Robin Williams was born July 21, 1952 in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up as the only child of parents Robert and Laurie resulted in Robin having to entertain himself, and even build a world all to himself, which subsequently launched his desire to perform.
He would often study Jonathan Winters comedy records and play with toy soldiers as a child, and would later use comedy to his advantage at school. As his father's position within the Ford Motor Company grew, the Williams family moved frequently, and Robin was always the "new kid in school." In addition, young Robin was also pudgy, causing him to often be teased, and he used comedy as a defense mechanism.
But by the time the family settled down (permanently) in Marin County, California during his senior year, Robin was popular and voted Most Humorous and Most Likely to Succeed. No one realized at the time just how prophetic that title would be.
Following high school, Williams studied political science at Claremont Men's College and became involved in soccer and improvisational comedy. He also began studying acting, first in California, and then at Juilliard in New York. When he wasn't studying, he was working as a mime to pay his tuition.
Upon finishing his studies in New York, Williams moved back to California and hopped onto the comedy circuit. A favorite with audiences, Williams quickly landed his big break: A regular spot on George Schlatter's late '70s reincarnation of Laugh-In.
But Williams' career really took off after being cast as a wacky alien in a fanciful episode of the hit show, Happy Days. Williams' portrayal of "Mork from Ork" was such a hit with fans, it prompted producer Gary Marshall to give Robin and his alien alter ego their own show.
Mork and Mindy debuted in 1978, ran for four seasons, earned Williams a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical), and established him as one of Hollywood's top comedic talents, as he portrayed and ultimately created one of television's most beloved characters.
Williams got his feature film debut in Robert Altman's commercially disappointing Popeye in 1980. Marking somewhat of an unlucky streak in his film career, Williams' next couple of pictures, including 1982's The World According to Garp and 1984's Moscow on the Hudson flopped at the box office.
But in 1987, Robin Williams vaulted into superstardom with the release of Good Morning, Vietnam. Williams portrayed real-life military disc jockey Adrian Cronauer, and director Barry Levinson allowed him to ad-lib many of his hilarious radio monologues. The film struck a chord with fans and critics alike, and earned Williams his first Oscar nomination, not to mention the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.
Around this time, Williams -- along with good friends Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal -- launched HBO's Comic Relief, an annually-televised comedy benefit for the homeless. But it also marked a turning point in Williams' personal life: In addition to overcoming a drug addiction that began during the Mork and Mindy years, he divorced and got remarried, this time to his son's nanny (who eventually became Robin's personal assistant).
1990 saw a second Oscar nomination for Robin for his work on the previous year's Dead Poet's Society, in addition to Awakenings, where he played a scientist trying to help a catatonic Robert De Niro, followed by 1991's The Fisher King (which earned him the Best Actor Golden Globe and another Oscar nomination) and 1992's Toys.
Williams' upswing sustained itself for most of the '90s, most notably in 1992, when he lent his voice to the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, and went drag in Mrs. Doubtfire a year later. The latter remains Williams' biggest success to date, having grossed over $200 million in the U.S. alone, and earning Williams a Golden Globe Award, People's Choice Award and an MTV Movie Award.
But the crown jewel in Williams' career was yet to come: In 1997, after riding the successes of 1995's Jumanji, 1996's The Birdcage and 1997's Flubber, the release of Good Will Hunting, written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, not only showcased Robin's abilities as a serious actor, but garnered him his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Robin Williams' career since Good Will Hunting has been tumultuous: His next four projects, 1998's Patch Adams and What Dreams May Come, and 1999's Bicentennial Man and Jakob the Liar were all critically panned, while Patch Adams was the only real blockbuster of the bunch.
But Williams' portfolio has continued to expand in the millennium: In addition to 2002's Death to Smoochy and Insomnia, both of which were relatively dark roles for Williams, he recently staged a hugely successful live comedy special for HBO. He also turned in another chilling performance in the psychological thriller One Hour Photo.
Robin Williams currently resides in San Francisco, California with his second wife and three children. After at least 25 years of laughter -- and proving that he also has a dramatic side -- Williams is without a doubt(fire) one of Hollywood's most entertaining and talented personalities.