EXCLUSIVE! CONRAD JANIS: THE ROBIN NOBODY KNEW

Published on: August 26, 2014
Photography by: ABC Archives/Getty
EXCLUSIVE! CONRAD JANIS: THE ROBIN NOBODY KNEW

 

When “Mork & Mindy” went on the air, Robin was a complete unknown. He’d been a San Francisco street mime who was picked up to play Mork on a “Happy Days” episode with two days’ notice.

Robin pulled it off because he had a photographic memory, and the episode ended up being “Happy Days” highest rated ever. It was spun right off into a series, and was an immediate success. Three weeks later, Robin was so famous that he was mobbed everywhere he went. He couldn’t even go out to dinner! He became the most famous comedian in the country, and justifiably so. He was brilliant. We’d be filming in front of 1,000 people, and if Robin made a mistake, he’d ad-lib. Sometimes he ran for a half-hour!

Robin did the same thing with jokes that he didn’t like. But he was very tactful about it. He’d do the joke the way it was written, but he’d louse it up so he could do the scene again with a different joke, and then again with another joke. So the audience got three laughs instead of one!

The stuff was always funny, and some of it was a little off-color.

One time Robin even took his clothes off on camera! In the scene, Mindy was supposed to take a shower. Instead, Robin came out in a towel with his back to the camera. As Pam Dawber left the stage, Robin dropped the towel! The audience screamed! At the end of the first season, they ran the film at the wrap party with “The End” across Robin’s bottom!

Off set, we all got along famously. Robin and Pam weren’t romantically involved, but they were very, very close friends. The warmth between them permeated the set. We all got along great.

I never gave Robin a word of advice on handling fame. He was a great friend of John Belushi, who of course met a very sad end. John’s death sobered Robin up. But before that, the minute he got famous, Robin roared into the fast lane. He’d party all night, do the show the rest of the day and sleep when he could.

In recent years, I’d see his stand-up act at different venues. Sometimes he’d spot me in the audience and I’d go backstage when show was over and give him a big hug.

Robin was warm and friendly towards everybody. He didn’t have any enemies There wasn’t a hint of depression, but you may have seen it in his eyes.

He was a very gentle soul – sweet, considerate, lovely and courteous to everyone. If Robin had sad times, he kept them to himself. He was always bright and happy and fun and high-spirited – in public and private. Now, we’ll never know his demons.