“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” –Robin Williams
Yesterday I, like the rest of the world, received the sad news that Robin Williams had passed away. It hit me hard, especially considering I had never met him. Those close to me know how much I loved Robin Williams’ work and how much I admired the man. His death saddens more than I thought possible.
Maybe it’s a selfish thing: Meeting Robin Williams was in my bucket list. I wanted to meet the man who’d given me so many laughs over the years. And not only joy but sage advice. Listen to his interviews and there’s always some hidden wisdom in them, even if it was something as simple yet profound as “don’t make my mistakes.”
His death due to depression hits harder because my sister is currently battling that condition. I can’t hide the fact his death makes me afraid for her, of where the pain might take her. I didn’t know Robin Williams or what he was going through, but I do know my sister and I am close to her, and I can stop her from doing something frightening, if it comes to that, which I sincerely hope it doesn’t.
I won’t list all his accomplishments. You can go on Wikipedia or any other site in the world and look up “Robin Williams,” for the detailed account. No, I’ll tell you why he mattered to me.
The first film Robin film I saw in my life was Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s the earliest film I can remember. I did see Aladdin but living in Venezuela I only saw the Spanish dubbed version, so I didn’t know him as the genie. I saw Doubtfire hundreds of times and I never stopped laughing, but I also felt the heart, the soul he put into the performance. It was what made it real, and in the case of comedy, funnier. It was the same with Hook, a film I now know critics didn’t generally like, but I loved so much. Later on, the heart and soul of his performances would be the reason of my love for Bicentenial Man. On comedy, he made me laugh, and on drama, he made me cry, and it was all due to how much he put into it, how much of himself he exposed through his acting.
After that, I slowly sought out every other film he’d made. Good Morning Vietnam, What Dream May Come (I cried), Awakenings (weeped), the Dead Poets Society, Aladdin (in English, and his 40-characters-in-one Genie) and once the internet was in my hands (or at least in my house), I even managed to get my hands on old Mork & Mindy clips, which my mother always commented on being hilarious.
Then I re-discovered him as stand-up comedian thanks to the show, “Inside the Actors Studio.” His quick wit and creativity and his honesty about his life and mistakes and joys made me love him as a person, someone who could look behind and say, “Yes, I screwed up there, there and there.” In my life, I’ve had regrets and there are things I’m not proud of, but I’ve learned to accept and learn from those mistakes, to look back and just like him say, “Yep, I messed that up!”
At the time, I was very insecure about everything, because of who I was and how I was treated by those around me in school. I was the nerdy, fat kid in school and I was constantly bullied and made to feel like less than what I was. Comedy gave me the ability to laugh despite that, and for me that was Robin Williams. When I thought of comedy at the time, it was him I saw. He was right when he said, “Comedy is acting out optimism.” He acted it out and I felt better because of it.
Then I found out he was a gamer, anime fan, all-around-nerd and most importantly, a Zelda fan, just like me. That, combined with everything else about him, made me decide, “I have to meet this man.” Alas, I’ll never have the chance now.
As a creative person, as someone who likes making up and writing stories, his boundless creativity was inspiring. It made me realize there’s an infinite well of ideas inside me, I just needed to find it, tap into it, and then set up the machinery in my mind to keep pumping it for more. Maybe without Robin Williams I would never have written a single piece of fiction. Or maybe I wouldn’t be the person I am now, someone who can laugh at life and find joy in every situation. Those who know me know I tend to laugh about everything, even if few minutes before I was crying my eyes out.
Over the years, I’ve expanded my Robin Williams library, I have seen almost every film he ever did as well as every show and every stand-up special, and they’ve all been amazing…yes, including Popeye. I don’t think anyone else could have portrayed that character as fantastically as he did. I slowly went through the Comic Relief ‘archives’ for those amazing performances with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, two of my other idols.
Learning of the people around him—friends, co-stars and family—I learned more about the man, about the depth of his character, not what we see but what he did. From his visit to Christopher Reeve after his accident and the similar uplifting visit to Sharon Osbourne (whom Robin had never met before) to calling Spielberg during the filming of “Schindler’s List” to help raise his spirits, Robin used his talent to help people when they needed it to. And it wasn’t limited to other stars, but soldiers and sick people and anyone in need. If he had the chance to help, he’d do it. You can’t but admire and love a man like that. Quite similar to my own father, the best man I have ever met. Well, now there’s the best man I’ve met and the best man I’ve never met.
Because of that, I will stop being so sad about him being gone and instead laugh with him once more. And who knows, maybe my dad is meeting him right now for me and giggling just as I would.
He said it best:
“Well, you try and keep it in perspective; you have to remember the best and the worst. In America they really do mythologize people when they die.”
Bye Robbo, thanks for everything.