Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm sad about Robin Williams. Can we talk about it?

Is it weird to cry over the death of a man you never actually met?  I hope not, because that’s what just happened to me.  I came home, read an article published in The Guardian about Robin Williams, and cried.

I’m someone who loves to laugh--I mean, annoyingly so.  I love to really cackle and I think it drives everyone insane because my laugh is unfortunately loud and shrill, but I stand by it.  Laughter fuels my soul with happy thoughts long enough to make it to the next laugh, so it’s something I plan to continue doing forever. 

I have my dad's impeccable taste in films to thank for my refined comedic taste. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was my favorite comedy at the age of six, and Eddie Murphy was probably the first celebrity I knew by name.  I remember watching "Good Morning, Vietnam!" around first or second grade: my introduction to Robin Williams. Most of the storyline went *way* over my head, but I was entranced by Williams' ability to be a dozen different people in the span of two minutes, complete with voices and mannerisms and facial spasms.  Then Aladdin clinched it for me: Williams was a comedic genius, and that was my professional opinion.

When I was 12, I learned that Williams was bipolar and suffered from addiction and manic depression.  This knowledge was like learning that Santa Claus had cancer.  Depression, I knew, could tear people apart in the same way.

The gift I enjoy most of people is their ability to make others laugh.  Laughter is too rare, and a truly good joke is a moment of sheer brilliance.  I have long envied Williams’ unique talent for being uproariously funny, but with genuine sentimentality and a deep respect and understanding for the human condition.  He was humorous while knowing full well the pain of the world, and used that pain to construct even more poignant humor.  He continued to prove, like others before him, that someone with a debilitating disease can have a profound, positive impact on the world.

Williams’ death has made it all too clear that even filling your life every day with laughter sometimes isn’t enough to overcome pain.  But it is enough to create an everlasting bond, even between strangers.  A laugh echoes.  A good joke never dies.  Laughter becomes part of us, making us lighter as we pass that laughter on to the next person.  And with that, Robin Williams will live in the hearts of this world forever.

The next time I’m sitting on the bus and a smile creeps across my face while thinking of Mrs. Doubtfire chucking a lime at Pierce Brosnan’s head ("a run-by fruiting!"), that laugh is Williams living on.  He never knew I existed, but Williams will be an important part of my life until my dying day. 

My entire generation lost a direct connection to their childhood on August 11th. He’ll never read this, but in some way I just needed to say: his death has made me really, profoundly sad.  And heartbroken for the sadness that constantly lingers under the surface of those we love.

Peace be with you, Mr. Williams.  Goodnight.


  1. I Felt Inexplicably Sad Too, And Cried, And Slept Poorly. But Cried Laughing Tears When I Heard His 2006 Interview With Terry GrosS On The Radio todayYou.
    . So So Sad That He's Gone...Thank God He Left So Much Of His Art Behind To Sustain Us... Beautiful Write Up, Thank you.

    1. "A man goes to a doctor, says he's depressed, life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, 'Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town; go see him and that should pick you up.' Man bursts into tears. 'But doctor,' he says, 'I am Pagliacci.'"

  2. I heard the same interview with Terry Gross today! I feel so sad about this-- I think anyone who grew up in the 80's/90's now feels a void that Robin Williams left, knowing that we'll never have new things from him. This was very beautifully written, Leith! I feel much the same, and as a person who has suffered depression, my heart goes out to his friends and family that saw him just the night before and thought he was "fine". Depressed people can hide it well, especially when they have the "peace" of making that final decision and knowing that now they just need to say goodbye.