Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 133

alone, playing with his large collection of toy soldiers, creating scenarios, and entertaining himself by talking in different voices, which contributed to the impersonation style that later became his trademark.   Prolific television producer Garry Marshall gave Williams his first big break. According to Marshall, his two daughters were big fans of his hit sitcom Happy Days, but his eight-year-old son Scott, who loved Star Wars, did not watch the show because it had no aliens. Scott suggested that Fonzie have a dream in which an alien comes to Happy Days, and Marshall thought it was a great idea. He set out to find an alien. His agent at William Morris sent a few actors who were not quite right for the part before convincing Marshall to see a newcomer named Robin Williams, who at the time was doing stand-up in clubs and performing on street corners, passing a hat for tips. Marshall was skeptical but agreed to meet him. He recalled the first moment he saw Robin Williams: “I walked into my office and the street performer was sitting on my couch upside down and pretending to drink a glass of water with his finger” (103). He would later recall that out of all those who applied for the job, only one alien auditioned. Marshall immediately envisioned Williams as the star of his own TV series, but he first wanted to see how audiences would respond to him on Happy Days, where he played Mork from the Planet Ork. Prior to his Happy Days gig, Williams did stand-up routines that were marked by profanity and irreverence. As one critic described, “Onstage, he was known for ricochet riffs on politics, social issues and cultural matters both high and low; tales of drug and alcohol abuse; lewd commentaries on relations between the sexes; and lightning-like improvisations on anything an audience member might toss at him” (Itzkoff). Although Williams toned down his performance for television, it was still edgy, and his well- honed skills in improvisation and impersonation served him well. Using body language and electronic sounds, he proved such a hit with the Happy Days live audience that he got a standing ovation at curtain call.  Seeing this remarkable talent, even Marshall got the chills.  Right after the episode aired on ABC, Marshall received a call from Paramount executive Michael Eisner, who said, “Garry, I heard you have a Martian who got a standing ovation. Can you build a series around him?  Do it fast” (Marshall 104). The result was Mork and Mindy, starring Williams and former model Pam Dawber, which aired on ABC from 1978 to 1982.  Williams’s performance in Mork and Mindy showcased the talent that catapulted his career.  In the series, Orson, the leader of the Orkans, shoots Mork to Earth in an egg, trusting him with the task of observing humankind and reporting back.  Mork lands in Boulder, Colorado, and the first person he meets is Mindy, a young 133