Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Of Robin Williams, A Reluctant Fan.

When Robin Williams first appeared on the TV scene, I didn't care for his work.  His maniacal approach to stand up comedy turned me off.  His work on Mork and Mindy struck me as an imitation of Jonathan Winters, and I don't like imitators.

A close friend and I had a  discussion about the imitation of Winters and my friend didn't see it. Then in the next season, I believe, Winters became a regular on the show.  I felt validated.  Big deal.

Many years later, a work colleague told me that I would like him in Good Morning Vietnam.  She was right.  Although I felt Bruno Kirby stole the movie, giving Williams a character to play against, I reluctantly became a Robin Williams fan. Mrs. Doubtfire cemented the deal.

But I felt no emotion when I read of his suicide.  Not like the loss of James Garner, whose every work was enjoyable, moving, funny, poignant (The Americanization of Emily) and, most of all, entertaining.  Even though he was eighty-six and death was expected at such an age, I felt loss.  Not so with Williams.

Many entertainers battle their demons, but not all lose the battle.  Sid Caesar was the greatest sketch comic ever and I grew up laughing at his performances.  He battled booze and drugs to deal with the great pressure of doing weekly live television and being the biggest hit on TV of his time.  He was afraid he wouldn't be funny.  That's like telling Michael Phelps he wouldn't swim fast.  He bordered on insanity, carrying a loaded pistol around with him, certain that Nazis were hunting him in New York.  But Sid made it through and lived a long life, his wife staying with him throughout.

I was shocked by Marilyn Monroe's suicide.  At sixteen, I was twenty years her junior but I loved her.  Some Like It Hot is my favorite comedy ever and she excelled in it.  Then she was gone.  I couldn't understand how anyone could reach such depths of despair to take one's own life.

Now Williams is gone and there is much being said.  Perhaps he was bipolar.  Perhaps he was insane.  Perhaps he was a genius in his art.  Like too many before him, he could not survive the challenge of fighting his demons.  Will there ever be the likes of him again?  That's the sad part because the answer is yes, there will be others who take his path.

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