Today is Tuesday, July 21, 2015. On the surface, it seems like a normal day without any sort of significance. In fact, it seems utterly boring given the fact that I have been sick and throwing up for the past two days. Combine that with the fact that our newly installed air conditioning system is not working on a particularly hellish afternoon and you have the makings of a perfectly imperfect day. This day is important, however. This day is historical.
You see, today would have been Robin Williams’ sixty-fourth birthday. Think about that for a moment…would have been. We all know how beloved he was. Even those who were annoyed by his endless energy and childish antics cannot deny the impact he had on the world as a whole. He was a legend and he was my hero.
When I was a very young and very aspiring comedian, I would watch in awe as Jim Carrey flopped around the screen in a silly serenade of absurdity. I fed off of his life and his energy. Yet he was not the king. He was a duke…or an earl…maybe a baron…he was someone I looked up to because I was just a child with a dream, and because other kids told me I looked like him. I’m not sure that was a compliment. For me, he was a stepping stone.
This is not to diminish the career of Jim Carrey by any means, but let’s face it; he was strictly an outlandish comic for most of my childhood when my tastes as an actor and a writer were in their earliest development. His presence in my early life was meaningful, but it was only a launching pad for what I would discover as I explored the depths of cinema. When I discovered Robin Williams, my entire world changed. You see, Robin was not just a brilliant comedian and improviser. He was not just a vibrant and exuberant warrior of humor. He was an inspired actor in every sense of the word. He had a unique ability to inject real emotion and feeling into every role he took on. He did something that every actor has tried to do since Shakespeare was sipping from his mother’s teat: He made people feel.
I remember becoming fascinated by movies and the ability to transition effortlessly from laughter to tears. It was seeing the ups and downs in the human emotional spectrum and the way they were often so intertwined that made me want to act and write, and they are what made me love Robin Williams. He showed this range flawlessly in his roles, and we are so often reminded of movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams when we think of both his child-like charm and dramatic aura. These movies were starting points for us children of the 90’s, and they led us to discover tremendous movies like Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society. When I first saw What Dreams May Come, I was astonished by the beautiful love story and the complexity that I witnessed in Robin’s character. To this day, I feel it is a highly underrated film.
When I was in high school, I found out that Robin attended Juilliard, and I wanted so badly to follow in his footsteps. Of course, it was not meant to be. By that point, I was realizing that I was more talented as a writer than as an actor (which has gotten me precisely nowhere since then). When I was introduced to improvisational comedy by a drama teacher and a former student, I was enthralled by the freeing nature of the craft. I was drawn to the same freedom Robin Williams must have felt throughout his life.
I followed him throughout his career as I grew into the eccentric man-child that I am today. I respected him, and I enjoyed every gift he gave to the world. Even when a friend would say how annoying he was in Robots, I would silently hope we would part ways and I would find out that he had tripped on a curb somewhere and broken his dick. It seemed only right. To me, Robin could do no wrong. Even his shortcomings were examples of brilliance. So what if the rest of the cast and crew were not on his level? Not his fault!
When I found out that he died, it hurt me. It hurt more than it should ever hurt to hear that some celebrity you were fond of had died. Then the story of his depression and his inner demons began to surface more and more and I felt even more of a connection to him. I had spent the entirety of my teenage years in a depressed stupor. I had been a class clown hiding a dark secret in whatever crevice I could find, hoping to wake up in another life, or perhaps not at all. Although I pushed through that turmoil as an adult and discovered a self-reliance that changed my outlook, the story of the comedian in pain hit home very deeply. It was hard to see him go, but I hope he went in peace.
Robin Williams was a legendary actor and comedian. He was a hero and a rebel, and from what I have heard, he was also a stellar and generous individual. He was everything we need our celebrities to be. In fact, using the word celebrity for him does not feel quite right. Robin Williams was simply a great man. It is still difficult for me to understand that he no longer exists. It is difficult to accept that his career is over, and that we will not be seeing him again. What we are left with is the legacy of a brilliant man that will live on forever.
I regret that I never made it as a writer and was never able to tell him how much he meant to me. There is an understandable higher trust of someone who is also well-known in the business, and I would have been able to tell him without sounding like a freak. I hope, however, that his family truly knows what he meant to world. Who knows, maybe someday I will make something of my dreams and they will be able to read this themselves. For now, happy birthday Robin Williams. Thank you for everything.