O Captain! My Captain! (Walt Whitman)
There have already been many beautiful tributes written for the immensely talented Robin Williams, so mine will be brief. Additionally, I recommend reading what his peers from the entertainment world have to say. And those fans whose lives he touched. They speak of a very warm and generous man … even when he was mired in the darkest moments of his life. Of course he was an inspiration to many stand-up comedians and actors, but he also worked tirelessly for the homeless and underprivileged children. He was also quite forthcoming in discussing his battles with drugs, alcohol and depression.
Williams, along with Andy Kaufman and Steve Martin, transformed stand-up comedy. Comedy became more insightful, and not always in a positive way. He flashed attitude at breakneck speed … sometimes he spoke so fast, he offered us little time to laugh – in fear we would miss the next cultural prod. When he took his talent to TV, it seemed only right that his character was from another planet … none of us knew anyone like this!
What really set Robin Williams apart was his ability to thrive in two worlds: the childlike and the profane. He somehow balanced his “Sesame Street” appearances with a role as a wise-ass military disc jockey who refused to be silenced. He balanced his effervescent vocals as a giant blue genie with a role as a somewhat rebelious, yet passionate educator of young men. Who else could pull off a cross-dressing dad so desperate to spend time with his kids; and a bitter, insightful psychologist trying to crack the shell of a young genius; and the ultimate childlike Peter Pan?
It seems too simple to say, but the words are quite heavy … Robin Williams will be missed.
Many know his stellar work from such popular movies as Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Aladdin, and of course the Night at the Museum franchise. In addition to those, I have three others to recommend if you want to see just how serious he was about the art of acting. One of his early films was Moscow on the Hudson, directed by Paul Mazursky. It’s from 1984 and his unusual character is certainly worth checking out. The Fisher King was directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) in 1991, and stars Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. It’s an underappreciated gem. Finally, for a glimpse at just how dark and creepy Williams could go, see 2002’s One Hour Photo. Those three films over an almost 20 year span will show you the depth and range of a man who could be so silly and so outrageous, while also opening our eyes.
Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society (Carpe Diem)
Robin Williams on “Sesame Street”