It was with great sadness this afternoon that I learned that today we lost Robin Williams, one of the greatest comedians and actors of his generation, who was one of my favorites growing up and remains so today.
Williams, sixty-three, was found dead in his San Francisco area home after having apparently taken his own life. Paramedics arrived within just a few minutes of being summoned, but by the time Williams was discovered, he was already gone.
This is a devastating loss not just for cinema and comedy, but humanity. Williams brought so much to the stage, to the big screen, and to television, but he was also a great source of encouragement and wisdom for others.
Robin Williams was maybe one of three people in this dumb #$%&@! business that believed in me and kept pushing me. He supported the show when no one would. He radiated kindness and I was comfortable the second I met him for the first time.
He called ME a few months ago to talk me out of MY DEPRESSION. That’s the kind of guy he was. Putting his #$%& aside for others. Our book that’s coming out is even dedicated “To Robin”. We just never thought it would be in his memory. I hope my dumb comedy brought him some joy and wish I could have done for him what he did for me.
He always told me to keep challenging everyone and “keep raising hell”. I hope you guys will do that as well. #$%&.
Williams brought so much laughter and happiness to so many people. He was very generous with his sense of humor. He put people at ease. It’s very sad that he evidently reached a point where he couldn’t put himself at ease, where the pain and sadness he felt seemed too deafening, too overwhelming for him to continue living.
If only, in his darkest hour, he could have seen, heard, felt the love that is pouring fourth from all quarters now in the wake of his passing. There have been so many tributes posted already… on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, in forums. Like many Williams fans, we didn’t know him personally, but we knew him through his work, and we are grieved by his passing like his family and close friends.
To them, we send our deepest condolences.
President Barack Obama aptly summed up the breadth of Williams’ work in an evening statement mourning his death:
Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.
Well said, Mr. President.
Robin Williams was so incomparable that many people, myself included, can reel off much of Williams’ filmography from memory: Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, The Fisher King, The Birdcage, Moscow on the Hudson, Insomnia. With the notable exception of Aladdin, many of these films were made before I was old enough to appreciate them, but I later discovered them through film analysis class, TV reruns, and Netflix.
One of the first Robin Williams films I remember enjoying as a child was Jumanji, made in 1995 and based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Jumanji remains a classic for me today and I never get tired of seeing it.
Two years later, Disney came out with Flubber. I can still remember seeing Flubber for the first time. Its goofiness gave it an endearing quality. Critics panned it, but moviegoers liked it and it did reasonably well at the box office.
Another underappreciated Williams film is Bicentennial Man, a sentimental Disney flick that came out in 1999. Directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire), it’s a story of an advanced android named Andrew that develops human-like intelligence and ultimately makes so much progress embracing the human condition that he is accepted as a human by humanity – just before dying.
Williams also has a great many television appearances to his credit. Aside from starring in Mork and Mindy, he has hosted Saturday Night Live many times, appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? when it was hosted by Drew Carey, and guested on shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Williams has yet to make his final appearance on the big screen. He will be in four films that are currently in post-production, including the third Night at the Museum movie (Williams convincingly portrays President Theodore Roosevelt in that series).
Williams is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider, and three children, Zachary, Zelda, and Cody, all of whom are in their twenties and thirties. Millions of fans are sharing their grief tonight. We’ve lost an outstanding talent and a fine man.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. You’ll be sorely missed.
POSTSCRIPT: If you are struggling with depression, please, please don’t do what Robin did. If you feel like you can’t go on, talk to someone. There are people standing by day and night who are ready to listen and to help you.
In the greater Seattle area, you can call the Crisis Clinic at 1-866-4CRISIS (1-866-427-4747). There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). That’s open 24/7.