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Robin Williams Snuck So Many Foreign Swear Words Into Mork & Mindy They Hired a Multilingual Censor

Robin Williams’ cheeky-but-loveable reputation was born with one of his first roles, when he found a creative way to slip past the censors.

Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy, episode 'Mork's Seduction'
Credit: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

Some will remember the late Robin Williams from the 1993 family comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Others will recall the 1997 romance Good Will Hunting or the 1989 comedy/thriller Dead Poets Society. With such a diverse range of roles in his catalog, it seems that Robin Williams could act just about any kind of character.

One element of his reputation that precedes him, though, more than any iconic character, is the daring comedic style that so many found endearing. It turns out this was always part of his charm: an interview released shortly after his death in 2014 revealed that he was playing pranks back in 1978’s Mork and Mindy.

Mork and Mindy, a spin-off from 1974’s Happy Days, followed Mork (Williams), an alien who comes to live with human Mindy. Mork’s mission on earth is to study human behavior, but he gets up to plenty of mischief while doing so. Williams got up to plenty of his own mischief, too, sneaking foreign swear words into Mork’s gibberish until production hired a translator to identify them.

Robin Williams’ Interview

In a tell-all interview with Pioneers of Television, Williams fondly recollected how he got the role and how the producers caught him slipping expletives into the family-friendly show.

“They started auditioning pretty much every stand-up comic they could find to come in and play this alien,” He remembers of his feature on Happy Days. “I went in and basically just started talking in this weird kind of helium voice and sat on my head and started off just playing, just cause I said, “What have you got to lose?”

“I got the gig and basically went in and had a good time,” he continued.

On Mork and Mindy, Happy Days’ spin-off, Williams said, “I could just go off the wall and do strange things, and because I’m an alien, it’s okay!”

“Eventually, they had to have a censor who spoke, I think, Spanish – three or four different languages – because I was sneaking things in in different languages. They went, “She knows what that means” – “Really?”, oh, sad.”

“We would try different things just to see what could get under the radar!” Admitted Williams.

His Legacy as a Prankster

Stellan Skarsgård, who played Prof. Gerald Lambeau in Good Will Hunting, recently revealed that Williams was always a high-energy presence on set.

“He would have an idea about something funny, and he would have to get it out for him to continue. We would do ten takes on something, and it was good, and Gus Van Sant was pleased, and Robin would say, ‘Can I do one more take?’ And then he had to get it out of him. He was fantastic to work with,” said Skarsgård in an interview with Business Insider.

Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck with their Academy Awards for Good Will Hunting, 1998.
Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck with their Academy Awards for Good Will Hunting, 1998. Credit: Shutterstock/ Everett Collection

Williams took the opportunity to prank Skarsgård, who was unfamiliar with making American movies. Producer Weinstein revealed that Williams changed the script and told the Swedish actor that Good Will Hunting was all about improvisation. That’s one way to break the ice!

Robin Williams’ warmth and his bold sense of humor landed him a wealth of big roles, from 1992’s Aladdin to 1995’s Jumanji. Though it has been almost a decade since his death, he is fondly remembered among actors, co-stars, and audience members alike.

Written By

Madison Collier (she/her) is a current finalist reading for BA English Language and Literature at Oxford University. Madison writes on news, culture, and entertainment, but specialises in music and identity.

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