood. We all three of us had come to an ending. Robin resigned himself to the mawkish sentimentality that was his dreary family fun of the nineties. Rick sold out and did the New Statesman. It took me a while for me to remerge as a force in the land, but then the chance to be life coach to Diana Spencer could not be refused.