What an awful feeling it is to lose Robin Williams.
More than any comedian-actor in the past few decades, Williams had become an ongoing part of everyone’s lives. Who in the entire world has not seen and enjoyed one or more of his many classic films? It is such a memorable list: The World According to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Moscow on the Hudson, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, Awakening, The Fisher King, One-Hour Photo, Night at the Museum, Insomnia . . . And not to forget his many TV talk-show appearances and his first brilliant, hilarious role as Mork on TV’s Mork and Mindy.
The word “genius” is over-used to describe so many entertainers these days. However, Williams was one of the few who merited the word. His many talents were nothing short of phenomenal: one of the funniest people who ever lived, an actor of astonishing range who could have you laughing one minute and breaking your heart the next, a lightning-quick inventive mind and master of on-the-spot improvisations.
At times, Williams’ manic, rapid-fire comedy style was almost too much. It was almost exhausting because viewers had to pay close attention to keep up with his galloping wit.
Besides his vast range of talents, Williams was an unfailingly kind and generous human being, helping raise millions for homeless people and performing many times for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like many great comedians, there was a sadder, darker side to Williams, including his brushes with drugs, alcohol and depression. It was apparently a severe depression that caused him to take his own life at his California home. That darker side is what Williams tapped into for many of his finest performances. That genius was in touch with all of his emotions, bright and dark, and fearless access is what allowed him to deliver so many moving performances. Beneath the hilarity, there was that on-screen vulnerability and sensitivity so reminiscent of another great actor, Jimmy Stewart.
What is amazing is Williams thrived for so long without burning out and crashing. He was so manic, so filled with energy, so hard-working and so generous it must have taken a toll on him now and then. And, basically, that is what Williams did with all of the talents he was blessed with – he gave, gave and gave some more. Perhaps toward the end, in his 60s, all that constant giving of himself left him exhausted, feeling as if his inner well was about to go dry, leading to the bleak depression. His loss is such a tragedy, not just for his family and loved ones but because there is no doubt Williams could have turned in wonderful performances into his 70s and 80s.
Robin Williams was his own great gift to all of us, and this world is a sadder place without him. We are going to miss him.