Essay Non-Fiction posted November 12, 2014

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Loss of an Icon

Robin Williams

by Marisa3

The masks of Comedy and Tragedy have become the iconic symbols of theater. They are presented together, because they are on the same glide path. Humor is often used to disguise pain and suffering and the demons that come to call inside one's head. Robin Williams was an expert at hiding his tragic fears and anxiety and he did so through his comedy.

An apt description for Robin's comedic gift was "riffing". He did with words what a great jazz trumpeter does with a piece of music, nimbly and with verbal dexterity, he would improvise a monologue that was all at once exhilarating and exhausting. He took his audience on a frenetic roller coaster ride of hilarity.
He went from thought to idea to rant to epiphany seamlessly and at warp speed. He had the fastest mind on the planet with the mesmerizing ability of a great illusionist, and he was fearless when it came to saying exactly what was on his mind.

Billy Crystal once said of Robin: "He bounces around the room like light off a mirror".

A complex and brilliant man, Robin's manic energy masked a profound sadness. He used his humor to deal with his demons, which were many. It was well known that Robin was an alcoholic and cocaine addict. He cleaned up in 1982 after his close friend, John Belushi, died of a drug overdose and stayed clean for twenty years. He had a relapse with alcohol and went to rehab in 2006; it's hard to gauge just how much of his life was acting, obviously his pain was enormous.

"Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him." -- Steven Spielberg

"A gentle man, with a wild wit that comes from a place of both loneliness and affinity with other humans and their and his apparent absurdity." -- Professor Ward

Robin's family has asked that his life be celebrated rather than mourned. When he was here with us he was filled to the brim with the wonder and energy of life, and he found humor and ridiculousness in almost any situation.

In March 2009, Robin underwent heart surgery to replace his aortic valve and correct his irregular heartbeat. Sometime after his surgery, he was a guest on a TV show where he discussed the fact that Propofol had been used on him during his operation. This was the same drug that had been involved in the death of Michael Jackson. Robin commented that Jackson had been taking the drug for sleep, which he compared to "doing chemotherapy because you're tired of shaving your head." This was his typical biting satirical style, but he used edgy humor to make a point. In this case, it was to emphasize that Propofol is a "devastatingly powerful drug" and that it should be administered in a hospital setting and not at home, as Jackson had been using it.

One of the many topics Robin liked to poke fun at was religion. He did this with his usual sense of absurdity and piercing wit.

"Do you think God gets stoned? I think so ... look at the platypus."

Robin was a member of the Episcopal Church and he described his denomination as "Catholic Lite -- same rituals, half the guilt."

He also described Gentiles as "people who eat mayonnaise for no reason."

Then, of course, there was his take on how, without doubt, Jesus was Jewish.

"And some people say Jesus wasn't Jewish. Of COURSE he was Jewish! 30 years old, single, lives with his parents, come on! He works in his father's business, his mom thought he was God's gift, he's Jewish! Give it up!"

When it came to politics, Robin was a man after my own heart. He was a liberal's liberal and brilliantly so. He had some stinging barbs for many of our Republican administrations.

His definition of politics was: "Poli" a Latin word meaning "many"; and "tics" meaning "bloodsucking creatures"

Below are just a few of his remarks on presidents and politics in general:

"Having George W. Bush giving a lecture on business ethics is like having a leper give you a facial, it just doesn't work!"

"People say satire is dead. It's not dead; it's alive and living in the White House."

"I believe Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was... a large Arctic region covered with ice."

"If women ran the world we wouldn't have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days."

"The Second Amendment! It says you have the right to bear arms, or the right to arm bears, whatever the hell you want to do!"

Robin was no stranger to divorce, having been married three times, and he naturally had a few quips about this process.

"Ah yes, divorce ... from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet"

"You know the difference between a tornado and divorce in the south? Nothing! Someone is losing a trailer."

He had something funny to say on every facet of human behavior. Each and every one of us could identify, in one way or another, with his take on the human condition. He made us feel good about being part of the vast dysfunctional "family of man".

It is so ironic that a man who struggled with fear and unhappiness spent most of his life making the world happy.

Robin not only entertained us with his comedy, but he had a kind and generous heart. He was known for his philanthropic work, which ranged from helping the homeless to quietly making visits to developmentally disabled students at San Ramon Valley High School.

Chris Columbus, Robin's director on Mrs. Doubtfire, said of him:

"We have lost one of our most inspired and gifted comic minds, as well as one of this generation's greatest actors. "His performances were unlike anything any of us had ever seen, they came from some spiritual and otherworldly place. He truly was one of the few people who deserved the title of "genius".

Robin Williams was a complex and exceptional person, and none of us could have known what it was like to live inside his head; to experience his thoughts and emotions.

I loved this dear man and my heart literally aches that he will not be among us any longer. His star burned brightly while he was here and, through his body of work, it will continue to glow long after his untimely departure.

We know, without reservation, he was sent from the heavens to bring us joy, love and laughter, and to make our pain a little more bearable, even if he could not do this for himself.

It is my most sincere hope that, one way or another, he's no longer feeling the pain.

There is one final quote from Robin I would like to leave you with, as it surely will resonate with our writing community.

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." - Robin Williams -- From Dead Poet's Society


We lost Robin just a short time ago, but his memory lingers for all of us who loved him. I adored Robin Williams and wanted to pay tribute to him in some way. I chose to celebrate his life through his humor, as this was the very essence of who he was. Privately he fought the demons of depression and after decades of doing so, he at long last grew weary of the never-ending battle. I wish him eternal peace as the ultimate reward for all the love, warmth and joy he brought to our lives.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Linda Bickston at

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