Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops

It has been four months since Robin Williams’s death shocked his fans. During that time, we have been bombarded with articles and documentaries that reveal the real Robin Williams. Emily Herbert attempts to do this with her filmography Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops. Oh, sorry. Apparently it’s a biography.

The book has a promising start as it discusses Robin Williams’s death and the public reaction to it. By showing how influential Robin Williams was, it gave the book a sense of importance. The subject was more than just a comedian. He was a role model. Now that we knew what his image really was, we could get into his history. She then discussed his childhood and adolescence. We got to see what Robin Williams was before he became famous. Everything there had already been revealed in documentaries and specials, but it was still one of the best parts of the book. Why? Because we actually got to focus on Robin Williams.

For the rest of the book, Williams’s personal struggles were the background to his career. There were just detailed summaries of what Robin appeared in with reviews and people discussing it. There was still some inclusion of his personal life, but it was just wasn’t as prominent as it should be for a biography. For example, Hebert mentions Robin Williams working with his half-brother for a movie and doesn’t discuss it anymore than that. I didn’t even know he had a half-brother until that point. His relationship with his family was glanced over for something more important, such as the episode outline of Mork and Mindy’s first season and critic’s reviews of Jumanji. Again, this would be perfect if Herbert was examining Williams’s career, but that clearly wasn’t her intention.

If that was her intention, she would have interviewed people instead of basing most of her information on previously-taken interviews and reviews. I can’t deny that the research is well thought out and very informative. However, the amount of research gives it a Wikipedia-esque impression. Herbert simply isn’t adding anything new to the conversation. Although, I did admire how she included statements from people that weren’t fond of Robin Williams. It was one of the few times where Hebert presented him as a human being.

There were also a few structural things that I wasn’t too fond of. For one, brackets were used quite a few times and most of the time they were unnecessary. It was odd at first, but became annoying as she constantly used it. Unless you’re including a small fact to further aid the reader, you don’t need brackets. Sometimes the statements were relevant, or could have been if worded differently. She also used a quote to begin and end the chapter. This was fine at first as the quote chosen was sort of related to the chapter, but they gradually became more random. Maybe if she only used one per chapter and they were chosen with more care, they would have had a better impact.

I’m giving this book 6/10. It was still a nice read and the information was good, but Hebert didn’t go deep enough into who the real Robin Williams was. Maybe if she catagorised it as a filmography I would have given it a higher score.

Discussion Points:

If you’re not sick of this question – which Robin Williams movie means the most to you?

If you are – When do you feel like it’s appropriate to use brackets?


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