I’m not one to get hung up about celebrity deaths.
They have little to do with our own lives and in the grand scheme of things there are more tragic and more press-worthy headlines out there than the death of a famous millionaire.
But today’s passing of Robin Williams is different because in a world as grim as it is, with the conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine and other war torn areas, it makes the death of a famous funny man like Williams, (especially in the manner in which he passed) who has touched the hearts of many, that much more sad.
Like most people my age I became first acquainted with Williams through the Disney classic “Aladdin,” where he famously played the highly energetic and hilarious Genie.
I didn’t know Williams by name back then, just knew that the Genie was the funniest part of the movie and filled that film with such energy and joy that you really can’t imagine it without his charm.
As a live-action actor, I can’t remember if it was “Hook” or “Flubber” or maybe “Jumanji” that I first saw him in but I remember too that all those movies were highly enjoyable because of him.
His high paced sense of humor, wacky hijinks and incredible charisma but most of all his ability to be serious and dramatic when he needed made those films among my favorite as a child.
(Can you really imagine anyone else playing an adult Peter Pan?)
But I really didn’t start seeing Williams as the legend he was until I began listening to his comic stand-up routines.
The first one I watched was “Live on Broadway” which appeared in 2002.
I don’t remember how I came across it in high school but I was floored by the sheer comedy explosion Williams had on stage.
This was where Williams’ unleashed the might of his comedic side and expressed some of the funniest and raunchiest humor you could imagine.
Throughout high school I listened to his stuff constantly, picking up some of my dad’s old comedy records such as “Live at the Met” and “An Evening with Robin Williams” and reciting his humor line for line in front of my friends.
But what was really great about Williams comedy, and sadly ironic now, was his humor through his struggles in life.
He often joked about less than happy things but always ended it with something positive; his jokes about raising children and dealing with alcoholism illustrate this.
His stand-up helped me battle my own depression during high school and my early years in college.
His comedic bravado and energy he put into his humor made me laugh when I otherwise had nothing to laugh about and even today I watched some of his old stuff to cheer me up over his death.
His more serious roles in film also helped with these down moments in life.
I discovered films such as “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poet’s Society” during this same time; both films are as funny as they are thought provoking and deeply dramatic.
“Good Morning Vietnam” was probably the first mature film I saw him in and once again his brilliant sense of humor carried the movie and made it the classic that it is.
I still use the “Blow-job” line whenever describing someone with a stick up their ass.
“Dead Poets Society” was formative to my development as a writer, however.
I remember being shown the film in my 11th grade English class and being sucked into the film right away.
It spoke to teenage angst, the struggle of school life and the fight against being normal.
Even today, and as I write right now, I remember Mr. Keating’s great line about writing:
It’s a great line and it reiterates that point to not be average; carpe diem, seize the day, boys.
It speaks to Williams range as not just a comedian but an actor who wasn’t afraid to tug some heart strings.
“Good Will Hunting” was wonderful at doing this as we saw Williams portray the psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire tasked with motivating the apathetic Will Hunting played by Matt Damon.
While the story may have revolved around Damon’s character, it was Williams who stole the show as the equally tormented Maguire.
There weren’t many laughs in this film but it once again showed Williams outstanding range as an actor as there were more than a few tearful moments in the film.
But as it turned out Mr. Williams was a tormented soul in real life; his numerous divorces, struggles with alcoholism and struggles with health were all signs that his life was not as wonderful as it seemed but we just all figured that a famous millionaire such as himself didn’t need any help.
We were wrong.
Which brings me to the most important part of this tribute; as someone who has battled his own inner demons and talked two people out of suicide himself in his lifetime, I can’t stress enough that help is out there for you.
No matter how alone you feel, no matter how dark your life is, there is always somebody in your life right now who is willing to help.
My generation often has difficultly asking for it, often posting indirect messages of torment on social media, but there are people out there who love you and they want to help.
Williams may have felt scared, may have thought no one would miss him but he was wrong.
I’m not the only writing a eulogy for Mr. Williams tonight; the whole world is saddened by this loss.
Williams brought joy and laughter to so many people throughout his lifetime, be it through his movies or his highly enjoyable comedy stand-up routines and I only wish he understood the impact that he had on people such as myself in his lifetime.
Throughout my younger years Williams’ sense of humor kept my depression at bay and helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life.
My only wish is that Williams had something similar to lean on for himself.
Rest in peace, Robin; we’re all going to miss you.
The impov scene in the afterlife just got that much better. You’re free Genie, you’re free…