Monday, August 11, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams, 1951 - 2014

It was hard for me to watch Robin Williams whenever he appeared live on TV.
Very hard.
He was so frenetic, so wound up, so quick, so wild, so unpredictable that it made me nervous. And sometimes, it was downright scary.
It was like he had this obvious need for constant attention;  a need that was never completely satisfied; a need that could never actually be satisfied.
There was something more going on inside him that propelled all this -- something deeper and more troubling, and probably something none of us want to get to know too well.
And yet he was a remarkable performer and he obviously had to be quite disciplined to do many of the things he did. He charted new paths in the groundbreaking Mork & Mindy TV series. And after a few false starts he gave us stellar big screen performances in a string of memorable movies including Good Morning, Vietman, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting (for which he received the Oscar) and Mrs. Doubtfire. You can't deliver performances like those without being incredibly focused and disciplined.
And as a one-man show and relentless standup comic he had no equal.
For all of this received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.
He was breathtakingly successful.
But he was troubled. And his political views (which he freely interspersed in his comedy monologues) were often caustic, to say the least.
He was a combustible personality. 
He battled drug addiction, alcoholism and severe depression at various points during his life. Like many comic geniuses, he was a troubled soul. Williams himself said "comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma." It's clear that he used comedy to help battle personal demons and, in the process he made us all laugh and think and ponder some deeper issues.
It's sad that that his life ended as it did -- a great loss to his family and to his many fans.
So, I'll chose to remember him the way that I saw him on a sunny day near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia a few years back as he bounded across 18th Street, a big smile on  his face waving to fans who barely had time to say "Yes, that IS Robin Willaims!" before he was gone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan, thorough, fair, very thoughtful and likely accurate. His frenetic, manic performances seemed to reveal a boundless energy that was, I agree with you, alarming and signaled something deep in his innards, wasn't quite right and perhaps even very wrong. Such a tragic way to end his life, so I can't blame you for wanting to remember him as you saw him that day. Thanks for reminding us of his life's works which many of us so enjoyed. Prayers for his soul, and his family are a wonderful idea, I think. Exceptionally well written commentary, Dan. Much appreciated.