Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams - A Farewell to My Favorite Entertainer

I am still a bit shocked and very sad about the passing of Robin Williams.  He has been my favorite actor for most of my life and I even did a paper on him in college.  I don’t know how well I can articulate everything I have been feeling since learning about it, but I decided I needed to try.  My thoughts may jump around a bit, but that seems fitting since that is frequently what Robin did.  At this point, I have been working on this off and on for a few days because it has taken me this long to get my thoughts in some semblance of order.

I went about my day on Monday August 11, 2014, running errands and things.  I didn’t bother to watch the news - I don’t watch the news all the time because I just get tired of hearing about all the crime and negative stuff.  That night, I was minding my own business, looking through some posts on Facebook when I was stunned to read one about Robin Williams dying.  I immediately went to other sites, hoping not to find confirmation that it had happened - not that I think the friend that posted would have made it up, but I just didn’t want to believe it.  I still don’t. 

Over the years I have felt sad when different celebrities have passed away without getting too upset or crying.  I almost always end up shedding a few tears during the memorial segments on different award shows.  This time it is different.  I have cried several times over the last several days, and that will probably continue to happen for a while.  The only other time the passing of a celebrity has hit me this hard was with Jim Henson.  I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and since Henson was responsible for so many of those characters, it was like they died too at that point.  Mork & Mindy is one of the few shows I remember watching from the early 80s, so I guess I connect Mork, and therefore Robin with my childhood as well, which may be part of  why this has hit me so hard.  It may also be because it is just so sad that such a talented and gifted man is gone.  Finding out that it was suicide and that he had been severely depressed lately makes it sadder.

I am not in any way judging him for this.  It just makes me sadder that his depression got to such a point where he felt this was his only way to deal with it.  Unfortunately, it seems like others are judging.  I have seen nasty comments left on articles and videos.  There are people who are calling Robin a coward and selfish because of this.  He is a man who spent the majority of his life making other people happy.  He has done all kinds of work for various charities, a lot of which he didn’t talk about because he wasn’t doing it for the publicity.  He did it because he cared, something a selfish person wouldn’t do.  He was suffering from an illness that still has a stigma attached to it.  Someone who seems to be a well known blogger wrote something about it that I chose not to read because just the title ticked me off.  It seems like most of the people who have been posting these rude, judgmental, and even nasty things are people who have never had to deal with the type of severe depression that Robin was battling.  They have no idea what type of torment he felt or how he suffered.  They should be glad they haven’t.  Thankfully I have never had to deal with depression, and I hope I never do.  I do understand that it is an illness that people should not be criticized for having.  Some of the things that some people have said online, or even in some of the “news” reports have the potential to be harmful to people dealing with depression.

Over the years, Robin has battled addiction and depression.  Some of that has come out in his work, with him referencing the battles in his stand up.  He has played characters that have problems with depression.  There was even an episode of Mork & Mindy in which Mork learns about loneliness, and the episode does have some serious moments.   Years ago I saw either an interview or read one in which he talked about having insecurities.  It can be hard for people to grasp that someone who was as funny as Robin was could have insecurities and suffer from depression.  It seems like many funny people, and gifted people as well, end up dealing with some form of depression.  Having money or a successful career doesn’t make a person immune to depression. 

Depression does not discriminate and it can be incredibly hard for people to overcome.  It isn’t just feeling sad and people can’t just make themselves happy.  It isn’t like a cold where a person can wait it out or get some type of medicine to deal with the symptoms until it is gone.  There is no magic cure or magic pill.  What helps one person won’t necessarily help another.  While there are medications that can help, it can take a long time to find the right balance.  A medicine that had been helping can stop for whatever reason, starting the search for the balance all over again.  If a person also has to take other medications, they could cause interactions that mess things up.  Medications interact with each other in weird ways at times that can cause complications.   The side effects for a lot of medications mention depression, including some medicine used to treat depression.  There is at least one medicine used to treat depression - I can’t remember which one, but I have seen a bunch of commercials for it - that mentions, in addition to increased depression, suicidal thoughts and actions as side effects. 

On Wednesday, I was horrified to read that some people attacked his daughter for what she has and hasn’t shared online about him, claiming that she hadn’t shared enough pictures of him or some such nonsense.  No one, no matter how famous, is obligated to share every part of their life with the world.  No one has to take pictures of their every waking moment and post them online.  Famous people have a right to privacy too.  No one should be attacked for not sharing enough about their personal life online ever, and it certainly shouldn’t happen after someone has died. 
Friends and family members of someone who has died should not be attacked or criticized for how they grieve.  I don’t understand how or why those people have been doing this.  What is the matter with people?  That is an extra special level of cruel.

Robin Williams made the world a funnier, happier place.  I feel lucky to have been able to watch his many wonderful performances over the years and to have been touched by his brilliance in that way.  I have seen recordings of some of his stand up performances that I enjoyed greatly, but I was never lucky enough to have seen him perform in person.  That would have been something very special.  It would have truly been an honor to have been able to meet him, even for a brief time.  I was thrilled when he was in a new comedy series, and then disgusted when CBS cancelled it while renewing the ever more horrible Two and a Half Men.   Now that he is gone, the world is a sadder place.

I always loved to see Robin on talk shows.  He was the most entertaining guest, bouncing from thought to thought at lightening speed.  He was greatness in action.  When he would crack up over something, his laugh was infectious.  Not all comedians can really do improv, even though many of them seem to think they can.  It takes a very special type of talent to consistently be able to do that in front of a live audience and actually be funny. Robin was the best at it.  That is very different from certain actors who think doing improv is doing take after take after take until they decide something is funny when filming a movie.  Robin was a truly gifted, talented performer.  He was a comedy genius the likes of which I don’t think we will ever see again.

Not only was he hilarious, he was also very good at more serious roles.  One of his early movies was more serious - The World According to Garp - and it was made during the time he was playing Mork.  I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I have seen a lot of them.  I traveled about an hour and a half to get to a theater to see One Hour Photo because it wasn’t at the local theater.  The main reason I wanted to see the movie was because he was in it.  Even many of his funny performances have serious, emotional or downright sad moments in them.  In Mrs. Doubtfire, he was hilarious dressing up as an elderly Scottish nanny, and those outrageous moments are probably what many people remember the most from the movie.  I remember that his character dearly loved his children and would do anything to stay a part of their lives.  Late in the movie, during a court scene, he is absolutely heartbreaking talking about how much his children mean to him. 

I have several of his movies on DVD and I will probably pick up more of them at some point.  I actually did look a few up on Amazon only to discover that they are out of stock right now so they got added to my wish list.  I do sort of feel like having a marathon, starting with the three seasons of Mork & Mindy I have on DVD - I have been hoping for years that the fourth will be released - and continuing with the movies, but I also feel like it is a little too soon for me to do that just yet.  I have watched some clips from some things I hadn’t seen before, and others I had over the last few days.  While they have made me laugh hysterically again, I have also ended up crying again and again and again for various reasons, like just that he is gone or because of something sweet or touching said or done.  I know that I will lose it at the end of Aladdin the next time I watch it, but I will watch it again, along with his many other movies.  I will laugh again, sometimes hysterically until I can’t catch my breath, and I will cry again.  What I won’t do is ever forget him or the joy he has brought me. 

Robin Williams was a very special, talented man who was able to touch his fans in ways that left an impact.  That is why so many of us are so sad right now.  Even though we never actually met him, it feels like we have lost someone close to us.  It takes a special type of person to be able to make that sort of connection to so many people. 

Robin Williams will live on . . . as a grown up Peter Pan, a dedicated English teacher, an outrageous disc jockey, Popeye, a troubled homeless man, a few psychiatrists, a Russian defector, a disturbed photo technician, a killer, animated penguins, the President, Teddy Roosevelt, various doctors, the author son of a feminist, a firefighter who moves to the Caribbean, a banker stuck in the past, a used car salesman, an animated bat, a goofy toy maker, an actor who dresses up as an older Scottish, female nanny, a boy trapped in a game for twenty-six years, a boy who ages four times faster than normal, a flamboyant gay night club owner, a distracted professor, an android, an animated robot, the twisted, corrupt host of a children’s show, a man taking a vacation with his family, a man struggling with the aftermath of loss, an eccentric minister, a father trying to protect his son after death, an advertising executive, a centuries old genie who ultimately gains freedom, and a sweet, kind, gentle, loving alien from Ork. 

Robin Williams will not be forgotten, but he will be greatly missed.

Nanu nanu.

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