I’ve never been a big fan of Robin Williams’ comedy. I often found his frenzied standup painful to watch and sometimes had to turn from talk shows during his segments, because even his interviews were just too manic during my “wind down” time. I was wary of his movies for the same reason, and I haven’t seen many of them. I have, however, always been a fan of Robin Williams, the man.
No, he wasn’t a hero by any stretch and didn’t accomplish monumental things to benefit all of mankind in practical ways. But Robin retained his humanity in everything he did. He could be non-stop ridiculous without a moment of seriousness—which often drove me up a wall. He could spout off joke after joke to the point of his own sweaty exhaustion, but he was rarely malicious or crude toward others, give or take a few jabs now and then. Most importantly, he usually delivered his dramatic roles with a sincerity that could only come from an inner kindness and sincerity that he typically buried deep below his comedy.
And he never fooled me.
I saw his sadness—in every TV appearance and every bit of comedy I did watch. I could always tell that he put himself aside to make everyone else laugh. His priority was the happiness of others, not his own, and even when he was at his best, it was clear he had everything and nothing all at once. I could see these things so clearly, because I’ve known the feeling far too often.
I always felt like Robin was on the cusp of breaking down and telling us all his darkest secrets and deepest desires. He would occasionally discuss himself in blunt terms, but would eventually divert attention with humor. So I always felt like he had a million more things to say and a crippling fear of saying any of them. I kept hoping, and it’s part of what frustrated me about his career and his fame. I felt a bit helpless that I had no way of helping him let go of his demons and a bit resentful of those who just wanted to squeeze another laugh from him. It’s the Hollywood way, after all.
Despite my differing opinion on comedy, I think if we had ever met we might have been kindred spirits. We both shared a longing to create happiness in everyone else, whether or not we had any ourselves. Like Robin, I’ve done it my whole life. It’s frustrating, numbing, and tiring, and it was worn into his face.
In the manic world in which he lived, I wonder if he ever questioned his own sanity…or the sanity of that world. Was he a madman in a sane world…or a sane man in a mad world? I’ve wondered that about myself, and I’m quite sure I’ll never know for sure. I bet Robin never did either.
If you have thoughts of suicide or feelings of hopelessness, please call 1-800-273-TALK or an international help line.