My first memory of Robin Williams is listening to his Live at the Met performance on tape. I was 8 or 9 at the time. My mother instructed my younger brother and I to not repeat his language. As readers of this blog are aware, that lesson didn’t fucking take. She encouraged us to laugh, though. Like millions of other people, we did. We laughed, we cried from laughing so much, we caught our breath, and we laughed some more.
Robin Williams, the man of a thousand voices, passed away on August 11, 2014 of an apparent suicide. He will be missed, by me and millions of other people.
I always thought he had a funny way of speaking. That was what struck me first. My dad was the one who taught me “Nanoo, nanoo”. He’d been a fan of the show Mork and Mindy in the 70s. For years he and I would start our conversations with that memorable catchphrase.
There were the films, the stand-up shows, the TV moments, and the wild interviews. Many of his films are classics and he showed an incredible range for comedy and drama both. Everyone remembers the manic energy, the multitude of voices and impressions. I remember the heartbroken father in Mrs. Doubtfire. I remember the haunted weight of his speech to Will by the lake in Good Will Hunting. I remember the quiet, intelligent man who wore comedy and zaniness as armor.
I have always admired Robin’s brilliance. The way his mind was able to weave disparate threads into a cohesive, hilarious narrative was nothing short of genius. Some of his movies are among my all-time favorites. If the circumstances of his death are correct, without approval or judgment, I understand. It may sound cliché at this point, but that’s only because it’s so often true: some of the funniest, most insightful people in this world have the strongest, darkest demons.
It seems Robin Williams’s demons finally caught up to him. My memories of his won’t be tainted by the circumstances of his death, though. I’ll remember him dancing around the stage like a floral-shirted butterfly at the Met. I’ll remember Aladdin’s amazing, pop-culture referring genie. I’ll remember The Fischer King and the nude scene in Central Park. I’ll remember the eclectic history of dance in The Birdcage. The interview he did with Inside the Actors’ Studio. I’ll remember Robin, Whoopi, and Billy on Comic Relief…all the bright spots that made me laugh, cry, and think of the world in a different way.
Thank you, Robin.