Pretty Much Pop #31: Robin Williams’ Celebrity Struggles w/ Dave Itzkoff

Dave the New York Times culture reporter joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to consider issues raised by his 2018 biography Robin: What is with our f’ed up relation to celebrity, and what are strategies that celebrities use to deal with that asymmetric relationship to the world? While Robin Williams tried, in gratitude, to share himself with random fans, and was very anxious about letting us all down when some of his later work didn’t garner the widespread praise he was used to, someone like Joaquin Phoenix takes a much more seemingly detached attitude, keenly aware of the absurdity of the celebrity-audience relation.

We also talk to Dave about interview technique and the different attitudes that his subjects take toward him. Can an interview be something that has intrinsic value and not just parasitic on popular media?

For more about Robin, Dave participated in a recent podcast called Knowing: Robin Williams, which was created in part to support Dave’s book (which some of us read for this episode; it’s really good). HBO also recently released the documentary Come Inside My Mind that relates much of the same story.

For more on Joaquin Phoenix, read Dave’s interview, this 2017 Times article by Bret Easton Ellis, or this Guardian article on I’m Still Here.

Read Dave’s interviews at or follow him @ditzkoff.

Is Dave really Robin’s son? No, he is not!
This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network and is curated by


  1. Uggh. I, and a I think a lot of people , are just fed up with celebrities. I am tired of them. Most have low educations and there they are lecturing us about some cause or political posturing they feel sanctimonious about.

    I don’t need to attach the name of a celebrity to understand how tragic illnesses or conditions are and for people that just pose for cameras, it’s terrible how we have to constantly hear about what they believe, what they think, what they do or do not believe in. I don’t care.

    They are ENTERTAINERS not great minds.

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