I delayed writing about Robin Williams because I wanted my words to be thoughtful, rather than reactionary. I knew I had to wait because my reaction to his death surprised me. I’m not what some might call a “fan boy” (or “fan girl,” so to speak). I haven’t swooned over a celebrity since Peter Tork (of The Monkeys) and Justin Hayward (of The Moody Blues) were in their early 20s, and I was even younger. For many years I’ve listened with interest as celebrity death announcements were made in the media. Normally, I remember those performers fondly for their accomplishments and thankfully for the entertainment they have provided. Once in a great while, a death will affect me to a much greater degree.
When they broke into the programming to announce that Robin Williams had died, I was completely taken aback. I remember Robin’s first appearance on Happy Days and how we all laughed at his performance. No one had ever seen the like. He made the improbable and the impossible not only believable, but funny. He launched a new kind of comedy that took the industry by storm; and he kept it up for 40 years. He could bring down the house with a look, and no other actor or comic was able to emulate his improvisational genius…not then, and likely not ever.
As an actor, Robin showed us his other sides, his serious side, his sweet side, his emotional side, his angry side, his passionate side, and a side that was a more conventional version of funny. He became his roles, and we believed he was Adrian Cronauer, or Alan Parrish, or Sean Maquire, or Patch Adams, or John Keating…even Mork, or Mrs. Doubtfire, or the Genie. He breathed life into those roles and into our lives through them.
And he gave. He gave his time, his money, his friendship and whatever else he could muster. The Windfall Foundation that funds many charities, Comic Relief, many USO tours, donating performance proceeds to help rebuild Christchurch, New Zealand after an earthquake in 2010; the list of his charitable work is substantial.
Over the course of the last two days, I have spent much time thinking about why Robin Williams’ death has caused me to feel such a profound sadness. What I realize is that I am not sad for Robin Williams. I am sad for all of us he left behind who will no longer have that bright, shining star to make us laugh and cry and know there is good.
And Robin, he gave his wit, his humor, his brilliance, his genius, his passion until he had nothing left to give. I would like to think that when he breathed his last, he said to God, “Beam me up, Scotty, I’m finished down here,” and laughing, God transported him on a beam of light to become a shooting star. He has joined the Perseid’s as they streak through our sky and will sprinkle a little humor down on us every year as he passes by. Safe travels, Robin.