Super Nova Leaves Black Hole Behind: A Tribute to Robin Williams

August 12, 2014 12:30 PM

Everybody has a Robin story, whether they met him or not.

I remember my mother buying me a pair of rainbow Mork suspenders when I was a kid. I loved them. They were different and fun and they somehow made me magically funny and endearing to others. Then I learned that someone named Mork was the originator of the style and I was like, “Pff Mork who!?” There was an added layer of confusion because my name is Marc so I’d often correct people until I realized they were taking about someone else entirely. Then I watched Mork and Mindy and I was like “Oh. Wow, he’s really nailing this fun look and funny persona thing already. Crap.” That’s how I got to know Robin Williams. As an unpredictable, absurdly whimsical alien who was impossible to ignore or dislike and who clearly had phenomenal style. At least to a prepubescent boy in the eighties.  And I thought he was incredible. And hilarious.  But then everyone did. Where was this guy from? Duh. Space. Of course.

Mom later took me to see Good Morning Vietnam in theatres. Again, I was in awe at his brilliance. Then he gave us Dead Poets Society, Aladdin, The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting.  Mom would let me stay up and watch him on Carson. He was electric. I remember watching him and Jonathan Winters go back and forth with Johnny. I understood I wasn’t watching ordinary humans.

Robin Williams’ stand up comedy found me later in life. And it blew me away when it did. No surprise. After all, this was a man not of this earth. Like Superman. Or ALF. Or more likely some lucky mix of both. Except that Robin Williams actually existed.


So many people have shared how personal this feels. How impactful this loss is. It’s the feeling that comes with knowing you’ve just lost someone incredibly special. It’s a confusing feeling and rare because it’s a loss that needn’t the benefit of having known the person in real life. Although I suspect the people that did know him are badly broken right now. The loss bears that unpleasant hallmark that we as a people have been robbed of someone truly remarkable. That we’re better not for having known Robin Williams although I bet his true friends and family would attest to that – but the rest of us are better for having simply known of him. Yeah, he existed alright. We knew it. And we’re thankful for the privilege.

As a performer, both dramatic and comedic, Robin Williams influenced me immeasurably. Which is kinda like saying that as a housefly, F-17s have influenced me immeasurably. But there it is. Thanks for that, Robin.

If the news accounts are true, it’s suspected that Robin took his own life. That’s the salt in the wound for us. He wanted to get off the planet. Get away. Escape. Probably no one more than himself. As someone who has suffered first hand with an anxiety disorder, OCD and depression, I am angry and heartbroken that he was in a place many of us who suffer from emotional disorders understand. It is a very bad place. It is beyond torture. It does not relent. It doesn’t respond to prayer and science hasn’t quite slam dunked any treatment so far. It has barely… wait, what’s the badminton version of a slam dunk? No matter. I understand it when someone shares their own tales of that level of darkness with me. I was lucky to find my way out.

But I am angry and heartbroken that the solution for him was to disappear altogether.  Who can I get angry at though? Who to blame for the heartbreak? You, my fellow humans, for not having cured depression yet? I’m looking at you scientists. No, you’re doing your best just like the rest of us. Maybe God is to blame? He gets blamed and invoked in rage a lot, he’s probs okay with this load too. Okay, I don’t really believe in God anymore but I’ll pretend I do because I need a place to lay all this anger and sadness. But practically speaking, if he’s up there he likely has his hands full with a bunch of other stuff. So let’s split the difference: we and God are both partially responsible. Ok? And since God is most likely a construct – it’s on us. I know, I know. Science is the worst.

A being who could turn every human exchange he had into a game is now gone. The game was sharing the most mischievous and magical parts of his otherworldly mind with us. We would pretend we could keep up while he showed us a glimpse of what it meant to be in that head of his. But there was other stuff going on in there that we didn’t see. Couldn’t share. Probably for the best. Nietzsche, despite being something of a dick, wrote “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. Robin was all dancing star all the time. The chaos needed for that cosmic dance could not have been fun to manage.

For now, I’m going to play a little game myself and adopt a term I’ve heard used here on earth and call Robin’s death a homegoing. I’ll pretend he’s returning a hero to tell his people how weird it is down here and that he was incredibly powerful because of earth’s sun (just like Superman) and really funny (like ALF, but Krypton level funny). Fuzzy too. I can relate to fuzzy.

Yeah, I’m going to play a game where maybe God exists and aliens too and Robin Williams didn’t take his life. Instead he just decided it was time to go home. Back to his planet. We’ll have to make due with less star dust down here for awhile. But then, he’ll be chaos free back home. Fair trade.

God speed Robin.


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