Growing Up with Robin Williams

Growing up with Robin Williams allowed us to know what a true comedic genius is.

Growing up with Robin Williams allowed us to know what true comedic genius is.

You never forget where you are when you first get the news. For me it was on line of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. As my girlfriend and I waited in the queue, she looks down at her phone, then looks up at me and says, “Brittney just said Robin Williams died.” Immediately I responded, “are you serious?” She nods, yes. So I frantically jump on Facebook because that’s what people do for reliable news reporting these days.

Hoping that this is just another Internet troll falsely reporting a celebrity death, my hopes are soon dashed as I begin to scroll and am inundated with post after post of the horrible news. Robin Williams did indeed die, and to make matters even worse, he took his own life by asphyxia. Still a young man at the age of 63, Robin Williams leaves so much behind. At least that’s what we as fans feel.

The saddest part is that we will never truly know at what point someone decides their only cause of satisfaction is to end their own life. Suicide is so personal and calculated. To plan out your last breaths is something that no one should ever be faced with, but is a reality millions face everyday. Depression is something that needs to be taken seriously, even at its smallest exposure.

Because even though Robin Williams recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety, he still checked himself into a rehab facility in Minnesota for maintenance on his continued road to recovery. Why? Because as any addict will tell you, you never fully exercise the demons.

Again scrolling through my news feed, I was amazed at the amount of Robin Williams’ related posts. Friends and family that have nothing to do with the entertainment business spoke of their fondest memories from the comedic genius. From his early days on Mork & Mindy for our parents, to every 90s kid and Aladdin, Williams was in a lot of ways the comedic voice of our generation. I myself am now 31 years old and recall the first time seeing Williams in action in a number of roles:

Mork & Mindy: Although premiering a few years before my birth, I recall re-runs of the wild hairy man in the silver jumpsuit, buzzing around the TV set, saying things like “Nanu-Nanu.” A larger than life, awe-inspiring comedian was just waiting to break out.

Good Morning Vietnam: Too young to understand the complexity of this great film, the infamous phrase “Good Morning Vietnam!” has been forever been engraved in my subconscious since the age of 4.

Hook: I would watch the VHS for hours and hours whenever my buddies and I would get together. RUFFIO! Perfect casting…

Aladdin: Come on! You know you’ve seen it. Even kids born in the 2000s can quote the Genie verbatim. Absolutely genius! And now word comes that Williams basically improvised the entire role! If only they gave Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actors for animated films back in 1992.

Mrs. Doubtfire: I still remember going to the movies on a whim to see this flick alongside my mother. Both of my parents have forever been big fans of Robin’s work, so still maturing into my own voice of what I liked and didn’t, I went along to see this film not knowing what to expect. What transpired was the first memory I have of laughing till I cried because of a one man’s work in a motion picture.

What Dreams May Come: Now in high school, this film at the time was a bit lost on me. I do recall the shear beauty of the picture, and how the premise was so sad. Still, those haunting images of Robin Williams trying to get back to his wife are eerily reminiscent.

Popeye, Old Dogs, Night at the Museum, Man of the Year, RV, Insomnia, Death to Smoochy, Bicentennial Man, Flubber, Patch Adams, Jack, Jumanji, appearances on The Tonight Show, The Crazy Ones: All films and television shows that I either loved or hated. Still, I watched because of the man whose talent was bigger than life itself; so much energy, so much curiosity. How could anyone bring so much life to such a diverse and complex list of characters? Because he was so damn good. I hope he never forgot that.

There are two films of Robin Williams’ that have helped shape the person I strive to be today. The first is Dead Poets Society. I didn’t see this film until many years after its 1989 release, but the portrayal of English teacher John Keating is simply amazing. The passion that is shown towards his students, with a no, holds barred approach and a fuck you attitude towards the establishment is the reason Williams was nominated for his second Academy Award. “Seize the Day” is a message that will never be lost on me.

Good Will Hunting: Maybe Robin Williams was destined to be a teacher all along. Because he played one hell of a convincing educator while walking away with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor!

We as an audience either had an a teacher like Maguire or definitely wanted one. He longed to make young Will Hunting a better person and in the meantime as an actor, allowed the years of training, sacrifice, patience, and professionalism to shine brightest as a true artist. This is one of the first films that made it clear I wanted a career in film. It touched me in a way I can’t describe, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Of course there will be second-guessing for those closest to Robin Williams, about what they could have done differently to derail this horrible happening. Unfortunately at this time it is irrelevant. What everyone should take away from this tragedy is to act when and if they suspect an individual suffering.

To live with “what if’s” and “I should haves” are an absolute burden built for no one. I’m sad today because Robin Williams brought so much joy and happiness to people around the world, allowing us to forget about our problems and ailments, even if it was just for a few hours while we witnessed his genius unfold on screen; yet there was nothing anyone could do in the end to repay the gesture.

Those who knew and worked with the man speak of his one of a kind ability. But more importantly they speak of the kindness and genuine nature of a man who seemed to have it all on the outside. Inner demons aside, the passing of Robin Williams will be felt for years to come. Luckily we have the footage to pass along to the next generation of a true chameleon in action. But at the same time, we need to offer sage advice that all this can come at a price; and we shouldn’t keep losing brilliant people for something that can’t be taken on alone.