Robin Williams Needed to be Censored in 4 Languages

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Robin Williams’ big break on television came when he was offered the eponymous role of Mork on the ABC show Mork and Mindy, while the show gave Williams a great chance to flex his improvisational muscle, it caused a major headache for the censors who simply couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Williams told jokes.

If you’re not familiar with the basic premise of Mork and Mindy, it’s about an alien called Mork who is sent to Earth  to learn more about its customs and people, shortly after arriving Mork encounters a young Earth woman called Mindy and the two become roommates. It’s a weird premise we’ll admit, but it did allow Robin Williams to do what he did best, act like a complete fucking lunatic.

Classic Robin
Picture unrelated.

Because his character was an alien, Williams was basically given carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wanted with the role, since anything unexpected he did could be written off as the inane ramblings of an alien who didn’t quite understand Earth yet.

To accommodate Williams’ tendency to improvise and spout off incomprehensible streams of gibberish, large sections of the script were left blank with directions for him to just make something up. This left the censors with a pretty big problem though because Williams initially culled a lot of material for Mork and Mindy from his stand-up shows, during which he was known to launch into improvised character bits in a variety of languages and accents.

According to Williams, in an interview he gave with PBS, he enjoyed seeing exactly what swear words he could slip past the censors by speaking Russian, Spanish or any one of the other languages he was familiar with in a high-pitched voice and pretending he was just speaking some weird Alien language. And it worked, for a while with ABC executives being totally unaware that Williams was putting Spanish dicks jokes into their program aimed at children, presumably due to being blinded by the sheer amounts of swag emanating from his suspenders.

MORK & MINDY - "Pajama Game II" - Season Four - 1/7/82 Mork (Robin Williams) explained the facts of life to Mearth. (ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES)

ABC, figuring that Williams was up to something went ahead and hired someone who spoke multiple languages to watch each episode and try to catch him out. According to Williams, he distinctly remembered trying to slip one joke past this new censor by yelling obscenities in Yiddish only to be tapped on the shoulder and informed that the new censor understood exactly what he was saying, to which Williams responded “Oh, how sad“.

That said, Williams still somehow managed to inexplicably managed get some things past the censors before Mork and Mindy was cancelled in its fourth season. Because apparently nobody at ABC had access to some sort of machine that would record what Williams said so they could watch it back later.

For more facts about television legends, why not read about how Mr Rogers only got into the television business because he hated it