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
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
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
"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
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
* * *
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.