Robin Williams’ improvisational style—effervescent, manic, freewheeling—was greatly admired among his fellow comedians and adored by audiences. He brought an exuberant energy to the stage and invented characters with a lightning quickness. But how did he do it? What was his trick?
In a session on Inside the Actor’s Studio in June 2001, host James Lipton asked Williams what makes his gift come to life.
“Are you thinking faster than the rest of us?” says Lipton. “What the hell is going on?”
Williams launches into a seven-minute improvisational schtick, playing characters from an Amish prisoner to Kung-Fu master, to an automobile at a car wash, to an Oedipal psychotherapist’s patient. It’s less of an explanation of his talents than a full-throated demonstration of them, and it’s hilarious and wonderful.
“That’s as close as I could explain,” says Williams.