ConstantCommentary® Vol. XIV, No. 198, Jan. 11, 2015

So Sue Me . . .

by Mike Jasper

Robin Williams and me
(but mainly him)

Like everyone else, I'm wondering why Robin Williams killed himself. And also regretting I never got to see him perform live, especially when it would have been so easy to do.

Back in the mid-seventies, my girlfriend was a stand-up comedian named Clair ____. She was pretty damn good and did all right in the business, but her friends did a little better. Friends like Jay Leno, David Letterman, Elayne Boosler, Paul Mooney and Shirley Hemphill.

Yeah, I'm a terrible name dropper, but it's all true so fuck off.

I met all of these comedians through Clair, except for David Letterman. I'll explain why later.

I hung out with Leno a few times. In fact, I watched Tom Dreesen's first shot on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Jay in the lobby of the Improv on Santa Monica Avenue.

Okay, that's not quite true. I was standing shoulder-to-elbow with Leno. He's tall, I'm short, but I digress.

I met Paul Mooney at an open mic at the Ye Little Club, again through Clair. She and I both performed that night, me on guitar and vocals, Clair on comedy, and after my gig she introduced me and my brother to Mooney. I loved Paul Mooney. So did my brother, Dan. Mooney was a writer on Richard Pryor's TV show at the time, so Dan and I annoyed the shit out of him with questions while he tolerated us white boys as best he could.

Shirley Hemphill, the waitress on a '70s show called "What's Happening Now!!" became pretty good friends with Clair and me. We even went to one of the show's Hollywood parties and got to meet Rerun. You remember Rerun, right? Big fat guy who wore suspenders and could dance his ass off? No? You don't? Then pay your cable bill and watch it on TV, you fuckin' toddler.

Man. I think Robin's suicide has made me a little hostile and bitter. But I'll plod on.

Clair also introduced me to Elayne Boosler after one of her shows, but we didn't talk for long because I wanted to fuck Elayne Boosler and Clair knew it. Never did though, dammit.

And like I said earlier, I never did meet David Letterman. Why? Because of Clair. You know how every girlfriend has a male friend (usually gay, but not always) who they confide in? Well, Letterman was her confidant. Every time I did something bad — drink too much, smoke too much, fuck too much — she told Letterman. So I avoided Letterman. I did see his act live a few times, but I never, ever spoke to him.

And that's pretty much the same reason why I never met Robin Williams. Because by the time he hit the LA scene, I didn't want to meet anybody through my comedian girlfriend anymore.

I think it was the summer of 1977 when Clair came home from a gig at the Comedy Store and told me she saw a fresh new comedian from San Francisco. She gushed about him four hours.

"He's amazing," she said. "He takes a condom on stage and does ten minutes with it. He killed."

"So he's a prop comic?" I asked.

"No, not really. More of a stream-of-conciousness comic. Like Kerouac."

"I don't think Kerouac did comedy."

"No, no, you know what I mean. It's like he's on acid."

"What's his name?" I asked.

"Robert Williams. No... Robin Williams, yeah, it's Robin Williams. You've got to see this guy."

"Sure," I said. Of course, I had no intention of seeing him or hanging around anywhere she was, because I was too busy seeing pussy on the side in preparation for my escape from this dying relationship. But how would she know that?

Yeah, yeah, I'm an insufferable asshole. Tell it to Letterman.

Anyway, I never saw Robin Williams live in Los Angeles, which I regretted, especially after I saw him on TV in Mork & Mindy.

Cut to 1983, and Mork & Mindy has just gone off the air. I moved back to Northern California, and so did Robin Williams — I heard he moved to Napa county, while I moved to Sonoma County, Napa's next-door neighbor.

One night I got lucky and scored a gig playing guitar and singing cover songs at Jeremiah's Steakhouse in Kenwood, a great-paying gig. I think they paid fifty bucks back the, good money for the time. In the middle of my first set, Robin Williams walked in. He sat at the video game (because in those days you had to sit at video games) which was about 20 feet away and facing the stage.

Williams was engrossed in the game, but if I played a song he liked he'd look up and nod his head, smile briefly, then go back to the game. Cool, I thought. I'll introduce myself at the break.

But by the time I went on break, he was already downstairs at the basement comedy club. He was trying out new material before going back out on the road. Fine, I thought. I'll go downstairs and see him when I'm finished. But by the time my gig was over, he was gone.

See where this is going yet? Ironically, I never saw Robin Williams perform, but he saw me. Maybe that's why he killed himself. Beats me. Who knows for sure why people do things?

That said, I promise I'll never kill myself. That's what the cops are for.

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STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.

© 2015 by Mike Jasper, All Rights Reserved. ConstantCommentary® is published whenever Mike Jasper feels like it. All material is the responsibility of the author.