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Robin Williams, whose humor was bought with pain, is now no more

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Robin Williams was found dead on Monday, so says the Hollywood Reporter, it is suspected by his own hand. But what really killed him was a disease called depression, a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes sadness so profound and so overpowering that it is incomprehensible to anyone who does not suffer from it. It is a bitter irony that someone who brought such joy and mirth to the planet for over three decades could be felled by such a thing.

Williams’ body of work on TV, in film, and on the stage is the stuff of legend. His mad cap, stream of consciousness patter, sometimes fueled by cocaine, started on the “Mork and Mindy” show and served him well over the years. But he could also play serious, even downright menacing, in films like “Good Will Hunting” and “One Hour Photo.” Things went full circle when he returned to TV in “The Crazy Ones” about an ad man that was one part Don Draper and one part Mork from Ork. There are too many movies that can be mentioned here. But there are two personal favorites of this writer.

One is an almost forgotten film from the Reagan eighties called “Moscow on the Hudson” in which Williams played a refugee from the Soviet Union who struggles to make it in America, with the help of other immigrants. The humor was there, but subdued by Williams’ standards. It was a unique film that showed the old Soviet Union as a depressing, soul crushing place that anyone would want to be quit of and America as a land of boundless opportunity.

In the other film, “Good Morning Vietnam,” in which he played the real life radio DJ, Adrian Cronauer, upon whom he imparted his own brand of stream of consciousness humor. There is one powerful scene in the movie in which Cronauer happed upon a convoy of young soldiers waiting in trucks to go into the boonies, with combat ahead for all of them, maiming and death for some of them. His character spends some time entertaining them, making the madness of their situation just a little easier. Williams in real life would often entertain troops thus, giving back to those who won his freedom to joke with their blood.

His death strikes to the heart, because after the few films he has done still in the can, there will be no more of Robin Williams in this life. It is hoped that even now he is making God laugh and is being reacquainted with old friends like Jonathon Winters, his idol and mentor, and Richard Pryor, another comic genius whose humor was bought with pain. May there be no more of that and only joy now forever.

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