Yesterday, the world was shocked when news came that one of the greatest actors and comedians of ANY time was found dead at his home from an apparent suicide – Robin Williams.
The man was a thematic powerhouse. A comedy genius. A powerful dramatic presence. A source of laughter and joy for millions of people. His loss is one that will continue to send shock-waves through many people for months to come. Including myself. I am sure there are many thousands of people who are paying tribute in different ways, and I hate to start my couple of week hiatus from writing on a sad note, but this was just a loss too great not to be vented. I hope that you, dear readers, will bare with me as I get this off my chest.
From some of my earliest television memories, Robin Williams is there as a wacky alien who was attempting to live in a strange new world – Earth. Mork and Mindy.
Even though I was too young to understand most of the jokes, I remember loving the character Robin Williams had created and I would actively attempt to stay up as late as possible (it was on late nights, around 10pm on Nick at Night – I believe) just to watch the show. It was goofy. It was zany. It was comedy gold. And even at my age I knew there was something incredible about that man. Just seeing him on the screen made you want to laugh. And I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a moment.
Some of the best episodes of Mork and Mindy were the ones with Jonathan Winters. In an amazing twist – well, amazing to me at the time – a full grown man burst out of an egg and was introduced as Mork’s new son. Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters were absolutely fantastic when they were let loose on the set, and watching those two men banter back and forth in mostly improved scenes made me laugh so hard that they stuck with me throughout the years. The two remained amazing friends for the rest of their lives, until Jonathan Winters passed just last year – April 2013.
I would like to think that Mr. Winters was there to greet Robin Williams as he crossed to the other side. Showing him the ropes, and picking up the banter right where they had left off.
His brand of comedy continued to make people laugh all over the world. Robin Williams just had the gift. Even in television interviews, the host would ask him one simple question and he would go off for minutes at a time making up some of the funniest things I had ever heard. Literally bringing me to tears and having to hold my stomach from laughing so hard. Remarkably, Mr. Williams would show the world that this jester could hit us on deep emotional levels as well.
Enter the Dead Poets.
Last night, while still being completely shocked at the news that he was now gone, this was the first movie I popped into the DVD player. An unorthodox teacher takes a group of young men under his wing and teaches them to “suck the marrow out of life” while not “choking on the bone”. It is a movie about finding your own voice in a world of conformity, and not being afraid to use it. If anyone was more qualified to play the role of John Keating – I cannot think of one. The final scene of the movie when the boys stand up on their desk in a show of solidarity and appreciation is one of the most powerful scenes in any movie ever. This was only the beginning of Mr. Williams dramatic turn, and what a way to start.
Partnered with Robert De Niro, this movie continued to show us that Mr. Williams was more than just a one-trick pony. He could not only make our stomachs hurt with laughter and bring us tears of joy, but he could make our hearts ache with deep emotional connections on-screen – and bring tears of sadness. It was a whole new side to a man that we thought we all knew so well – and, as a collective audience, we began to sit even closer to his stage in order to see what he would come up with next.
Throughout the years, Robin Williams continued to impress us, make us laugh, bring to life new characters, and taking on new challenges.
The Fisher King. Aladdin. Mrs. Doubtfire. Jumanji. Good Will Hunting. What Dreams May Come. Patch Adams. Death to Smoochy (loved this role!). He slipped into each role, personified the written work, and brought those characters to life in a way that no one else would have been able to do. When you consider each one of those roles, it is nearly impossible to think of anyone else being able to bring them to life so convincingly. Then he continued to throw us for a loop by taking on all-together different roles like Insomnia and One Hour Photo. Showing us yet another layer of his skill – that not only could he be hilarious and dramatic, but he could also convincingly play a down right creepy villain!
We felt that lump in our throat.
In the realm of people taken too soon, Robin Williams certainly feels as if he is near the top of that list. Like loosing a great friend who could light up any room, the world genuinely feels like a darker place now that he has passed on. As I look outside the window here today, it is overcast and trying to rain – almost as if the very sky is feeling such a tremendous loss.
Goodbye, Mr. Williams. And thank you, for everything.
Oh captain, my captain.