I, like many others, was saddened to hear word of Robin Williams death. Growing up, my first exposure to the comedian was probably in Popeye and Mork & Mindy reruns in the early and mid-80s. The next thing I remember was Good Morning Vietnam, a movie I wasn’t allowed to see (very conservative mother), but heard all of the lines repeated by buddies at school. And then who could forget Dead Poet’s Society and Awakenings. I still love Awakenings. For me, it was just an odd thing to see this normally manic comedian encapsulated in a role in which he couldn’t, or didn’t need to, be manic. I thought he was great and similar roles followed when he did Good Will Hunting and Patch Adams (though he did get to be a bit off-color in that).
“If you watch it backwards, it has a plot.” ~Robin Williams, about Popeye (1980)
I remember the first time I saw him do stand up, which was probably much later than everyone else. I remember loving it, but saw how the mania that had fueled his prerecorded film and TV moments had stemmed from a kind of mania that could be overwhelming in a live setting. Of course, it wasn’t until much later that the tales of drug abuse came out.
“Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you are making too much money.” ~Robin Williams
And, while some would write off an entire career because of that, it always occurred to me that, here was this frantic, manic, brilliant personality that could barely be contained. And, yet somehow, he was able to transform his mania into humor and dramatic poignance at times. I felt bad when I saw some of the movies come out later in his career. Some were pretty awful (RV anyone?). To me, it seemed like someone who was super talented being forced to take movies that sucked because no one was offering him the good stuff anymore.
“Comedy is acting out optimism.” ~Robin Williams
Whatever the case, Robin Williams’ suicide saddens me. He brought so much to so many. He was so talented, but as with a lot of artists, he was troubled by depression. That it came to suicide, is tragic. Depression is a serious illness that I think a lot of people misunderstand. Those who have never suffered prolonged periods of depression may think it’s just a matter of cheering up. It’s not that simple. To learn more about depression, read up on it at The National Library of Medicine. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, make sure you or they talk to a doctor about it.
RIP Robin. You have left us a world that is a lot less funny without you.