If you’re a faithful reader, you know by now that I’m not a numbers gal–you know, statistics, pie charts, and bar graphs–all those exciting trappings for math nerds like my husband. Any reference to typeset characters that fall outside of the ABC’s and a grammar nerd’s list of punctuation marks usually cause me to break out in a frantic case of hives and an upset tummy. But if I was a numbers gal, I would look up the number of people in America who die every day. My guess is that it’s quite a lot. So why do we care so much when it’s a celebrity who dies? I’ll be honest: There are some celebrities whose deaths would not bother me at all on a personal level since I find their celebrity personas to be vapid, vacuous, annoying, and fleeting. I might feel badly if they left behind children, but if their contribution to this world was nothing more than allowing America to be their ultimate peeping tom, well, then I’d be appropriately sad for their family but happy that they’ve moved on to a better place. Or a warmer one.
But when it’s someone who has given so much to so many–whether that thing has been humanitarian efforts (Princess Diana), an amazing musical talent even amid some really disturbing pedophilia accusations (Michael Jackson), or yesterday’s stunning-but-not-so-surprising news of the death of a man whose stellar acting abilities, improvisational prowess, and gut-busting comedic talent spanned over four decades and a variety of genres–well, it doesn’t seem fair to invoke his name parenthetically.
To say that Robin Williams was an amazingly talented individual is redundant, especially in light of all of the social media and news outlets who will be highlighting “The Best of Robin Williams” for the next week and a half. So I’m not going to do that. Nor, paradoxically, am I going to focus on our opposing political views because that really doesn’t matter (and besides, I don’t want to steal Ann Coulter’s thunder this week). It’s Williams’ talent I’m addressing.
I’m instead going to honor the man’s memory by sharing with you what Robin Williams’ genius gave to my family and me.
Robin Williams’ debut as Mork a year after Fonzie jumped the shark in Happy Days was the nail in the show’s coffin, but Williams’ starring role in that delightfully stupid spinoff Mork and Mindy was nothing short of amazing, and I’ll admit, as spinoffs go, I was a faithful watcher. It’s true that the show was just plain dumb, and even as a teenager, I recognized the idiocy of the script’s premise. But I just loved watching Mork and his sophomoric and charming antics, and I just wanted to look like Mindy.
Jump ahead to gems like Good Morning, Vietnam (“What does three up and three down mean to you, Airman?” “End of an inning?”) and Dead Poets Society (where millions of high school students learned to recite Walt Whitman) and it was a straight up given to see that this guy had “it”. I could go on and on listing Williams’ filmography, but you’ll get that easily in the coming weeks. Just know that never does a hot and humid day pass me by when I don’t invoke Robin Williams’ voice describing the weather as “hot and shitty” à la Walter Cronkite.
But it wasn’t until I watched my own children cackle in delight over Williams’ portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin that I fully appreciated and loved this man for his ability to tickle everyone’s funny bone. His “scene” with Aladdin when he introduces himself and all that he can do as Aladdin’s right-hand man is hands-down one of the funniest, wittiest, brightest, and most charmingly hilarious clips I’ve ever seen. Tim and I still can’t hear the word “provisos” without thinking about and trying to imitate Genie’s imitation of William F. Buckley saying “provisos and quid pro quo”. It’s one of our favorite inside jokes.
Mrs. Doubtfire is our family’s all-time favorite go-to movie. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen it, if it’s on, we’ll eschew whatever else we’re doing and watch it, if for nothing else than the ‘boobs on fire’ scene. That Robin Williams’ Euphegenia Doubtfire is a dead ringer for my Grandma Abercrombie is just the icing on the cake.
So, why do we take it personally when someone like Robin Williams dies before his time? Because we do what I have just done here and what we do whenever anyone we cherish dies–we look back on all of the delightful times we had with him, all of the times we’ve invited his virtual self into our homes to entertain us, and every time he made us laugh–whether it was the laughter of our children, so innocent and pure, or whether it was his more adult-like humor that contained some wonderful double entendre that touched us adults at the same time.
The news that Robin Williams took his own life is even more heartbreaking. Didn’t he know how much we loved him? Does he know how much he’ll be missed? Is depression that insidious of a disease that it warps the mind of one who was such a valuable and cherished mainstay of our collective generations?
Robin Williams left this earth yesterday, along with–oh, I don’t know how many other souls (Who’s counting? Not me.) But, oh my, how he’ll be missed.
Thank you, God, for giving us such a treasure. He’s Yours now. Enjoy.