• 08.12.14

The Impression He Left: 9 Pop Culture Tributes To Robin Williams

On August 11, we lost an endlessly inventive comedian and Oscar-winning actor. Robin Williams’s legacy will live on, though. Here are some of the many ways pop culture showed it’s got him in its bloodstream.

On August 11, beloved entertainer Robin Williams passed away. He was 63 years old. Not everybody has a favorite Robin Williams role. It’s hard to settle on one of them. Should it come from the groundbreaking comedian’s funny films, or the Academy Award-winning actor’s meaty dramatic performances; from his more family-friendly oeuvre, or something a little more racy? He was a colossal talent with incredible range–adept at playing lovable buffoons, stone-cold psychopaths, and the entire spectrum in between and beyond. Perhaps the most indelible impression Williams made, however, was in the role of Robin Williams.

Robin Williams in MORK & MINDY (1978)Photo by Jim Britt, ABC via Getty Images

Through his wildly energetic stand-up specials, unpredictable talk show appearances, and various hosting duties, Williams forged a singular persona whenever he showed up as himself. In his earliest efforts, he was a whirling dervish of improv, impressions, and zingers. As he matured, the maniacal pace may have slowed down a bit, but not by much. The way that Williams is portrayed in pop culture, on the other hand, has not changed a bit. Everybody tends to disregard that the performer has long since stopped wearing a red Hawaiian shirt and backwards Kangol hat, or Mork’s rainbow suspenders. In the many times his likeness has appeared on TV shows and cartoons, he is crystalized in this form.

Although these portrayals of Robin Williams may all too often veer into caricature, it was never in doubt that there is an underlying bedrock of affection and respect for the man in Hollywood. One need look no further than a stricken Conan O’Brien announcing the tragic news to the audience of his show last night to see the impact Williams had on his fellow entertainers. Have a look through the slides above to see more instances of his impact on pop culture.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.