What Williams shows us, in a film like Jacob the Liar, is that innocence may be worth preserving if, that is, we want to preserve hope which is at the core of not just Jewish culture but American culture as well. This preservation, however, is not to be found in “bromance” films (like Apatow’s) which, on the contrary, look to preserve adolescence and postpone adulthood. These films may be considered “sophomoric” but Williams’ work, in films like Jacob the Liar, is not. Fiedler was wrong and so is Scott on this account.
More is at stake than a simple repetition of a historical origin that ends up becoming the legacy of American literature. When it comes to innocence, the promise of goodness is at stake. It – and not simply a kind of comedy that is vulgar and fixed to take down the status quo – should be at the forefront of American comedy and Williams’ comedic career shows us that he took this task to heart. He knew, after Auschwitz, that comedy can still be the best challenge to history and that this stance is not taken on by the bromance comedy so much as the comedy of the schlemiel.
And on this note, we can say that even Mork teaches us something that the adolescent comedy in Apatow cannot; namely, that the “people’s poet,” it’s “lord of dreams,” can be complete (“tam”) if they act as if the world is still surprising. One is complete when one knows that, despite all the randomness in the world, good things can still happen and that wonder is still possible.
But, still, this completion doesn’t mean that one is whole – one is complete while one is broken. Moving on “as if” good things can still happen and that wonder is still possible, while knowing one is broken, one learns the meaning of completion. It is, as Adorno citing Beckett would say, the kind of moving on that gives birth to “the laugh that laughs at the laugh.” This laugh is the laugh of a certain kind of innocence, which remains, even in the context of chaos. This is a lesson that Robin Williams – a true master of comic simplicity and innocence – left with us.