From a David Kleinberg profile of Robin Williams in September 1985 (SF Chronicle):
Williams ... was born in Chicago in 1951. He grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and he moved to Marin county with his family when he was 16. He doesn't think it's that unusual to be a comedian coming from what he defines as ``the middle-upper class.'' His father was an executive for Ford Motor Co. who retired to Tiburon.
Though he had older stepbrothers, Williams considered himself an only child, and spent a lot of time playing ventriloquist to hundreds of toy soldiers in his bedroom.
In Marin, he attended Redwood High School in Larkspur, Claremont Men's College in Southern California for a year, returned for a brief period to College of Marin, and spent three very important years at the Theater Center of New York's prestigious Juilliard School. ``My father said, `Do whatever you want, but be ready to have a second profession.' ''
In 1976, the first profession started to pan out. In San Francisco's first Comedy Competition, Williams finished second to Bill Farley, a man who unfortunately will have to live with the stigma of being the answer to the ultimate San Francisco comedy trivia question, ``Who finished first the year Robin Williams finished second in the comedy competition?''
Williams feels it was no surprise that he came in as runner-up. He wasn't a good comedian then. In fact, he referred to a 1976 review of his work by the late Chronicle critic John Wasserman, who stated that Williams' material had yet to reach curb level. ``John was right. It was all pee-pee, ca-ca. Everyone starts off at a certain level . . . Usually you imitate someone's style that you admire . . . Then you break away.''
Jonathan Winters' style is the one that Williams' initially grabbed; he and Richard Pryor are the two names Williams mentions as his favorite comics. ``Jonathan . . . just because he's a gentle soul with a madness and wild, out-there vision. It comes from a very sensitive man who talks about things that are very painful but makes them funny.
``As whimsical as Jonathan is, Pryor is deep. He's not afraid to perform open-soul surgery at any moment. Deep, deep stuff.''
As far as new comics go, Williams likes Steven Wright, whom he compares with Woody Allen. And, as he told GQ magazine recently, ``Bob Goldthwait, very high energy, does a kind of nervous breakdown on stage. Wow, there's Whoopi Goldberg! There's Paula Poundstone, Sandra Bernhard, Elayne Boosler. There's Jay Leno . . . Rick Overton, Charlie Fleischer, A. Whitney Brown, a young guy named Dana Carvey - all of them doing different things.''