Three days after the news of Robin Williams’ death, and I still have a little bit of trouble grasping that concept. I feel as though a friend has died, someone who knew how to say just the right thing to make me feel better when I was down. I think that in general, movies have that effect on me. I will read something or listen to something too, often, not always, with the same uplifting results, yet movies have always been a sure fire way to cheer me up. And my friend, Robin Williams, had somehow found a way to be there for me.
I know that it’s weird to think that a person who makes a living playing fictional characters can have such an impact on a life. Or that an actor who’s never met me could be considered a friend. I watched him countless times as Popeye and as the Frog Prince, each as entertaining as the other. But I think it’s the fact that I feel as if I could sense who he really was. I never met Robin Williams, but I always saw a hint of the “sad clown” in his performances. His eyes showed me that there was more beneath the surface, but he was only showing a measured amount – the rest he saved for those he held dear. His kindness emanated from the screen and into the world, at least that’s how I see it. He brought a bit of soul and warmth into what at times could be a bleak and cold world. Robin seemed to know how to be a human outside of the characters that he created, something that some actors and comedians just can’t do when the cameras stop rolling.
I was certain that there was a homeless man living on the streets of New York named Perry, who fancied himself the Fisher King, and I knew that somewhere in the future there will be a robot who gains sentience as in Bicentennial Man. To simply list all of his credits would be useless because everyone seems to have their favorite performances of his. I know that I didn’t love all of his movies, some like Father’s Day and Old Dogs just never appealed to me. I’m sure they’re good in their own way, but just not my taste. I preferred the edgier Robin Williams, the actor who dared me to join him into the pits of Hell and the delights of Heaven, or to help him reach an aggressive and brilliant young man and show him his value. I also enjoy the subversive disk jockey who toes the line against authority as he watches young men ship off to fight a war that he didn’t understand. That was the Robin Williams who I will always remember. The man who challenged me to question my own boundaries of compassion and will. He somehow managed to help me attain that moment where humanity and transcendence converged; he showed me what it was to be human in a sometimes inhumane world.
Along with countless other blogs, podcasts, personal websites, and media outlets, I say a fond “thank you” to someone who took the time to care for others. He entertained the troops when war was unpopular, and he found ways to encourage young comics in what some would say is a jaded field.
If only there were more like him.