Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: 1951-2014

One of life's cruelest contradictions has always been the sadness which lies within so many of the people who make us all laugh.  John Belushi and Chris Farley always spring to mind as lovable comedians whose depression and substance abuse took them from this world too soon.  And now, it is Robin Williams, who is dead at the age of 63 from an apparent suicide.  While this news came as a shock to me, I strangely wasn't surprised.  Williams had always dealt with substance abuse, had been a lonely child, and I always sensed darkness lying beneath his constant energy, wit, and desire to deflect attention from his personal life by creating a character we all know and love.  Like everyone has already said ad nauseum, Williams effected all of our lives.  With a decades-long career spanning all genres and mediums, Robin Williams is beloved, and will be missed.

From stand-up, to the small screen, to the silver screen, and eventually finding his way on Broadway, Robin Williams was more than the maniacal improv genius he is so well know for.  I enjoyed Williams when he was "on," when he was hijacking Letterman, doing wild stand up routines, lighting up the screen in his funniest roles.  But his dramatic roles mustn't be overlooked.  His best work was his ability to combine the two in some memorable performances.  In the early 2000s, Williams delved deep into his dark side, personifying what now appear to be real demons in some villainous roles in Insomnia and One Hour Photo.  It was quite a transformation for Williams, who pushed his range further than ever before.  Williams was an institution, the uncle to us all.  We all know about his performances and his awards so let's not retread.

I am deeply saddened by Williams' suicide, but not because he was a close personal friend.  I am upset because suicide is an epidemic in this country and the death of Williams should point us in the direction of this disturbing trend.  I am sure it will for a while, but I doubt it will sustain.  More people die in America from suicide than car accidents today.  Think about that.  There is deep, dark sadness all around every one of us, and no matter how outwardly entertaining, funny, or happy someone may seem they could be suffering in ways most of us cannot comprehend.  I have had suicide in my extended family, I have had my own bouts of sadness, but nothing even close to the depression one must feel in order to take their own life away from so many people who love them.  Williams is survived by his wife and three children.  Three children.  That would be enough for me to survive, but then again I wasn't in pain like Robin Williams. 

Suicide is pain, exposed in the most permanent and disturbing way imaginable.  I am sad today, not because Robin Williams is gone so much as his family has to stay without him.