One of the most innovative and brilliant people of the later portion of the 20th Century, and – sadly – only just a bit of the 21st, was lost to us.
Robin Williams was a difficult man to describe. Yes he was a comedian, but he was also an actor; and he was so much more than either of those two labels. He was a performer. He brought such . . . life and joy and inspiration to his work. A singular talent, a phrase people trot out far too often; but Robin truly was. What he did was so unique, so amazing, it’s quite saddening to be living in a world he’s no longer in.
This should explain all anyone needs to know about Robin. He goes on a 7+ minute performance of complete impromptu improvisation; on the spot, without warning, redefining what ‘off the cuff’ means. It’s just the most easily linked example of his genius; he did it repeatedly, over and over and over; he made an entire career out of it. He had a level of imagination and inspiration that any ten other performers would be more than happy to divide between them.
The improv comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway scored its greatest coup when Robin appeared on it. Anyone who hasn’t seen it, I encourage you to spend a little time searching the net to find it. While I’m in favor of copyright, there are times when all it’s doing is getting in the way of letting people appreciate cultural treasures. Youtube should have at least portions of the episode; it’s worth a look.
It is not a belittlement to say some – most, in truth – comedians and actors require a lot of preparation to do what they do. Comedy is hard; acting is hard. Doing it well is even harder. Robin had the ability to spring into action from a standing start, at the drop of a hat. Creating things is difficult. It takes a certain set of skills, a specific kind of outlook to reach into the ether and craft something out of nothing. That’s what creation is; and the creation of entertainment literally is something from nothing. Robin had this skill, this gift, to such an excess it was simply staggering to behold.
When Christopher Reeve broke his neck, Robin Williams was able to help his school friend get on the road to recovery by lifting him out of his funk following the accident. Such was Robin’s gift, his superpower; he was able to find the humor, the funny, in anything. If you can imagine the man an entire generation knew as Superman facing his quadriplegia and how that could be an insurmountable amount of depression to deal with . . . Robin was there for him, and put him in a better place with the gift of laughter.
When Will Wright wanted to demo Spore, he tapped Robin Williams. Even if you’re not a gamer, you can see how Spore might have been created not as a game, but rather a tool for someone with Robin’s genius to utilize for entertainment.
A year ago today, the world lost something great. Somehow we weren’t there for someone who needed us. Someone who’d given so much to us. Someone who’d touched, I think it’s fair to say, billions with his gift. There are something like seven billion people on the planet. Wikipedia says Robin had 106 acting credits, including Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; Aladdin; Good Will Hunting; What Dreams May Come; and Night at the Museum. With such a body of work, it might even be fair, to not be hyperbole, to say it’s billions of people who were affected by Robin at least once in their lives.
We miss you Robin.