You’re right. There are other things going on in the world that deserve blog space. Hopefully I will serve some of them justice soon. However, I felt the need to post something quickly about the passing of one of the world’s most beloved comedians.
When I was a kid, I aspired to become many things: astronaut, orchestra composer, ninja to name a few. Several of those things went by the wayside as I grew older, discovering my abilities, strengths and talents. One thing I have secretly held onto was my love and appreciation for comedy.
In my elementary school years I watched sitcoms and stand-up comedy specials through the night, making it hard for my mom to wake me up in the morning. Friday nights I’d stay up late to watch An Evening At The Improv (http://www.hulu.com/an-evening-at-the-improv), later bugging my mother, to her chagrin, with questions about the differences and similarities in the performances of each. Of all the comedians I observed, Robin Williams was one I enjoyed the most.
Growing up in school I was presented with stereotypes. You were the funny slacker, the class clown, the jock or the nerd. It seemed you had to be one or the other. Hollywood fed into this stereotype in many ways. What I enjoyed most about him was that not only was he hilariously funny as Mork, Mrs. Doubtfire and the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, he also demonstrated depth in his more serious roles. From his example (and others) I learned I didn’t have to choose one thing.
But I also learned another lesson while coming of age in the 80s and 90s.
Sometimes the people who make others smile are experiencing great pain themselves.
Just as I was introduced to the world of comedy through film and television, I learned about the turbulent lives many actors and comedians lived off screen. While watching classic Saturday Night Live episodes from the 70s, I learned that John Belushi had died of a cocaine and heroine overdose. Eventually, I learned of other comedians who lost battles with drug and alcohol addictions in an effort to overcome emotional issues in their lives.
While we’ve seen this play out often within the entertainment industry, it makes me think of the people around me who may be suffering silently behind smiles and laughs. Maybe they don’t have the capital to succumb to the draw of cocaine or heroine. Their drug of choice might be more subtle, but their intent is the same.
Sending up prayers that the Williams family find some comfort in the memory of Robin Williams. Also praying for those who have battled and are battling depression. Please keep fighting.