Now that it’s (practically) fall 2013, he’s returning to the small screen in The Crazy Ones, a new CBS sitcom from Ally McBeal and Boston Public producer David E. Kelly.
Where that will place the 62-year-old often-still-frenetic comedian – who proudly wears his battle scars, including those he earned thanks to problems with the bottle – on the temperature gauge remains to be seen.
For his own part, “The idea of having a steady job is appealing,” Williams tells Parade for this weekend’s issue.
“I have two [other] choices: go on the road doing stand-up, or do small, independent movies working almost for scale [minimum union pay],” he says. “The movies are good, but a lot of times they don’t even have distribution.”
There are also personal reasons: “There are bills to pay. My life has downsized, in a good way. I’m selling the ranch up in Napa [, Calif.,]. I just can’t afford it anymore.”
Pressed on whether his bank account was depleted by his two divorces – from Valerie Verlardi, in 1988, and Marcia Garces, in 2008 (he is now married, since 2011, to graphic designer Susan Schneider) – the sharp-tongued Williams replies: “Well, not all. Lost enough. Divorce is expensive. I used to joke they were going to call it ‘all the money,’ but they changed it to ‘alimony.’ It’s ripping your heart out through your wallet.”
To clarify, he adds, “Are things good with my exes? Yes. But do I need that lifestyle? No.”
The new TV series, Williams’s first since Mork ended in 1982, pits the comic as – what else? – an eccentric ad man against Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays his agency partner and daughter.
“She’s a sweet woman,” Williams says of his costar. “And the idea of a father-daughter relationship – since I have a daughter [Zelda, 24, with Garces], I’ve done the research on that.”
He is also fairly candid about relapsing after 20 years of sobriety.
“One day I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel’s,” he says. “And then that voice – I call it the ‘lower power’ – goes, ‘Hey. Just a taste. Just one.’ I drank it, and there was that brief moment of ‘Oh, I’m okay!’ But it escalated so quickly.”
Characteristically reaching for the punch line, he adds, “Within a week I was buying so many bottles I sounded like a wind chime walking down the street.”
His family got him into rehab in 2006. “It was not an intervention so much as an ultimatum,” he says. “Everyone kind of said, ‘You’ve got to do this.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ ”