Crave

Robin Williams died yesterday and this will not be a remembrance or tribute. It will be a short and sharp question to you about what you’re making and what it means to you.

I was a big fan. His insanity and exuberance anchored me a bit as a kid. If there was a place for this guy in the world, maybe there’d be one for me as well.

So, last night I find myself going through old videos on YouTube. I stumbled across one that was so confusing and painful and brilliant and terrifying.

I want to walk you through a 10,000 ft view of this live performance and ask you a question the show asked me loud and clear.

I’ll show some screenshots and include the playback bar so you can see where in the video each bit is. Find the video in its entirety below.


Robin at the Roxy

It’s 1978. He’s at the Roxy in LA. Robin has suspenders on. He is hairy.

He walks out onto the stage to great applause, lets the applause die a bit, walks into the audience.

Robin doing crowd work

He did this every filmed special he could. You can see how much he loved the immediacy of the moment, riffing with the crowd, giving people something clearly fresh, unprepared.

Robin on the balcony

He climbs the balconies. His energy is contagious.

The camera shows celebrities in the audience. Tony Danza, Henry Winkler, John Ritter among them. He keep seeing them and exclaiming, “oh god, you’re here!?”

Robin does the blind blues guy

He’s back on stage going through several bits, all the while rolling with each interruption the audience gives him.

The crowd loves him. For me watching 30+ years later I’m missing a good deal of the jokes. It’s electric regardless.

He does so many bits and so much crowd work you can’t tell which is which. Finally, he goes into two really great bits.

Robin shakespeare

1. Shakespeare’s unknown folio about hollywood.

Robin does the subconscious

2. Inside the mind of the comedian eating the big one.

Big laughs at the end of these, the biggest of the whole show. It very much feels like the ending of the show, it was the right time and the right closer.

But he goes into another bit, something completely different: a slow old man at a park feeding the pigeons. It’s him in a future, post-apocalyptic world.

Robin does the future

It’s slow and it takes the audience some time to get the new setting and pace. The jokes are few and far between. The bit teeters, heading into drama… you can sense it. And finally, at the climax of the show, it’s heart-felt, meaningful and sad. He says:

You’re only given a little spark of madness. And if you lose that, you’re nothing. Don’t. From me to you. Don’t ever lose that because it keeps you alive. If you lose that, {fart sound}. That’s my only love: crazy. Because there’s no way any government in the world can handle madness.

It is a great ending. The people stand and applaud, moved and surprised by the feelings Robin evokes.

He shuffles off stage in the character of the old man. The people keep applauding. You know the drill. Encore time.

Robin at encore 1

He doesn’t even wait one minute. He’s back on that stage.

A few more bits. Some more crowd work. He leaves again.

And he comes back again. “Right now my manager is saying, ‘get off you idiot!’” He doesn’t get off the stage. Keeps coming back for more.

He has an idea to do some live improv with John Ritter. They do it. Some great moments come out of it.

Robin Ritter improv

And finally, finally, the end of the show, he reluctantly walks off stage, clearly wishing he could stay.


I’ve watched this a few times now, and each go around it gets better. I catch callbacks I missed, I see the thread of the show, how he starts out with “this must be what comedy heaven is like,” and midway through it’s, “I have arrived at comedy hell.”

I’m more and more enamored by the dramatic act he ends the pre-encore section with. Such a ballsy move and performed so well.

But from the first viewing to the last the thing that stands out the most is his craving… for the moment, for that evening with so many friends, everyone laughing hysterically, him right in the center of it… he can’t get off the stage.

Listen, I don’t know if that improv with John Ritter was planned or if he knew he would do all returns to the stage before hand. It seems to me like they were raw and unplanned moments, but I’m easy to fool. It doesn’t matter, the question this poses to me stands regardless.


The question this performance poses to me is this:

What do you crave?


Do you crave the spotlight?

Do you crave notoriety and recognition?

Do you crave going into yourself, discovering the truth and returning with a thing to share — a writing, a performance, a tweet?

Do you crave connection with others?

Do you crave a place in the tribe?

Do you crave numbness, to turn off your head?

Do you crave being a part of the cool kids table?

Do you crave making your friends feel OK?

What do you crave? Do you know? Can you do the work to discover it?


And then ask yourself this:

Is that a Good and True craving? Will that craving be an engine of fulfillment or will it only lead to more craving?


I think our buddhist friends would say something to the tune of, “all cravings will eat you up from the inside out.” Maybe they’re right.

But I have cravings.

There’s a personality test called the Enneagram, which I like a great deal. The Enneagram says that my personality type — a 7 with a 6 wing — is the same type as Robin Williams. We’re called “The Entertainer.”

This performance is like a mirror held up to my own cravings. Again, regardless of whether or not Robin craved this stuff, I’m going on what it looked like to me because I find the question valuable regardless.

I see him sweating and manic and quick and sharp and brilliant and dynamic and feeding, feeding, feeding on the relationship with the audience… and I see a fable about myself, a hole in the center, a vacuum, always on, sucking, searching, hungry… for this moment, laughter, friends, me in the center of it… not wanting the moment to end.

The things I create come from there. That hole, that insecurity is an engine of creation.

With every act of creation we can grow the hole or shrink it, make ourselves more hungry or a little more full.

What does fullness look like? I don’t know. I keep circling words like “centered” and “anchored” and “stillness.”

To me that question — what do you crave? — just became critical because before we can address the hole and the activity of creation towards fullness we must give the hole a name… and also because today, more than other days, I see so clearly what’s at stake.


With each act of creation we can grow or shrink “the hole,” make ourselves more hungry or more full.
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And here’s that wonderful performance. The VHS tracking lines and bits of other shows the performance is taped over is perfect.

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  • http://getgumpress.com Dan Gamito

    Ugh I usually don’t get wrapped up in anything celebrity, but this guy was an ever present bit of comic relief when I was a kid too. Good to know I wasn’t the only one who had an affection for his special flavor of crazy; it’s also kind of helped me accept my own. Thanks for writing such a heartfelt post.

  • http://www.caelanhuntress.com/ Caelan Huntress

    Our cravings are the well from which we draw the purest water.

    Robin Williams’ craving for applause and laughter made the world more joyous. I wish we could all satisfy the world so well when we satisfy our own cravings.

    Thanks for posting the video – I haven’t seen this since I was a kid. Great memories, he gave us all great memories and great laughs.

  • Jeremy Shimko

    This was an overwhelming loss for so many people. Seeing the complexity of the human experience unfold right in front of you can really leave you without words sometimes. Thanks so much for sharing yours Chase.

  • Dan

    Was he crazy? Was his so called act, him in person? That is who he was? A mixed bag to be sure. Was he funny or insane? Was he Patch Adams and the rigidity of this world was a chain for him? It is sad no one was with him, no one there to comfort him, to cheer him up when he took the time to cheer up so many others. Again, as Reeves said, was it for him (craving the audience, the attention, being the center of attention) or, was it for others. I think many of his roles he was the center of attention, he couldn’t go on without it. It is sad he wasn’t able to find his wholeness and left still craving attention from others?

  • http://www.filmtrooper.com Scott McMahon

    When I learned of the news yesterday, I felt the punch to the gut and the heaviness that comes when your heart sinks. Strangely, I thought about his friends, how were they taking the news? And I thought of you, Chase, as I know you were a big fan. Didn’t expect to see a whole blog post on the tragedy, maybe a tweet, but you did such a great job summing up and expressing your thoughts on his passing.

    And it’s true … We need to ask ourselves, “What do we crave?” Will it sustain? Is it full?

    Great job Chase on pulling this together.

  • http://www.earlyparenthoodsupport.com Jessica

    Awesome, Chase. I crave the exhale that comes after feeling truly understood. I love giving and receiving that exhale.

  • Amanda Richardson-Meyer

    Nice post, Chase. I look forward to watching the video when I have a moment. The ending of his life definitely opened my mind to many thoughts and questions. I wonder what was going on in his mind and life that led him to this place. I wonder if the abilities he had to create the work that he did actually act as a double-edged sword. I don’t know. Life is fragile for sure, and both resilient at the same time.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing about the Enneagrams. I have always wanted to delve into these, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Your post prompted me to do so. I took an online quiz, and I’m amazed at what came back describing me so well. Any resources you can recommend about better understanding one’s self through Enneagrams?

  • Rick Carter

    I wrote in facebook a couple times today regarding Robin and so wanted it not to be true as with many others I have written to … I felt like I should but didn’t at the time and I am sorry I didn’t . I regret that a lot!!!!

    Richard L Carter Too
    often we think if we have (had) what he or she has then all my problems
    would be solved … I could fix them! Truthfully we only have each
    other! Smile at the stranger, at an enemy, at a child, at everyone since
    we will only pass this way once …. so save a life as their heart
    could be breaking … be open to interruptions … I remember Johnathan Winters as a kid … He was a big man and scared me as I was maybe 5 or 6 … but I wasn’t’ afraid. Smile to everyone as we all need to feel that we matter! Thanks for listening and God Bless

  • Bob McInnis

    I have some of those cravings and even when they are sated I am unfulfilled. I can’t imagine putting all those insecurities under the spot light as a part of my creating patches for the holes.

  • http://www.nerdkicks.com/ Mindy Holahan

    You’ve quite literally tapped into the question that’s at the top of my mind right now.

    With the Enneagram, I’m a 2. A Helper. My craving has been to fulfill other people’s needs, and I’m learning how disruptive that has been in my life. I’ve lost sight of what is important to me—and I’ve been searching for what is important frantically, like I lost the only set of car keys. But that kind of searching leaves its own trail of disaster.

    I don’t have an answer, but I really appreciate seeing that I’m not the only one with the question.

  • Nicolas Hale

    It has been said that “For every tragedy there is a miracle to make up for it, just somewhere else.” Don’t get lost in the moment and miss the miracle.
    Nicolas Hale

    NicolasHale.com

  • http://www.crystalpulse.co.uk/ Chris Hart

    Fucking gutted about this loss. Really gutted.

  • http://joeyaugustin.com/ Joey Augustin

    I crave a break from constant running thoughts and lingering anxiety – and I also crave more meaning and a broader reach with the work I do every day.

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne – NoteTakingNerd

    I believe we all have four cravings . . .

    1. Certainty – We all want to have confidence in what we believe to be reality and that things will happen a certain way every single time – certainty that our car will start, that our penis will rise to the occasion, certainty that we have enough money in our bank account, certainty that we will be safe and kept out of harm’s way and so much more.

    2. Uncertainty – While we all yearn for certain things to reliably be there for us, we all crave for the kinds of surprises that bring to life the kind of variety that we love. We seek these out in books, TV shows/movies, new relationships, new music, drugs, alcohol, and much, much, more.

    3. Significance – We all crave to be important in somebody’s eyes. For the introvert, this need might be satisfied with a small number of people. For the extrovert, they may not get this need fulfilled until a large number of people see them as significant. But both types crave the idea of someone making us sincerely believe we matter.

    4. Love/Connection – Everyone craves love and connection and people use certain vehicles to access it. Some of us rely primarily on getting this need met through relationships online or from animals. Some of us get it primarily from a young child who still sees you as the greatest being who has ever lived. Some people get it from friends, family, lovers, animals, that they actually physically touch. And some people are showered with love from broad audiences they don’t often come into personal contact with as well the people and animals they hold close to their bodies on a regular basis.

    Tony Robbins has taught all of this to me as well as what follows . . .

    The goal in life is not just meet your needs/cravings, but to meet them in a way that empowers you and everyone around you.

    There are four qualities of experiences that can lead us meeting to meeting our needs.

    Depending on which one we choose, the vehicle we hitch our wagon to, determines whether they’re fulfilled in the long term or not.

    Tony Robbins talks about having an experience where he was running and was feeling total ecstasy while doing so.

    It wasn’t always like this for him when his back was all jacked up. He used to HATE running.

    So one day he’s running and he thinks to himself, “This feels good! And you know what? It also is good for me. Lots of things feel good, but aren’t good for me. You know what else? It’s also good for others because when I have this ritual of running in my life I can deliver my message to people at a whole different level than if I’m being all fat,greasy, and lazy. And it also serves the greater good. What would I call this? A Class 1 experience.”

    CLASS 1 EXPERIENCES

    There are four ways of knowing you are having a Class 1 experience…

    1. It feels good

    2. It is good for you

    3. It is good for others

    4. It serves the greater good

    In the case of running for exercise, if you become a strong and vital version of yourself you can affect other people’s world from a better place because of how much more potent your energy is and because you’ve relieved your body of stress with exercise.

    And if you can impact people in a positive way, those people affected carry it forward and impact others so it affects the greater good.

    Think of this in terms of the stone hitting the water and the ripple effect that happens after.

    CLASS 2 EXPERIENCES

    There are also four ways to know if you are having a Class 2 experience…

    1. It does NOT feel good

    2. It IS good for you

    3. It IS good for others in their life

    4. It serves the greater good

    Running for Tony used to be a Class 2 experience – It didn’t feel good but it was good for him, it was good for others and it served the greater good.

    THE SECRET TO HAVING A LIFE OF FULFILLMENT – Turning Class 2 Experiences Into Class 1 Experiences

    There’s very little growth in only doing Class 1 experiences.

    And because of this, you want to constantly be seeking out the Class 2 experiences because growth lies in doing things when it doesn’t feel good but you get yourself to take action anyways because it truly is good for you, for others and it serves the greater good.

    THIS IS THE ULTIMATE GIFT IN LIFE – BECOMING MORE.

    So the lesson here is that the path to fulfillment is through Class 1 and Class 2 experiences.

    CLASS 3 EXPERIENCES

    There are four ways to verify if you are indulging in Class 3 experiences…

    1. It feels good

    2. It is NOT good for you

    3. It is NOT good for others

    4. It does NOT serve the greater good

    Class 3 experiences are what the majority of people’s lives are ruled by which leads to them feeling utterly unfulfilled.

    Why would you do something that feels good but isn’t good for you, isn’t good for others, and doesn’t serve the greater good?

    Because Class 3 experiences usually offer INSTANT GRATIFICATION – the experiences feel good NOW.

    Overeating a ton of junk food is a Class 3 experience. Smoking is a Class 3
    experience. Drinking vodka to the point of blacking out and/or puking is a Class 3 experience. Excessive and non-strategic procrastination is a Class 3 experience.

    Class 3 experiences will ruin the quality your life.

    Now to put an end to self sabotage you don’t merely want to stop yourself from retreating to Class 3 experiences.INSTEAD you want to replace them with something that’s more fulfilling.

    CLASS 4 EXPERIENCES

    There are four ways to tell if you are indulging in a Class 4 experience…

    1. It does NOT feel good

    2. It is NOT good for you

    3. It is NOT good for others

    4. It does NOT serve the greater good

    Why in the hell would you do something that doesn’t feel good, isn’t good for you, isn’t good for others and doesn’t serve the greater good?

    Because it’s a behavior that has cemented itself into your life as a habit and
    you practice it for the mere fact that it gives you certainty.

    Even if the feeling you’re getting sucks, at least they know how to deal with that crappy feeling. You’re meeting your core needs at a very low level when you retreat to Class 4 experiences.

    Think about what the class of experience is of someone repeatedly calling themselves a loser because they never take action on any of the information products/books they buy because they’re afraid of the feeling of trying and failing.

    Class 4.

    It doesn’t feel good to beat yourself up, it’s not good for you, it’s not good for anyone in your life, and it sure in the hell doesn’t serve the greater good. But in some weird way it lets you experience some low level of satisfaction.

    Now what would you call engaging in a practice that reinforces the belief of, “It
    doesn’t matter what happens, I’ll find a way to overcome my challenges
    because I’m guided in some way and everything that happens serves me
    because all news is good news”?

    If this belief is rock solid within you, you can feel certain as often as you want when you let it overwhelm any other contrary beliefs.

    This would be a Class 1 experience.

    I thank you Chase for penning this brilliant piece that reminds me to be highly conscious of the vehicles I use to meet my core cravings that I must meet. This is by far my favorite tribute to Robin Williams I’ve come across yet and this community has been blessed by the craving that compelled you to pull this out of yourself and to share it with us. Thank you again for this gift.

  • Valerie Hansen

    I just finished watching the whole video (Jo Anne Worley from “Laugh-In”was in the audience too) – thanks so much for posting this (I’ve always loved John Ritter too). This was a great portrayal of Robin Williams and how spontaneous and quick-witted he was – I was laughing all through it, as saddened as I am at his passing. To be so loved, and to not believe it, shows how severe depression is and how it can totally twist your thoughts.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Fabulous Chase. I have somethings to mull over.

  • Nyamka Bayanmunkh

    I am so sad and happy today. I am happy because my first article got published on Rebelle Society ( I did so many happy dances!), then I found out Robin Williams has died at 63, which made me sad.
    I kind of thought of him as my chosen dad, if I could choose my own in this life it would have been him. Then I find out he was depressed and he most likely took his own life. Gut wrenched, I go on to the internet and I find some terrible things that are being said about him because he took his own life. Some people just don’t understand how depression works.
    Last month I was supposed to finish my book on depression. I let my book fall by the wayside because as usual stuff got in the way, and I let it. The issue for me is I feel like I could have done something that helped someone if I just sat down, wrote it and put it out there. Maybe that person could have bee Robin Williams or someone else, it doesn’t really matter who. Maybe the mean people on the internet wouldn’t be so mean if they understood how it feels to be in the black hole that is depression.

    What I crave now and in this life is to help people to feel okay. Right now more than ever I feel like I have been letting them down by not showing up for them.

  • lucrecer

    Deeply moving and thought provoking post. Freedom. It is what I crave and yes, it is a good and true craving. I guess in his own way, Robin Williams craved freedom, too. He will truly be missed. I don’t tend to cry over celebrity deaths, but his hit close to home because depression is no joke.

  • Shantini

    One of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, Chase. You made me smile and you made me cry and you made me think and you made me question myself – in all the right ways. I’ve loved Robin since Mork & Mindy. He was force of nature and the world feels emptier, sadder without him…Thank you for this. I needed it.

  • http://GonzChronicles.com Mike Gonzalez

    This really moved me. Thank you for this.

  • http://northchannelcharters.com Finding Peace Sail Charters

    So many don’t get through the craving until it’s an addiction. Sad because if we ask for help it’s there. We just have to be willing to give up craving. That’s like giving up ones self.
    Thanks for posting this.

  • Amanda Richardson-Meyer

    Interesting podcast from 2010 where he actually speaks about suicide…among many other interesting things. http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/remembering_robin_williams

  • http://darnoffice.com/ Alex

    Thanks for the post, Chase. I needed that.

  • http://www.successwithfocus.com/about/ Jeff Jones

    Thanks for reaching into the well once again, Chase! I’m now searching for a name!

  • Kat Tan

    sad for the loss and reflecting as well.. thinking that madness, that creative well of power we draw our genius from, that wild thing we need to live that can also draw life from us.. yeap, you’ve summed it up pretty well Chase.

    Thanks for mentioning the buddhist ethos of desire vs peace (and so forth) – which I get conflicted about at times since I do have intense need/cravings to express creatively, to connect profoundly, to transcend my humanity – which sometimes leads to excess, selfishness, (madness?). I think that culture and community helps us strike the balance, and as you mentioned mirrors – as we are to each other – and it does help to be in a safe ‘space’ where we can be who we are, be helped or help, or just listen. thanks for being part of making this space available for those of us with that spark of madness and how it’s ok to discuss and let things be.

  • Sandra Pearson

    I got the jokes. I’m old(er). Anyway – My truth in this is that craving will be an engine of fulfillment and it will lead to more craving. If it doesn’t, well, then I’ll be dead. Thank you Chase.

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