What Robin Williams Learned From Jonathan Winters

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 26 2014 5:06 PM

What Robin Williams Learned From Jonathan Winters

81495663-actor-robin-williams-presents-the-pioneer-award-to-actor
Robin Williams with his idol Jonathan Winters in 2008.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TV Land

The Emmys’ tribute to Robin Williams included a clip from Williams’ appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, in which he borrowed a pink scarf from someone in the audience and turned it into a nun’s outfit, a hijab, a prayer shawl, and so on.

It’s the kind of thing he learned how to do in part from watching, and later working with, Jonathan Winters, the comedy legend who died last year at the age of 87. This video by Evan Puschak, “The World is Open for Play,” traces the influence of the older comic on his acolyte and eventual colleague and friend. The title comes from Williams himself, who used the phrase in describing what he learned from his idol.

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David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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