Robin Williams was a force of nature. That’s a cliché, often used in moments like this, but it was certainly appropriate for him. When he was on, and rolling, there was no getting in his way. Nothing was safe or sacred. Anything could, and likely would, serve as inspiration. He wasn’t the best comic of his generation, but he probably induced more stomach-splitting laughter than his contemporaries. After you watched Robin, your abdomen hurt.
Of course, there was more to him than just jokes. He made one of the most successful jumps to dramatic acting that anyone has ever made from comedy. His best work was deep and emotional. There were always the comedic moments, but the impact came from him plumbing something deep within and sharing it with his character.
I knew that Williams had cocaine issues in his younger days. No one could have all that energy and mania naturally.
I did not know depression was a life-long struggle for him. But it makes sense. Just as that frenetic pace needed a chemical boost, so too, it seems, did that sense of melancholy he tapped into. There was pain just below the surface and it was fuel for his stand up, stage, television, and cinematic performances.
Williams’ career was long and broad enough that I bet many of us had very different first recollections of his work after hearing of his death. Some likely thought of the Good Morning Vietnam radio segments. Others of his role as John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Or perhaps his Oscar-winning performance as Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. Perhaps a few of you, my age or older, went all the way back to Mork & Mindy.
Me? I thought of the night that everything came together in one, ridiculous performance. The night in 2001 when he graced the stage on Inside the Actors Studio.
Here is the opening five minutes. If you want to watch the entire thing, apparently this Asian site will let you do just that.