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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #321: Mork

Nanu Nanu!

It's a common and understandable conceit to imagine that we live in the strangest of times. Setting aside the descent of "real" life into the depths of bizarro-world, it's often observed that popular culture is increasingly nonsensical or absurd. There's truth to that, but there's also this: in the late 1970's a television show about nostalgia for the 1950's gave birth to a slapstick spinoff about a childlike alien clattering around Carter-era Colorado.

Yeah, mom and dad. Our stuff is weird.

Mork and Mindy would likely be a forgettable gimmicky sitcom in the mold of My Favorite Martian or Small Wonder if it wasn't for the gift it gave the world in the irrepressible comedic talent of Robin Williams. In the hands of a less-gifted performer, the character of Mork might have been formulaic or derivative, but Williams breathed spastic, kinetic life into everything he did, and this first notable role was his launching pad. The story goes that in his audition for the part he was asked to sit, did a headstand in the chair, and was hired on the spot. Williams imbued Mork with the wild unpredictability that would become his hallmark as an actor - apparently scripts would leave blank sections titled simply "Mork", during which Williams would fill with Vaudevillean antics.

And yet Robin Williams always offered a tender undercarriage to his funny. Mork was strange but sweet, silly but soulful. There was never a vindictiveness or cruelty to his humor. His piquant episode-ending obervations were usually missives of confusion about humanity's contradictions laced with hope and affection. He also adored his roommate and later wife Mindy with the ardor of a adolescent and the tenderness of an aged spouse. Mork, like so many of the other memorable characters Williams gave us, lived life at full throttle, unapologetically, without fear. We should all have a little more Ork in us.

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