Did Robin Williams’ Contracts Help the Homeless?

Comedian Robin Williams was lauded for his charitable initiative towards the homeless in a viral Facebook post.

  • Published 26 August 2014

Claim

Comedian Robin Williams used contract riders to perform acts of kindness to homeless people.

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Origin

In the wake of comedian Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August 2014, an item about Williams’ supposedly requiring in his work contracts that “the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work” quickly spread far and wide online:

Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider.

For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do).

This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.

When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back.

I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions.

He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams — not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.

This account appears to have originated with an article posted by Brian Lord (“A Little Known Robin Williams Story”) on 12 August 2014, recounting the author’s experience in attempting to hire Williams for an event:

I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider.

When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

That bit of information took off virally when it was quoted in a Facebook post made on 25 August by a user named “Perry Marshall,” whom many readers confused with Penny Marshall, an actress/comedienne who was friends with Robin Williams throughout his life.

As of now this story remains unverified: We’ve seen no mention or confirmation of it by anyone who ever worked with Robin Williams, nor has anyone to our knowledge produced a copy of a Robin Williams contract bearing the clause in question. The Smoking Gun document leak site long ago posted what may have been a backstage rider from a Robin Williams’ appearance in 2002, but it included no reference in its text to a requirement for employing the homeless.