I’ve been trying to figure out how God will get any work done with Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters in the same room. If you don’t get your prayers answered it’s because the angels are too busy rolling on the streets of gold with laughter to deliver your answer.
I was going to write tonight but then I heard of Robin Williams’ suicide and it gutted me. Just gutted me. I haven’t wanted to speak to anyone. I’ve skipped phone calls. I stood outside for a while and just recollected. Surprisingly, there was actually a lot for me to recollect.
Robin Williams has in roundabout ways influenced me all my life. I never met him but his work and people who have met him have found their way into my writing over the years. I remember learning something about timing from his standup show at the Met. Just this weekend – and the irony is not lost on me for this happens to me a lot – I was recalling his movie The World According To Garp and a couple of scenes in it that may apply to a project I am working on now. And this year, someone with a peripheral connection to him has greatly influenced and inspired my writing. For that Mr. Williams, I owe you gratitude.
I can remember going to see Good Morning, Vietnam! like four times in 2 weeks when it was released because I kept hanging with people who hadn’t seen it. I didn’t mind seeing it that often because the movie made me laugh as hard the fourth time as it did the first.
There is the recollection of a sold out, crowded Patch Adams which I had not really wanted to see at first for some reason but then found myself – along with everyone else in the cinema – crying. Everyone was either crying from laughing so hard or crying from the heartbreaking twists in the true story of a doctor who used comedy to treat kids with cancer.
Other movies are iconic like Good Will Hunting; Aladdin; Dead Poets Society; and Williams was brave enough as an artist to not worry about image and take on darker roles like his part in Insomnia. Everyone has their favorite and I think the universal shock expressed this evening demonstrates how many lives he touched.
It should be remembered though that Williams also did something with his celeb status. Along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, he founded the Comic Relief show which was put on once a year, for eight years, to raise money for the homeless. Tens of millions were raised for community organizations through Comic Relief and there is no telling how many thousands of lives Williams helped to save and change through that effort. He didn’t just leave an artistic legacy, he left a legacy of good behind.
At some point in our lives, most of us have been severely depressed, some battle depression daily in silence, and suicide has never been that far out of reach. It was crushing to hear that Williams couldn’t find the way to endure for another day. The next sunrise might have given him a light of hope.
Yes, I’m gutted. I’m gutted for God has stolen the source of much of my laughter. Hey God, when was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Better brace yourself.