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.

Come­di­an Jamie Kil­stein explains:

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 247.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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