Yesterday we told you about the tragic passing of comedian Robin Williams. I never met Robin Williams and have no idea what kind of man he was behind the camera except for what I can glean from the words of others. People say he was a good man, a kind man, a professional, a comedic dynamo and a great person. I like to think this was all true, but I will never know.
The funny thing about the world we live in is that we grow to idolize and respect people we will probably never know. Robin Williams was one of those people for me – a funny man who seemed to be committed to wanting to make everyone laugh all the time. I never knew him, but that was my impression of him. And it struck a chord in me because I feel the same way – I want to make others laugh.
Robin’s stage was vastly bigger than mine, his time on the stage so much longer, his audience so much larger and more diverse. Millions of us know his voice. Millions of us have watched and will continue to watch the amazing films and comedy specials he made. He was a funny guy. I always wanted to be a funny guy, too.
And behind it all, Robin Williams was a man who felt sadness, and loneliness, and depression, like so many do. It’s so easy to think how can you be depressed if you’re rich? Or famous? If nothing else, perhaps we can also see that question doesn’t even logically follow. Depression clearly has nothing to do with fame or wealth. It’s another beast entirely.
I wish Robin Williams could have found whatever he needed to help him get past whatever turmoil, whatever private anguish that I have no right knowing about. I don’t want to know his demons, they were his own. They drove him to the darkest place imaginable and TMZ telling me about them will help neither me nor his family. I just wish a different path could have been taken, as I wished the same for one of my musical inspirations Kurt Cobain all those years ago.
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Unlike Cobain, who spoke to me with a curious detachment, Robin Williams spoke to me as a kindred spirit. I wanted to emulate his success, his path in life in many ways. I want to make you laugh. And when I’m not making you laugh, I feel my own anguish and sadness and wonder why it is so many funny people seem saddled with pain. Is it a coping mechanism? A defense? A weapon? I don’t know.
I want to make you laugh so that you will in turn like me. It’s simple in that way. Childish and basic. I wonder why Robin Williams wanted to make us laugh. I wonder if he knew how well he did it, or if he paid attention to such things. Did he focus on what he thought were failures? Was it all just a job? Did he want something more, something totally different none of us could ever guess? Did he grow tired of it? Did he want to be more than a punchline with legs? Did he hate it when people asked him to say something funny?
I can’t ask Robin those questions. That’s tragic, because he should be around for me to wonder about in those ways. But as ever, my eyes and ears are open for people I do know, who I can talk to and try to help if I feel they may need it. There’s help for everyone out there somewhere, if only we can find it, or if someone can recognize we need it. Too often we look back and wonder what could have been done, instead of looking forward and deciding what steps to take next.
Thank you, Mr. Williams, for making me laugh and inspiring me to make others laugh. Good Morning, Vietnam. And goodnight, sir.
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National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Ian Fortey is on Twitter and will always be a fan of Mr. Williams.