Robin Williams, who died Monday of an apparent suicide, was a brilliant comedian who had a well-known progressive bent in his humor.
He was not known for being an activist environmentalist the way some in Hollywood are — but he chose to make a lot of movies with explicit ecological themes, including “Happy Feet” 1 and 2 and “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.”
Williams took global warming seriously in the way only a great comic can. Back in 2002, he did this riff:
… And they say there is no global warming, but right now the North Pole is a pool. There’s things just floating away….It is beyond global warming at this point. It is cooking.It is 105 in the middle of the country and people come up going “Is it hot enough for you?”“No I like sweat to be rolling down the crack of my ass like Niagara. I like my old man titties to lactate.”And you see people in shorts and you’re going, “Please don’t wear those…. Oh please don’t put those on.”
In the “Happy Feet” movies, penguins deal with the effects of global warming. In “FernGully,” the “magical inhabitants of a rain-forest fight to save their home, which is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexxus,” as Think Progress explains in their piece, “7 Social Issues Robin Williams Brought To The Screen.”
Williams provides colorful comic relief in the story, though not without a message against deforestation and unchecked development: “First thing, all these trees go,” he says, “Then come your highways, then come your shopping malls, and your parking lots, and your convenience stores…” The film was shown at the U.N. General Assembly on Earth Day, 1992.
In the movie, “Man of the Year,” Williams plays a blunt comedian who becomes a candidate for president. In the debate scene, he does a riff on government corruption — especially candidates who are too close to fossil fuel companies — and alternative energy. Heck, he even goes after a candidate who supports hydrogen cars as a way to avoid supporting fuel efficiency!
That riff reflects some of his thoughts, since he repeats some of the riff in his amazing 2009 TV special, “Weapons of Self Destruction,” which, as IMDB explains “covers such topics as global warming, sex and politics … drugs — recreational and otherwise — and more personal topics, “
If you look up sui generis in the dictionary, there is a picture of Robin Williams. We will never see his like again.
This post has been updated to reflect the correct date of the stand-up special: it was 2002, not 2008. It was “Robin Williams Live On Broadway” (full transcript here).