RIP Robin Williams

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rwposterCelebrities pass away all the time. Usually, we hear the news, post about it on social media, express some sorrow about it, then get back to our life routines. But when I heard about the death of Robin Williams from an apparent suicide, I took a moment to mourn. You see, I don’t normally mourn the deaths of celebrities. Why would I? I don’t know them personally, and while I am sometimes saddened by their passing because I was a fan of their work, I usually just brush it off with a quick, “Oh, that’s too bad” and maybe post a quick note about it on Facebook, primarily to share the news with those who may not have heard yet.

But this time it was different. The last I remember being this emotionally affected by a celebrity death was when I heard of Brandon Lee’s unfortunate accident in 1993. To die by natural causes is one thing. It’s inevitable, and you’re usually not surprised when it happens. But learning that Williams’ suicide was caused by depression truly makes his death tragic. Williams gave the gift of laughter to the world through his stand-up acts, TV shows and movies. Known for his frantic comic style and over-the-top antics, he left nothing to spare when it came to entertaining audiences. He was so generous with his passion, joy and laughter that maybe he didn’t leave enough for himself, and that is truly unfair.

rwpopeyeMy first memory of Williams is in the film “Popeye.” It’s not a great film by any means, but even back then he showed his commitment as an entertainer, giving a dead-on performance as the iconic cartoon character. Williams then truly hit it big with “Good Morning, Vietnam,” earning his first of four Oscar nominations. He went on to star in some of the biggest comedy blockbusters, including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji” and “The Birdcage.” He was a pro at delivering the laughs, but what impressed me most about his performances was how he filled them with so much heart. Never a mean streak in his performances, his infectious smile lit up theaters and warmed the hearts of audiences for decades. Has there been any actor as effective as Williams in delivering both laughs and tears?

rwawakeningsWilliams was also truly gifted as a dramatic actor. Other funny men such as Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell have tried their hands at dramatic roles, and while all have been successful, they eventually returned to their comedic roots. Williams, however, had a career filled with noteworthy dramatic appearances and has the Oscar hardware to prove it. His career has been an effective balancing act between comedy and drama, and it’s a testament to his work that he’s equally known for his roles in “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Insomnia.” Personally, my favorite Williams performance was in “Awakenings” with Robert De Niro. His earnestness and compassion in his role of Dr. Malcolm Sayer for me epitomizes what Williams brought to his art. That film still makes me tear up to this day.

I don’t know Robin Williams personally nor do I really know anything about his personal life. But to me, he was one of the most giving actors out there. Not only did his acting and stand-up comedy bring happiness to many, but he did so much for charity by hosting Comic Relief for so many years to assist the homeless. If only the millions of us who were entertained by him could have given even a micro fraction of that back to him, perhaps he would still be with us today.

Read a review of Robin Williams’ 2010 show at Blaisdell Center

12 comments
Annoddah_Dave
Annoddah_Dave

MC:  Spot on!  It seems like many of the comic geniuses have such huge chains...some are self inflicted others of a more mental nature.  Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Chris Farley, John Belushi, Rap Reiplinger, Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, etc.  all were on the edge of a more bedeviled world it seems.  But I do disagree on including Sandler, Carrey, and Ferrell in such august company, these guys are not even in the same league as Williams!

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

a worthy tribute, myong, that truly does justice to a one-of-a-kind talent anchored by a great heart.

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

I couldn't agree more. This particular suicide has a huge impact on everyone, I think, because of his many positive roles and the laughter he brought to the world. I guess this also brings to light the seriousness of depression and how it can be a very hidden disease.

WillL
WillL

Terrific post, Myong and sums up my thoughts as well.  Thank you.  And I agree, Awakenings was powerfully moving, and Robin Williams' acting brought my empathy and compassion to life (of course DeNiro was awesome too).  "Jack" was also very moving to see a boy in a grown man's body like only Robin Williams could pull off; Robin was good at tapping into life changes and connect them to your heart.  Of course, my all time favorite movie is Dead Poet's Society, and John Keating as a character is still real to me.  I had an English teacher in high school like that, and I always hoped there would be more people in real life who drew only the best out of you like how Robin portrayed Mr. Keating.  O Captain! My Captain!  

Chuggy_Bear
Chuggy_Bear

So incredibly talented. He will be missed. 

Myong
Myong

@Annoddah_Dave Yeah, and it seems like many, including Williams had drug problems too. Oh, and I wasn't putting Sandler et al in the same class as Williams. I was just comparing them as similar because they were all comedians who attempted dramatic roles.

Myong
Myong

@Melissa808 Yeah, depression is something to be taken seriously. I wonder if having a drug addiction is linked to depression because it seems like many who suffer from it also are addicted to drugs.

Myong
Myong

@WillL I liked Jack too. He did a similar thing in Hook, playing a boy in a man's body. Such a talent.

WillL
WillL

@Myong @Annoddah_Dave another guy who was great in drama but a clown off the screen is Bill Murray.  They seem to have similar career paths but Bill seems more aloof in real life.  

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

@Myong it probably goes hand in hand but not necessarily all the time. My friend recently killed himself in the same way but there wasn't a substance abuse problem. I'm sure the addiction probably makes the diseases much more intense.