Manama, Bahrain (Dec. 19, 2003) — Actor/comedian Robin Williams performs for the audience at an all-hands gathering aboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Dennis J. Herring.
“Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.’” –Robin Williams.
Ever since I was a child wandering, I would dream of people interviewing me. I would dream of being on David Letterman and on Oprah. And I would dream of being on the Jay Leno show. They would ask me, “Who do you admire the most?” The one person that comes to mind is Robin Williams. In Robin Williams I see a true artist that goes beyond the form of acting a role; rather, he becomes the role. He makes the eccentric man, the main man. He makes the sidekick or the “crazy” or outdated person a real and likable person, and he does it with comedy. He makes an “alien” human. He makes me laugh, but more importantly, though we laugh, the complexity of his character still remains:
“If women ran the world, we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days” –Williams.
Williams had the kind of face that shows the history of classic drama; the tragic is mixed with comedy, but the comedy pulls through. He is consistently inconsistent and predictably outrageous in such a manner that comforts more than distresses. He identifies with the human condition, and it is the condition of suffering and being out of place in a place where we are all supposed to be:
“Life’s a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those that think. So it can be a curse in that you find something funny in even the darkest thing” –Williams.
Williams is everywhere but he is alone, and as a child, he is isolated, but, again, it is that isolation that so many of us can relate to. As writer Sherman Alexie notes we are all fairly lonely, especially when we are young. Alexie says that writing is a self-conscious profession, but all artistic professions open up the self to intense scrutiny. We want to be loved in a world that is just too busy for us, but with Williams, we take notice because he never gives up trying even when those that take notice may not always love:
“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone” –Williams.
And he made me think as I sat in the gutter that one must surround oneself with people who are moving in the right direction, and that is in your direction. Drug abuse is a stumbling block to many, but in Williams, we find an open book much like we find in Angelina Jolie’s journey with cancer risk. His blunt honesty about his perceived weaknesses or “ailments” does more to show his strength of judgment and spirit in a moment of crisis than weakness:
“…And now that you have a child you have to clean up your act, ’cause you can’t drink anymore. You can’t come home drunk and go, “Hey, here’s a little switch: Daddy’s gonna throw up on you!”-Williams.
The more I see of a human being the more I love that person, and that is what I love about Williams. I never got to be on David Letterman or Oprah, or the Jay Leno show, but there was one thing that hit me hard when I saw the last show of Leno. He said that the one year his Mom died, then his Dad died, and then his brother. I thought, here is a man that lost what would be almost my whole family. Ironically, my book came out a day after William’s death, then days later, my mother died. Then my father died, and suddenly my writing and my book became something different. My script had changed. There is nothing left to remember my parents but a picture or two and fading memories tied to a foreclosed property, but with Williams, he is always in the present and that is what makes art and the artists that create works transcendent and comforting.
In this holiday season, I want to thank Robin Williams for all his masterpieces that are still “in progress” at the moment. Williams is still there making me laugh (okay, and cry a bit, too):
“I don’t know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I’ve made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I’m as rich as I ever need to be”-Williams.
Earl Yarington is a social worker (LMSW) and a professor. He has a Ph.D. in literature and criticism and specializes in paraphilias. He is the Leader of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Special Interest Group and often writes about human sexuality and politics.