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Robin Williams: In His Own Words

In this column, we consider poignant quotations from our cultural heroes

Robin Williams, 1987
Robin Williams, 1987 Photography by Fred Larsen

We remember the miraculous Robin Williams through the lines he spoke on screen and off

Manic, physical, hilarious, strange and melancholic – Robin Williams was an actor who strode straight off the screen, grabbed you by the neck and forced a reaction. Whether faux-food-fighting in Hook, inspiring boys to literary heights in the Dead Poets’ Society, winning Oscars in Good Will Hunting, bellowing across the airwaves in Good Morning Vietnam, or dragging up exuberantly in Mrs Doubtfire, he never made a boring step, even if the artistic merit of some of his roles were questionable. Off screen, his battles with addiction and depression were well documented, but he seemed resolute in the face of his demons, continuing to act and, in 2008, rescuing a TED conference in disarray by performing a flawlessly funny impromptu set while the equipment was being mended.

And yet this morning, the world was met with the tragic news that this consummate performer and wonderfully funny man had been found dead, in what appears to be a suicide. In celebration of his endless wit and inimitable energy, here we present some of our favourite Robin Williams lines, those he spoke in character, in stand-up and in life.

Robin Williams
“You’re given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

Robin Williams outside the Comedy Store, 1978
Robin Williams outside the Comedy Store, 1978 Courtesy of Wynn Miller/Time & Life Pictures
“There is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.”

“Do you think God gets stoned? I think so – look at the platypus.”

“Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.”

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
“Gooooood Morning Vietnam! It’s 0600. What’s the O stand for? ‘Oh, my God, it’s early.’”

“You’re given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it” — Robin Williams

Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."

Hook (1991)
“Listen, I’d love to chat, but I gotta climb a drain pipe right now. Why? Because I ran out of fairy dust, if not I would’ve flown up.”

Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, 1997
Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, 1997
The Fisher King (1991)
“There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”

Genie, Aladdin (1992)
“Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck.”

Good Will Hunting (1997)
“Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”

"Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for"

Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
“I admire that honesty, that’s a noble quality. Never lose that, because it often disappears with age, or entering politics.”

August Rush (2007)
“You know what music is? God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.”

Research by Abby Gurney-Read

Tish Wrigley is the AnOther assistant editor.

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