Robin Williams, RIP
|Popeye is a beautifully weird movie and if you think differently then I'm terribly sad for you.|
Robin Williams made me laugh so many times. So many times. When I was a kid, having problems of my own, feeling unpleasantly different from the people who populated my world, I found sanctuary watching this guy on TV who was celebrated for being a weirdo, for being an oddball, for being silly. He was praised for having a mind that produced delightful absurdities with great speed. No one told him to be quiet. No one tried to make him act like everyone else.This, exactly, summed up the appeal of Robin Williams to me, from the Mork & Mindy days all the way up to more recent times. As a kid (and more than a few times as an adult), I was told I was weird, that I was acting out, that I needed to start being "normal", etc. Here, though, was a guy who was not only allowed to follow the flights of his fancy to every weird little place they brought him, but both encouraged to and well-rewarded for doing so. That was amazing to me, and incredibly important to developing my sense of humor, sense of self, and general outlook on life. I saw what the so-called normal kids looked, sounded, and acted like, and I've gotta tell ya, the path blazed by Robin Williams (and Jim Henson, and the Pythons, and Joel Hodgson, and Ernie Kovacs, and and and...) seemed so much more interesting and appealing, even if I didn't want to be a professional performer myself.
No matter what you chalk his appeal up to - energy, intensity, physicality, warmth, rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness wit - the man was watchable in everything he did, comedic or serious. Even in his sappiest films, like Patch Adams or Bicentennial Man, movies so treacly you contract type 2 diabetes just by watching them, he's still amazing to watch. Whatever he's doing on screen, even if it's just clownish shtick with a bedpan on his head, he's the sort of guy you have to watch. I defy you to take your eyes off of him. You can't; he wouldn't let you.
This, I think, is another reason I've always appreciated the man. Show business is full of people who are so desperate to seem cool and aloof. They want and need the approval of an audience, but downplay that as much as possible. Robin Williams, on the other hand, seemed pretty okay with admitting he wanted people to like him, and worked to squeeze every conceivable ounce of attention out of the people for whom he performed. Maybe some folks see that as trying too hard, but I appreciate the honesty of it.
I was sad when I heard he died, angry when I heard it was suicide, and found a dark bit of understanding in it all when I heard he may have had Parkinson's... a person that physical losing control of his body's function? Yeah, that answers a lot of questions in my mind.
But no matter the cause and reason, I'm still gutted by his loss, and for the admittedly selfish reason that I wasn't done watching him yet. I wanted more complex dramatic work, and more gut-busting, play-to-every-seat-in-the-house comedy. Clearly I'm not alone in this, but that's cold comfort in a time like this.
All my condolences to his family, friends, and my many fellow fans out there.