UPDATE: The following was first written in the immediate hours following Robin Williams' sudden death on Aug. 11, 2014:
When I was 5 years old, one of my first memories was wanting to go to my first day of kindergarten wearing a red unitard, silver leg-warmers and gloves made out of tin foil. I would greet everyone with a cheery "Na-nu Na-nu," or maybe a "Shazbot!", and I would be instantly loved. It was Fail. Safe.
My mom thought otherwise (still bitter), and ultimately, I wore the same rainbow dress as my best friend Nikki who lived up the street. But even at 5 years old, I distinctly remember thinking that "Mork from Ork" was the funniest man alive. His spaceship looked like an egg, he did everything backwards, and he never had to follow any rules from any grown-ups. He was a 5-year-old's GOD.
I think now about how my entire family would sit around watching Mork & Mindy and my sister and I would laugh til our stomachs hurt, literally rolling on the floor of our awful green shag carpet. And as someone who now covers TV for a living, with a 5-year-old of my own, I realize there isn't a single show on TV we can watch as a family that would have us laughing that hard. Maybe I'm not flipping to the right channels?
The tragic loss of Robin Williams resonates in a deeper place than many celeb deaths, because he was just so talented. A true legend. A lightning rod of funny that would hit you deep in your gut. And as much as we hear that comedians can be some of the most tortured souls on the planet, it was just so hard to believe with Robin Williams. He was always "on."
Anyone who interviews actors for a living will tell you that vast majority of A-List comedians are the most awfully wretched people when it comes to interviews. You expect so much, you get so little. The bigger the star, the less you should expect. They are funny on screen for their TV show or movie and then…they are done.
Not Robin Williams.
Robin is not only arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of all time, he brought that sense of reckless abandon and play everywhere he went. Including silly little press junkets.
Decades after my aborted kindergarten dress-up plan (still bitter), I struggled again with what to wear and what to say to meet my childhood idol, Mork himself, at the CBS upfronts in NY. The Crazy Ones, starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar, was picked up to series, and I couldn't think of a single thing to say, other than a stream of verbal diarrhea about how much he made me laugh over the years (and how much I wanted a Buffy movie…but that's another story).
Turns out, it didn't matter what I asked. The questions were lame. His responses—which had nothing to do with the questions—left me barely able to breathe.
"What's it like working with Robin?" turned into a 60-second stand-up routine that was more or less Robin doing an ad for "Ghandi Jeans." (You can see the video above.)
True story: My son is starting kindergarten today. We spent last night You Tube-ing Mork and Mindy clips and I wrapped his hands in tin foil, just for fun. He probably won't want to wear it to school, but if he does, I won't stop him.
RIP, Robin. Thanks for all the laughs. And for being my greatest career non-disappointment.
(Originally published Aug. 12, 2014, at 5:30 a.m. PT)