By Stacey Longo
The death of comedic genius Robin Williams hits especially hard, because he was a part of all of our lives. My parents’ generation remembers him getting his start as an alien on Mork & Mindy. Gen-Xers remember him as an inspirational teacher in Dead Poets Society, an inspirational therapist in Good Will Hunting, and an inspirational doctor in Patch Adams. For younger generations—for all of us—he will always be Aladdin’s genie. The loss of Robin Williams hurts as much as losing an old friend.
As children, my sister and I laughed right along with my parents at Mork & Mindy, though we didn’t always get the jokes. For us, the monumental moment when Robin Williams really became somebody in our minds was watching his poignant portrayal of the title character in The World According to Garp. Williams’s work in this film showcased his ability not only to be funny, but to be able to portray the struggles and achievements that we all face: hope, betrayal, loss, and redemption. His talent was limitless.
Robin Williams was so interwoven into our daily lives that it will take time to adjust to his absence. Besides his numerous film roles, he sometimes popped up on popular television shows like Saturday Night Live, Happy Days, The Larry Sanders Show, and Friends, among others. Imagine my delight when watching my favorite holiday special, A Wish For Wings That Work, and realizing the voice of the kiwi was someone very familiar to me. Robin Williams was like a well-worn blanket, something to wrap us in comfort on a rainy day.
His death, a suspected suicide, is unthinkable. How could this funnyman, who brought such joy to so many people, kill himself? For those who suffer from depression, it’s particularly hard: if Robin Williams couldn’t handle it, how can I? His drug problems were well documented—his cameo in Bob Woodward’s scandalous Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi was the first indication I saw, about 30 years ago. Williams also made no secret at his attempts, successes, and failures at sobriety, an open book for all to read. Those left behind have to wonder: how could someone so good at making us laugh be so unhappy inside?
It’s a question to which we will never have an answer. Though angry at his method of death, this is not how I choose to remember the beloved comedian. I’m sorry he was so miserable that he felt suicide was the best answer. But I am thankful for the sweet entertainment, the moving portrayals, and above all, the laughs he gave me while he lived.
As a blue genie once said, a woman appreciates a man who can make her laugh. And Robin Williams did that for me, countless times.