Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams dead. Damn.

Picture courtesy Billboard

From the Los Angeles Times, written by Lauren Raab, Ryan Parker, and Nicky Loomis -
Robin Williams, a comic and sitcom star in the 1970s who became an Oscar-winning dramatic actor, died Monday at 63 in Marin County. The Marin County Sheriff's Office said he appears to have committed suicide.

The news of the beloved actor’s death rocked the nation. Channels broke into their usual programming to make the announcement, and within minutes, he dominated online trending topics. Even President Obama noted his passing.

Williams, hailed as a comic genius, was a star of movies and television for more than three decades. But he also suffered from substance abuse problems.

The actor "has been battling severe depression of late," his publicist Mara Buxbaum said. "This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

There aren't many celebrities whose passing affects me.  Those that have done so in the past (Molly Ivins, George Carlin) were people who made me laugh.

Robin Williams did that in spades.

During the late 1970s, there were two "cool" TV shows - Saturday Night Live, because it was *SNL*, and the sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The "situation" in that sitcom (an alien visiting Earth and living in Denver with Pam Dawber) wasn't anything special, but the "comedy" part in that sitcom was made truly special by Williams (playing Mork from Ork).

In many regards, his comedy there was a toned-down version of his standup act ("toned-down" meaning that it was marginally less manic and with the language cleaned up for prime time audiences, but just as improv-ed).

After, and even during, his sitcom days, he transitioned to movies, the first being a big-screen adaptation of the cartoon "Popeye".

It was a humble beginning to his film career, to say the least - calling the film "overly campy" would be overly generous.

However, it serves as a good baseline - many of his future films were huge successes artistically or financially or both (Good Will Hunting, Good Morning, Vietnam), many less so (Man of the Year, Bicentennial Man), but in all of them, one could see his growth as an actor.

My personal favorite was Cadillac Man: the humor was both manic (rapid fire) and intelligent (you had to take a moment to think about, and appreciate, some of the material) which, combined with the dramatic material, allowed Williams to showcase the breadth of his skill and talent in one forum.

Not the best movie ever;  not even Williams' best.  However, it showed that even when the material wasn't great, he could deliver a great performance.

He was also socially and politically active.  His charity work was legendary, and not always high profile.

And don't tell certain conservatives (their heads may explode), but the liberal Williams did more work to support active members of the military than all of Fox News' "contributors" put together.

The outpouring of memories of Williams, from the President and other well-known people to the average person on the street, has been overwhelming and heartfelt.

Every generation, there are just a few people who can reach out an touch the hearts of millions of others;  Robin Williams was one of those very few.

To close, some of Williams' stand-up, from 2000 -

No comments: