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Robin McLaurin Williams (born July 21, 1951) is a multi-award-winning American actor and comedian. As an actor he has had starring roles on television, stage, and film.

Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Marin County, California. His father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, of English, Welsh, and Irish descent, was a senior executive at Ford in charge of the Midwest area, and his mother Laurie was a New Orleans-born former model of French descent.

He first achieved notice for his stand-up routines in San Francisco. After studying at Claremont McKenna College (then called Claremont Men’s College) with the Strut and Fret theatre group in Claremont, California, and at Juilliard Drama School (where he befriended Christopher Reeve), he was cast by Garry Marshall as the alien Mork in a guest star part in the TV series Happy Days. Mork’s appearance was so popular with viewers that it led to a spin-off television series, Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982.

The majority of Williams’ acting career has been for cinema, although he has given some memorable performances on stage as well (notably as Estragon in a production of Waiting for Godot). His first starring roles, Popeye (1980) and The World According to Garp (1982), were both flops, but with Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) Williams was nominated for an Academy Award and established a screen identity. Many of his roles have been comedies tinged with pathos (e.g., The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire). In particular, his role as the Genie in the animated film Aladdin was instrumental in establishing the importance of star power in voice actor casting. Later, Williams once again used his voice talents in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and in the 2005 animated feature Robots.

Williams has also starred in dramatic films. The Academy nominated him for the Best Actor award for his role as an unorthodox and inspiring English teacher in Dead Poets Society (1989). His later dramas included Awakenings (1990) and What Dreams May Come (1998). In 1997 he won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting. However, by the early 2000s, he was thought by some to be stereotyped in films such as Patch Adams (1998) and Bicentennial Man (1999). This apparently prompted Williams to take radically unconventional roles, beginning with the dark comedy Death to Smoochy, followed by One Hour Photo, Insomnia, and The Final Cut.

He is known for his wild improv skills and impersonations. He is a talented mimic and can jump in and out of characters at an extremely fast pace. His comic style is a major influence on late night talk show host/comedian Conan O’Brien. Williams states that he began doing impersonations as a child, mimicking the Southern accent of his aunt.

Williams’ first marriage was to Valerie Velardi on June 4, 1978, with whom he had one child, Zachary. That marriage ended in 1988. He married for a second time on April 30, 1989, to Marsha Garces and they have two children together.

Robin Williams and his wife Marsha Garces Williams founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization to raise money for many different charities. Williams devotes much of his energy doing work for charities, including the Comic Relief fund-raising efforts. He is also a cycling fan, known to own hundreds of bicycles and to attend the Tour de France. Through his interest in cycling, he has been a friend and supporter of Lance Armstrong and his foundation, performing at events for the foundation.

Watching his frantic mannerisms and immediate changes in personality, some have speculated that Williams is affected by bipolar disorder, but this has never been confirmed. A more likely explanation for his remarkable creativity and intense impulsive humor may be the reason that he is often referred to as “the poster child for ADD,” though this statement is often said with a sarcastic edge.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, he was voted one of the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos in the made for television biopic Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (2005), documenting the actor’s arrival in Hollywood a struggling comedian and becoming an overnight star when he landed the role in Mork & Mindy.

In 2006, he starred in five movies including Man of the Year and was the Surprise Guest at the 2006 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. He appeared on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired on January 30, 2006.

At one point, he was in the running to play the Riddler in Batman Forever until director Tim Burton dropped the project. Earlier, Williams had been a strong contender to play the Joker in Batman. He had expressed interest in assuming the role in The Dark Knight, the sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins, although the part of the Joker was played by Heath Ledger, who went on to win, posthumously, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He was portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos in the made-for-TV biopic Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (2005), documenting the actor’s arrival in Hollywood as a struggling comedian. Robin Williams has recently made peace with the Walt Disney Company and in 2009 agreed to be inducted into the Disney hall of fame, designated as a Disney Legend.

Robin Williams has done a number of stand-up comedy tours since the early 1970s. Some of his most notable tours include An Evening With Robin Williams (1982), Robin Williams: At The Met (1986) and Robin Williams LIVE on Broadway (2002). The latter broke many long held records for a comedy show. In some cases, tickets were sold out within thirty minutes of going on sale.

After a six-year break, in August 2008 Williams announced a brand new 26-city tour titled “Weapons of Self Destruction”. He was quoted as saying that this was his last chance to make cracks at the expense of the current Bush Administration, but by the time the show was staged only a few minutes covered that subject. The tour started at the end of September 2009, finishing in New York on December 3, and was the subject of an HBO special on December 8, 2009.

Williams was hospitalized in March 2009 due to heart problems. He postponed his one-man tour in order to undergo surgery to replace his aortic valve. The surgery was successfully completed on March 13, 2009, at the Cleveland Clinic

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