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The Genius Unscripted: Robin Williams and the Art of Improvisation

4 Mins read

Ah, Robin Williams – the name alone conjures an image of boundless energy, a twinkle in the eye, and a mind that skipped playfully from one thought to the next like a stone across the surface of a lake. You see, long before going viral was even a tinge in the world’s vocabulary, Robin Williams was an endless source of hilarity and heart on screens both big and small – and yes, that included fun in the commercial sphere. Seriously, can we take a quick second to marvel at the fact that his outtakes alone could have made for some side-splitting TV? I'm pretty sure those tapes would be worth their weight in gold now.

A Tribute to Improvisation

Let's rewind the tape back to the '80s. Leg warmers were all the rage, Nintendo was just getting its feet wet in America, and TV commercials? Well, they definitely weren’t yet the mini-movie spectacles we’re used to today. Enter Robin Williams – an improvisational Jedi with the Midas touch for making you spit your Tab cola out from laughter. His outtakes from these commercial shoots are like finding hidden treasure troves showcasing his sheer comedic genius.

He'd step onto the set, and it was like flipping a switch. One minute he's this unassuming guy going over lines, and the next he’s five different characters having a conversation with each other – with voices and all.

But why are these moments of spontaneous brilliance so important? Because they remind us of a time when improv wasn’t just a performance art but also an experimental space for creatives like Williams to push boundaries within any medium – including commercials.

Innovation in Advertising

Back in 1980, when Robin took on commercial gigs, it wasn't just about selling a product; it was about captivating an audience so entirely that they forgot they were watching an ad. That’s some serious Jedi mind trick stuff right there.

Here's how it typically went down: you’d get Robin to agree to do your commercial probably because he liked your product or something warm and fuzzy like that. He steps on set with maybe a vague idea of what needs to happen but then – BAM! – he sees something or hears something that sparks that comic tinderbox brain of his, and suddenly you're not just selling whatever it is you’re selling. You’re giving people pure entertainment.

His Outtakes: A Class of Their Own

Those lucky enough to be on set during these moments witnessed not just an ad being made but essentially seasoned slices of impromptu comedy shows performed by arguably one of the greatest improv comedians of all time.

Here's what usually happened during his commercial shoots:

  1. The director explains the scene;
  2. Robin listens (kinda);
  3. Action is called;
  4. Off-script magic happens.

His ability to riff off anything – a prop mistake, someone's offhand comment from behind the camera, or his own tangled tongue – had everyone on set in splits but also often led to some genuinely golden marketing material.

Bold statement incoming: those outtakes, if they were compiled into their own ad reel? They would've transformed how commercials were made back then—heck, they'd probably still be fresh today! Consider it Robin Williams' unofficial masterclass in disruptive advertising.

The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

If you're furrowing your brow wondering why this matters now or why writers aren't letting Williams rest peacefully in our nostalgia-soaked memories – I get it. But here’s why I felt compelled to slap these words onto your screen:

  • Williams' talent was timeless, influencing comedians and actors who came after him.
  • Improvisation as an art form deserves its spotlights, even (or especially) when it shows up where we least expect it.
  • The '80s were an amazing hotbed for cultural shifts – including shifts in how ads engaged potential consumers.

Remember those old VCR tapes with commercials recorded on them? Now picture getting your hands on one marked “Robin Williams Commercials – FOR DIRECTOR'S EYES ONLY.” You've struck comedic gold because you know every take is going to show you sides to creativity (and commercialization) that textbooks can't touch.

From Commercial Shoots to Cultural Impact

But here's a more profound slice: Williams didn't just pop into existence as a fully-formed star for our amusement. He honed his craft; tirelessly working at stand-up venues and filming sets across America.

He listened.
He watched.
He learned.

And when he brought all that experience into something as seemingly mundane as shooting a commercial? It wasn't mundane anymore. It was something akin to witnessing jazz; improv comedy was his saxophone, crafting melodies nobody knew they needed until they heard them whirl out into their living rooms.

It’s moments like these—seemingly small vignettes within larger narratives—that make pop culture history so fascinating; where artists like Williams redefined mediums with their unequivocal genius.

Legacy Lives On

Fast forward through cable TV's rise and fall; past internet ads becoming our new norm; feel-good viral vid campaigns—somewhere among those evolutions beat threads first woven by pioneers like Williams on those now-fabled ad sets.

The improvisation skills that dazzled us weren’t just about being quick-witted or funny (though don’t get me wrong—they were downright hilarious). They symbolized an innate ability to connect with people—to spool threads between us all without us realizing we were being drawn together by laughter oils on watercolor landscapes of everyday life.

So here’s my parting shot:

When's the last time you watched something—an ad, clip or flick—and felt that sense of electric connection? Like whoever's up there on screen has figured out how to send Morse code directly into your tickle bone?

Bring up memories of Robin's skills on camera or drop your two cents about improvisation’s place in today’s digitally dominating world below because conversation is kindling—and who knows where sharing stories could spark our next creative blaze?

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