50 Interviews – A jovial repartee

4 October 2012

Written by: Erdem Koc

Interviewer:  Kerry O’Brien

Interview subject: Robin Williams

Program:  The 7:30 Report, ABC TV

Broadcast date:  3 November 2010

Robin Williams is an Academy and Grammy Award winning performer who appears at ease on stage. The same can be said about his composure when the spotlight is turned on his personal life during an intimate interview with Kerry O’Brien.

Williams never misses an opportunity to inject humour into a conversation. His seemingly innate and effortless banter is present from the beginning of this interview and threatens to be a distraction. Rather than allow the interview to be dominated by Williams’ humorous remarks, O’Brien tactfully formulates his questions and manages to find a balance between the performer and the everyday man.

O’Brien takes questions that may ordinarily create an air of unease and asks them in a way that shifts the focus to an external source. He places phrases such as ‘There are people who would say…’ or ‘I’ve read that…’ at the beginning of his sentences. This projection allows O’Brien to ask difficult personal questions amidst the jovial repartee.

Williams responds, discussing his fall from sobriety during a 30-year battle with alcohol and what shaped his decision to give up cocaine. It is Williams’ unwavering openness and honesty that ensures the success of O’Brien’s questions.

O’Brien and Williams bounce off each other during this effortless exchange of humour and history. Williams provides the audience with a newfound understanding of his private life without compromising his reputation as the fast-talking, light-hearted comedian.

Susannah Woolley is a first year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @SusannahWoolley

See the rest of upstart’s 50 great interviews for journalists here.