Robin Williams was an explosive, freewheeling comedic powerhouse onstage, but away from the spotlight, he was often quiet and introspective. PBS’ Blank on Blank showcases both sides of the late actor-comic with the latest video in their animated series, using audio clips from a previously unheard 1991 Playboy interview with Lawrence Grobel. Throughout, Williams veers from chaotically silly rants on orgasm faces and birth control to thoughtful reflections on his own shortcomings and why human beings need comedy to survive.
When asked what the year 2020 will be like, Williams offers some hilarious predictions of technology and alternative fuel sources. “It’ll be one giant film corporation,” he says. “There’ll be no longer any government. It will be one nation, under God, indivisible, with circuits and VCRs for everyone. I don’t know. 2020. There’ll be cold fusion. We’ll actually be able to power our cars with our own feces. That’s right. The emissions problem will be a little intense, but just light a match.”
Asked if he thinks artists have a role in modern society, Williams cuts straight to the meaning of comedy, emphasizing that a comic’s job is to “fuck with the parameters.”
“Comedy is there to basically show us we fart, we laugh, to make us realize we still are part animal,” he says. “As intellectual as we think we are, you still trip; we still have human foibles, sexuality, all the different things to still make you aware of your humanity. That’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s just to keep us awake, cut through the shit, peel off the mask and go, ‘Oh, you got a big nose.’ Or put on the big nose and make you realize, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have a big nose.’ All that stuff. So you don’t take yourself seriously and destroy the species.”