In the real world, regular folks with emotional problems are isolated by society as fringe outcasts to be shunned, while in Hollywood they live staged lives on TV and in movies and become entertainment icons. And as long as they can perform, when they are not themselves, we accept them at their best...or at their worst. While tragic suicide victim Robin Williams was one of them, he was a beloved character who wore his humanity on his sleeve and that is what set him apart from standard standup showmen. If he had demons, then they became his art and made us laugh.
Having grown up lonely from a well off family of financial style minus loving substance, he used showbiz to come out of his shell. You knew he was different from the beginning when he fit comfortably into the role of a sitcom alien from another world. He almost seamlessly made the transition to the big screen since his ad-lib manic persona was made for larger than life cinema improv. Despite the snub of comics not taken seriously, he became a dramatic Oscar-winning actor in spite of himself, although his best role as an idealistic teacher put an ironic twist on the fate of his end days.
Even though he never had trouble getting work past middle age, being between projects left too much time on his hands to not confront his inner struggles with the humor and pathos that was his sharp witted trademark. When real life caught up with him, he may have been burnt out and almost bankrupt by lifestyle support for former wives. So by the time a Parkinsons Disease diagnosis was evident, he had hit rock bottom. You wonder in this age of digital small talk what intervention friends were there to snap him out of it with life saving words in person and not via social media.
For fans and critics who look past and not for faults, if Williams fell prey to substance abuse at his peak and upon his downfall, he deserves some slack for medication of his condition and stewardship of his comic genius. After all, the Beatles didn't write their best music sober. What armchair pundits outside the loop of the dream factory limelight fail to realize is that often booze and drugs are the fuel for success amid the pressure cooker of lights, camera, action. That's not to say that it isn't wrong. Yet to dive in the fishbowl of fame and fortune is not a safe easy swim through pure clear waters.
Robin is on a short list of the greatest comedic minds to grace the airwave signals and celluloid images of the media age. He was blessed with the most acute wit ever over four decades and generations witnessed his showbiz reign as the fastest joke jester in the west. The man could free associate punch lines, anecdotes and double entendres with a rapid fire pace and topical precision not seen in mortal funnymen. That he was a sad clown deep inside like the proverbial cliche made him all the more iconic. If there was a telltale charm to his acting ability, it was his humble vulnerability.
He'll not just be missed. He will be studied to unlock the reasons why comedy culture and the applause feedback therein make sad people happy. Why someone can set aside their hay wiring by making other people laugh. And why performance art makes communication giants out of troubled individuals who win us over with a need to be loved that they may have missed out on before developing their skills. It's not a stretch to look for comic relief in mourning. So somewhere, sometime, somehow when Robin is reincarnated, you can be sure the first thing he will do in his next life is...try to make someone laugh.