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Robin
Cover of Robin
Robin

From New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff, the definitive biography of Robin Williams – a compelling portrait of one of America's most beloved and misunderstood entertainers.

From his rapid-fire stand-up comedy riffs to his breakout role in Mork & Mindy and his Academy Award-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams was a singularly innovative and beloved entertainer. He often came across as a man possessed, holding forth on culture and politics while mixing in personal revelations – all with mercurial, tongue-twisting intensity as he inhabited and shed one character after another with lightning speed.

But as Dave Itzkoff shows in this revelatory biography, Williams's comic brilliance masked a deep well of conflicting emotions and self-doubt, which he drew upon in his comedy and in celebrated films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; The Fisher King; Aladdin; and Mrs. Doubtfire, where he showcased his limitless gift for improvisation to bring to life a wide range of characters. And in Good Will Hunting he gave an intense and controlled performance that revealed the true range of his talent.

Itzkoff also shows how Williams struggled mightily with addiction and depression – topics he discussed openly while performing and during interviews – and with a debilitating condition at the end of his life that affected him in ways his fans never knew. Drawing on more than a hundred original interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, as well as extensive archival research, Robin is a fresh and original look at a man whose work touched so many lives

From New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff, the definitive biography of Robin Williams – a compelling portrait of one of America's most beloved and misunderstood entertainers.

From his rapid-fire stand-up comedy riffs to his breakout role in Mork & Mindy and his Academy Award-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams was a singularly innovative and beloved entertainer. He often came across as a man possessed, holding forth on culture and politics while mixing in personal revelations – all with mercurial, tongue-twisting intensity as he inhabited and shed one character after another with lightning speed.

But as Dave Itzkoff shows in this revelatory biography, Williams's comic brilliance masked a deep well of conflicting emotions and self-doubt, which he drew upon in his comedy and in celebrated films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; The Fisher King; Aladdin; and Mrs. Doubtfire, where he showcased his limitless gift for improvisation to bring to life a wide range of characters. And in Good Will Hunting he gave an intense and controlled performance that revealed the true range of his talent.

Itzkoff also shows how Williams struggled mightily with addiction and depression – topics he discussed openly while performing and during interviews – and with a debilitating condition at the end of his life that affected him in ways his fans never knew. Drawing on more than a hundred original interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, as well as extensive archival research, Robin is a fresh and original look at a man whose work touched so many lives

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About the Author-
  • Dave Itzkoff is a culture reporter at The New York Times, where he writes regularly about film, television, theater, music, and popular culture. He has previously worked at Spin, Maxim, and Details, and his work has appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, and other publications. He is the author of two previous books, Cocaine's Son and Lads. He lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 19, 2018
    According to this perceptive biography from Itzkoff (Mad as Hell), comedian Robin Williams was a man driven by a deep need for adulation and acceptance. Itzkoff introduces Williams as a brilliant, imaginative child left to his own devices in a sprawling mansion in the suburbs of Detroit, then describes his sometimes contentious relationship with his Ford executive father, his time in a community college drama department, his training at Juilliard (where he met lifelong friend Christopher Reeve), his breakthrough role on Mork and Mindy, and his long movie career. Along the way, readers meet the people who sustained him for much of his life, in particular the comic Billy Crystal, who perhaps knew him best, and his second wife, Marsha, who for years supervised much of his professional life. Nevertheless, Williams was consumed with misgivings about his stature as a star, a doubt that found expression in drug and alcohol abuse, and in his struggle to find film projects that could harness his manic talents. Itzkoff goes into detail on the debilitating illness (Lewy body dementia) that some of those close to Williams believe caused the comedian to commit suicide in 2014. Meticulously sourced and comprehensive in scope, Itzkoff’s work gives Williams’s many fans a rare glimpse of the man behind the celebrity.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2018
    A New York Times culture reporter uses both straight reporting and insightful analysis in the first major biography of Robin Williams (1951-2014).After discovering his talents as a comedian and actor in his late teens, Williams was clearly going places--but where? As Billy Crystal described one of Williams' early performances in the book, "it was like trying to catch a comet with a baseball glove." With his madcap stage antics, trademark rainbow suspenders, and rapid-fire shifting from character to character, he mesmerized audiences everywhere, first in the small comedy clubs of New York, then on TV, and eventually in Hollywood films. "But who was he?" So asks Itzkoff (Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, 2014, etc.) in the prologue of this comprehensive examination of Williams' long career as an actor, family man, and friend. The author portrays an artist who, though not necessarily tormented, was driven by his insecurities and addictive personality to seek constant and immediate validation through his performances. From a stint at Juilliard, through his early success with Mork & Mindy, and finally his big breaks with Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and Aladdin, Itzkoff chronicles his career arc and friendships with the likes of Christopher Reeve, Billy Crystal, and Richard Pryor, among countless others. Through their perspectives, along with those of his parents, children, and wives, the author draws out the many different Robins the world has come to know--but as the Itzkoff shows, there was so much more. His suicide came as a major blow to nearly everyone around him, and many are still puzzled by this final act from an artist who seemed to have it all. Itzkoff explores all the theories, including the surprising and probable one involving Lewy body disease, which caused crippling dementia and robbed Williams of his ability to perform.In this solidly reported and much-anticipated book, Itzkoff delivers a revealing portrait of the motivations of a quiet comic genius whose explosive persona moved millions.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2018

    New York Times culture reporter Itzkoff's (Mad as Hell; Cocaine's Son; Lads) detailed, well-researched biography of entertainer Robin Williams (1951-2014) is lengthy, but the writing and content make it easy to read. The author starts with the history of Williams's family life and proceeds chronologically to the dizzying heights of his fame. Williams moved a lot when he was young and became famous at 27, playing an alien on the TV show Mork and Mindy. His comedic genius propelled him to incredible notoriety and also led to lasting friendships with other comedians, particularly Billy Crystal. Itzkoff discusses some of Williams's famous movie roles, such as in Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The difficult parts of Williams's life: his addictions, divorces, and last years suffering with Lewy Body Dementia, are also explored in this book that stays with you long after it is finished. VERDICT Williams's entertaining and mostly enjoyable life story will appeal to fans of celebrity biographies, movies, entertainment, and stand-up comedy. [See Prepub Alert, 11/27/17.]--Sally Bryant, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Alan Sepinwall, coauthor of TV (The Book) and author of The Revolution Was Televised

    "Dave Itzkoff's Robin is much like the man himself--warm, funny, frenetic, with a core of darkness and empathy. It gets at that darkness, and shows how it fueled, beautifully, the manic brain and kinetic body of the man himself. An amazing read."--Patton Oswalt

    "This is the complete portrait of Robin Williams, from the boyhood inception of his genius to the complexity of his death. Williams may well be one of those people who are impossible to fully understand, but this book is as close as anyone will ever come."--Chuck Klosterman, author of But What If We're Wrong?

    "Everyone Dave Itzkoff interviewed for his account of Robin Williams's life and career seems unsure if they fully knew who Williams was and why he did all the things he did, but Itzkoff pieces him together in his entirety. This engrossing book paints a stunningly complete picture of both the man and the comedian. A triumph, and a...

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