The death of Robin Williams is one that touches every one, no matter if you work in comedy/improv as a career or whether just as a spectator. And there was no one on the planet who exemplified what’s possible in comedy improvisation than Williams. Anyone who was lucky enough to see him perform live was reminded how much of an endless stream of ideas he had that never wavered in creativity or comedic energy.
Those who do comedy and improv here in Denver at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse have all been affected by Williams’ death, giving us pause whether we’ll really see anyone like him again in inspiring improv artists. While it may give a complex portrait of how much a price those high-level comedians pay for bringing joy to others and not themselves, Williams at least gave hints to what makes for a successful improv artist.
Despite a lot of comedic talent out there and here in Denver, it seems evident we won’t see another titanic comedic talent like Williams. Regardless, what can Robin Williams’ talent do to inspire you if you’ve considered going into comedy improv? What were some of his personal secrets that helped him be able to tap into his bottomless well of comedic ideas and absurdities?
Classical Training and Retaining Imagination
We all know that Robin Williams studied acting at Julliard in his early days, which helped him considerably be able to give a more intellectual edge to his improv ability. When it comes to improv, having a huge knowledge base of classical training can help a lot in tapping into literary or pop culture references on a dime. Thanks to Williams studying Shakespeare and other classics, he could use much of that for source material and bring a more cerebral edge to his comedy while integrating it with more worldly situations.
That was one secret to Williams’ improv ability, though it was far from all of it. When Newsweek recently reprinted an interview with Williams from 1986, you could see a lot of revelations about his comedy inspiration that are quite telling in hindsight. The fact that Williams didn’t even fully comprehend the comedic reservoir he had, it shows the greatest creative artists don’t always psychoanalyze what drives them.
Even though Williams didn’t seem to understand himself, it’s made clear in the interview he regarded performing on stage as playtime. You don’t find many comedic performers who love performing so much that it’s considered almost vacation or a trip back into one’s childhood imagination.
Williams admitted to regressing into his imagination a lot as a child while spending time alone. His retaining of that imagination for improv playtime helped him tap a part of the brain many adults lose as they grow up. Whether this is the ultimate secret to successful comedy improvisation is up for debate, though it has to help in being able to have a constant stream of material to turn to.
All of us here at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse in Denver will continue to be inspired by Robin Williams for the rest of our lives. We can only hope to discover a comedian with Williams’ talent, yet we know how rare it’s going to be to find someone who had the same perfect alignment of skills. Nevertheless, you’re still going to see considerably brilliant improv talent here that will make you laugh heartily.
Contact us for showtimes of when our next stand-up and improv comedians perform. Also, consider taking one of our improv classes to help nurture that “playtime” Robin Williams adhered to. Consciously applying a little playtime to your own real life may be the best legacy Robin Williams could give to the world.