Myrtle Beach’s many laughmakers look back on Williams’ gift on stage

08/14/2014 7:50 PM

08/14/2014 7:51 PM

Pardon any comedians for taking a break from laughmaking this week, as they absorbed news that revered colleague, mentor and role model Robin Williams had committed suicide.

Comedian Dennis Miller, whose radio show airs locally from noon-3 weekdays on WJXY-FM, devoted his weekly “Miller Time” segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” to Williams, saying: “Toy soldiers of the world have lost their greatest general.”

In Myrtle Beach, where live comedy is a major item on area entertainment menus, local comics talked about how Williams’ death affected them, and how the aftermath also might recalibrate people’s views on other subjects, especially depression.

Gina Trimarco Cligrow

Founder and artistic director of Carolina Improv Company, based at Uptown Theater, in Myrtle Beach Mall, near Briarcliffe Acres

“Most all of us who love comedy have been struck with great sadness about the death of Robin Williams. This has been especially hard for those of us who call ourselves comedians.

“Robin Williams was not only an amazing talent but an inspiration in the improv world for his ability to create in the moment without a script.

“What has really moved me personally is the attention that depression is getting. It’s a serious issue and a great reminder that even those of us who might always appear happy and upbeat might have moments of depression. Some comedians – or extroverts – exhibit comedy and big personalities as a way to mask more serious issues. Know the signs and reach out.”

Grant Turner

Also known as Ricky Mokel in “One the Show” at Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach

“Robin Williams, more than any other comic, sparked the comedy club trend/business that began in the early 1980s. He exploded onto showcase club stages in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City in the late 1970s. He would ‘drop in’ to a comedy club and tear up the room.

“Then he became a TV star, and still he continued his manic comedy club performances. This induced in comedy club patrons an expectation that either Robin himself or some other comedy star, would take the stage. Comedy clubs were the place to be. It was exciting and new, and it triggered the opening of ‘showcase’ comedy clubs nationwide.

“That feeling of expectation was there in the beginning, even in places such as Atlanta, where I started in 1981. Robin Williams started a wave that many of us rode – and are still riding more than 30 years later.”

Manny Oliveira

An Atlanta resident and frequent headliner at Comedy Cabana, just north of Myrtle Beach, most recently last week

“Robin Williams is only a small piece in the demons we deal with. Genius yet tormented, he was immensely talented and seriously ill.

“His mark in the entertainment industry is indelible. His legacy is without question.

“What we should ask ourselves is ‘How did he do it?’ A man so gravely ill, yet did not stop the true gift he had. I hope he’s found the peace he so desperately sought. RIP, my captain.”

Jeff Martin

Operations manager of Carolina Comedy Club, at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach

“He was just legendary. He just spanned actors. Little kids to 100-year-old people loved him. ...

“He had a huge influence on me. I remember running around my house in ‘Mork from Ork’ suspenders. His sense of humor impacted me as a little kid and introduced me to the field of comedy. All of that was driven by someone like him. ...

“I was really depressed when I heard about his death and the way he went out. The funny thing with comedy is that so many of the great comedians, they make you laugh because they are covering something very deep inside of them. A lot of times, comedy is a coping mechanism for a lot of comedians. ...

“Robin Williams is the epitome of the sad clowns.”

From Calvin Gilmore’s “The Carolina Opry” and “The Good Vibrations Show,” in Myrtle Beach

Eric Gumm

“He was such a genius and so original. I don’t think we had seen anything like him before, or probably will ever again.

“All the energy that he had in doing the standup stuff to guest spots on Carson and Letterman, and all those type of things, but yet, he could still do the serious roles, too. ...

“We all tend to think they’re we’re able to turn it on and do what we need to do when we’re on stage, but when you have things like this, you just can’t believe it.

“You want people like that who made you so happy through the years ... you want to think they’re happy, even if they’re just retired and didn’t work any more. You’d want to think they’re happy.”

Kym “Bogie” Shurbutt

“I grew up watching Jonathan Winters, then when Robin Williams came along, you could see that torch was passed to Robin Williams. ...

“Robin Williams was an ‘everyman’ to all of us, to women, men, children, teenagers, and everybody who loved him. ...

“He was able to play those dramatic parts so well. He was never a leading man. ... To each and every one of us, he was an everyman. To everyone in the entertainment business, he was a Renaissance man: He played Peter Pan, Popeye, a doctor in ‘Patch Adams,’ and even a grandmother. He would just reach out to all of these characters and play them so well.

He affected me not so much on the comedy level; he affected me because he was an everyman, and he was an astounding man.

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