While in New York some years ago, I was on a couple of TV talk shows with Patch Adams, a doctor of medicine and self-taught clown who brought laughter to medicine and had a large following in the States because of his ethos of not turning sick people away because they don’t have medical insurance or money to pay for their treatment.
We got on rather well as we have the same basic sense of humour and, on his visit to England a while later, he stopped with us for a few days as he was giving lectures to assorted medical colleges etc and he told us his book – Gesundheit! – was being turned into a film and he was hoping that Robin Williams would play him. Which he did. A few months later, our phone rang and it was Patch. He was at Robin Williams’ home in a ‘meet the person to study for the role’ type of thing and had explained he knew me and, before I could utter a word, I was handed over to Robin Williams. Robin spoke in fluent ‘machine gun’ and I think I kept up with him. After a few minutes of general banter of the ‘when next in the US, pop round’ sort of thing, I was handed back to Patch. I said I would be thrilled if he could send me a photo of them together.
A month later, a signed photo arrived of them together outside the front of Robin’s home with him in one of Patch’s clown costumes and – as Patch used assorted rubber noses in his clown roles – Robin had a selection of them stuck to his head. Another month on and the phone rings at 1.00am and this time it is Robin. I had only just got to bed as I had returned late from a talk engagement I had given, so I was a bit ‘four parts to the wind’.
But he then settled into telling me about the film that was to be called Patch Adams and, as we talked, he glided into a sort of ‘old English Army Officer’ type of voice not unlike Peter Sellers doing his Major Denis Blodnok in The Goon Show and we chatted for a while and eventually called it a day or – in my case – a morning. It is not often you meet or talk to a genius but think I may well have done on this occasion. Robin Williams RIP