While the world still reels from the tragic death of Robin Williams, some remember him for his philanthropy as well as for his comedy. Williams had a heart as big as his talent and made a huge difference in the lives of those who were helped by his generosity.
Back in 1986, Williams — along with pals Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg — were the original hosts of Comic Relief. The show appeared on HBO, ensuring that the 47 comedians who participated would not be censored. All of the proceeds from the show, which aired yearly for 12 years, went to create programs for the homeless and those in need. More than $50 million was raised over those years, creating a movement and becoming the “honorary charity of the comedy community.”
Robin’s caring for the homeless spilled over into his “other job” of movies, TV and appearances. A little-known detail which appeared in his rider made sure of that.
For those who don’t know, a rider is a part of a performer’s contract, detailing requirements and personal needs. You may remember the story about Van Halen requiring a bowl of M & Ms in their dressing room, with all of the brown ones removed. This wasn’t because they were really that picky, but to ensure that the rider had actually been read by the promoter. The logic being that if a detail like that were correct, they could be sure that the important things would be taken care of.
Robin Williams had a rider, too. And, according to blogger Brian Lord, one section of it was beautifully altruistic. Lord writes:
“When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that.”
Lord goes on to express the hope that the practice was being continued by production companies and event planners. Because it’s not just about giving some homeless people a temporary job, it’s about empowering them. To give them pride in themselves again by earning their own income.
So, not only did Robin Williams help those in need with his own money and time, but he used his power to make sure that the companies for which he worked would see how important it was to give the homeless an opportunity and some self-respect. Thanks, Robin.