In what feels like a Hollywood cliché, Williams explosive success with that show brought with it all the attendant excesses, including philandering, drug use and the highs and lows associated with a huge hit, followed by the uncertainty of what comes next.
The biographical material here — as articulated largely by Williams — is also noteworthy, including his recollections about growing up lonely, attending an all-boys school, his first exposure to Jonathan Winters’ madcap comedy on “The Tonight Show” and his attendance at Julliard, where his pals included “Superman’s” Christopher Reeve.
Friends remember Williams as a “force of nature,” but also reflect sadness associated with his death, from Crystal discussing the silly phone messages Williams would leave him to “Mork” co-star Pam Dawber recalling seeing him as a shadow of himself near the end.
That energy — and the rich body of work that Williams left behind — magnifies the sense of loss, as it does with many of the performers mentioned (Williams among them) in “History of Comedy.”
As Conan O’Brien notes in the “Gone” installment of the special, “There’s an intimacy to comedy, so that when they’re gone, you miss it.”
Tinged with nostalgia and emotion, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” conveys the messy complexities of the man, while serving as an unabashed celebration of his work.
By any measure, that’s both a fitting tribute, and a contemplation of many layers that exist between the ebullient public personalities that fans see and the mass of contradictions and self-doubts that can lurk within. And yes, the trip inside Williams’ mind is a reminder why such talents are missed long after they’re gone, even by those who only knew them through the filter of a screen.
“Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind” premieres July 16 at 8 p.m. on HBO.
“History of Comedy” returns on CNN July 15 at 10 p.m. Both networks are part of WarnerMedia.