I remember quite vividly the first time I saw Robin Williams on the TV sitcom Happy Days. He knocked us right out of our living rooms! Ronnie Howard, who played Richie Cunningham on the series said of that moment, “We are in the presence of comic genius!”
From his role as Mork the Ork on the small screen to his larger than life big screen roles, Robin Williams did indeed display comic genius. He was second to none at improvisation [he improvised most of the script for Aladdin] and he was incredibly fast on his feet. I recall fondly an interview he did with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. When Carson asked him a question, Williams went off on a five minute tangent that had Carson and his co-host Ed McMahon laughing so hard they were in tears. And his stand-up comedy routines were as intelligent as they were funny [particularly the one in which he described how the Scots invented golf]. In a word, he was brilliant!
Williams was also described as a beautifully, kind man and a great humanitarian! And this makes his tragic death of all the more tragic! To lose such a wonderful, gifted mind is one thing, but to lose it under such tragic circumstances is all the more difficult. Williams was at an age when you would hope people would have figured it all out and found peace in their lives. But clearly this was not the case. He had battled depression, alcoholism and drug addiction and seemed to have done it successfully. He was quite open about it and even talked about his drug rehab in 2006.
Williams’ death is a reminder that the most important thing for our health and happiness is that we feel good about ourselves. If you don’t feel good about yourself no measure of money and fame can compensate. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you will have difficulty experiencing peace, love and joy, and you will hopelessly try to find it, as Williams did, through addiction and obsession. Until we figure this out as a society, I fear that we will continue to lose people, both public figures and those who live in anonymity. Nothing is more important!
One of my favorite scenes in a movie was in Good Morning Vietnam. In this scene, Williams and his coworkers were discussing the upcoming visit and press conference with the former Vice President. Williams’ senior officer was trying to convey the importance of the visit and how important security was, when Williams character said straight-faced, “If the former VP is such a VIP shouldn’t we keep the PC on the QT, otherwise the VC will make him an MIA and we’ll all end up on KP.” Genius!
Rest in peace Robin Williams!