I Barely Escaped Robin Williams

Along with George Carlin and Lewis Black, Robin Williams is my favourite comedian.  I clearly remember seeing him for the first time, too.  It was CBC’s 90 Minutes Live with Peter Gzoski, which ran on Friday nights back in the 70s. Williams was the guest in 1978 who ragged the shit out of Quebec singer Rene Simard.  No one had ever seen a guy like this before.  I’m impossible to describe how new and different this guy was. I laughed until my sides hurt and I couldn’t make a sound.

Years later, I was diagnosed with a hernia.  Follow me on this.

Rather than be treated at a local hospital, I went to the Shouldice Clinic in north Toronto, probably the world’s foremost hernia treatment centre.  They are very good.  No one can repair a groin like these people, which is why people come in from all over the planet. Check in on Thursday, surgery Friday, recovery Saturday and discharge either Sunday or Monday.  Within two weeks I was back playing hockey and I’ve never, ever had a post-op problem.

If you’ve had this kind of surgery, you’ll know that recovery can be very painful.  Walking is torture and even breathing can hurt.  All the patients that were in my cohort hung out together, shuffling the halls at the behest of stern but kind nurses.  When we watched TV, we tended to watch things that wouldn’t make us laugh.  Laughing plays hell on hernia stitches. Laugh too hard and you can rip them.

Which brings me to Robin Williams.  The scuttlebutt in the hall was that Robin had been in for surgery the previous week.  Word was that he had made patients laugh so hard–jokes about his body hair were big, apparently–that a number of them had to have their hernias re-laced.  He had people laughing and then crying.

The nurses tried to get him to stop, but he was on a roll.  I can just imagine him saying “But everyone is having a good time!  Look! They’re laughing their guts out!””

I remember thinking “Wow, it would have been cool to be a patient with him!”  But then I realized that I would have probably split like an over-inflated football.  Still, that probably would have been worth it for the story, you know?

Check out this interview from Australian TV.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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