Editor’s note: The following is a submission from a Hypable reader.
When I learned Monday evening that Robin Williams had died at the age of 63, I entered into something like a state of shock.
I’ll be honest, I’m not new to death. My maternal grandfather died when I was 11, my father when I was 12, and my paternal grandfather and grandmother died in 2010 and earlier this year respectively.
And yet when I heard that Robin Williams had died, I was at a loss for words.
Here was a man I had grown up watching – between Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Aladdin, I had known Robin Williams as a performer since I was a toddler – and he was dead. I don’t know why the news hit me so hard. I had never met Robin Williams, the closest I ever got to him was watching his movies.
And yet I felt like a dear friend had just died.
Within minutes of the news of his death being released, the world began to grieve. Another of my favorite comedians, Eric Idle, tweeted that he was “sick with grief.” Dante Blasco, who starred with Williams in Hook was similarly stunned and saddened in a tumblr post on the actor’s tragic death.
I don’t know why I’m so sad about Robin Williams’ death. I admired him as an actor – indeed, he was more than just an actor to me, he was something of a role model. Since the death of my father, I have had a series of ongoing struggles with depression. I took up acting shortly before I turned 13 to try and give me a way to deal with my loss, and I’ve been working in the field since – nothing as glamorous as Broadway or Hollywood, but High School and College productions. Knowing that there was someone else out there like me – another actor who was open about his struggles with depression – gave me inspiration to keep going, to work at a show when I was in a bad place mentally.
I know depression isn’t something I alone had in common with Robin Williams. It’s a widespread issue with millions of sufferers. But it made him seem more human to me – and showed me that with enough hard work and determination, I could – if I wanted to – pull off the same measure of success as he had.
Regardless of his struggles with depression or substances, Robin Williams was one of the true comedic geniuses of this or any age. His improvisation skills were legendary – on Mork and Mindy, they gave up trying to keep him on the script, and would leave parts of pages blank, just allowing him to go off at random. During production of Aladdin, he wound up costing the film a nomination for the Best Screenplay Academy Award due to the majority of his lines being improvised.
During the filming of Schindler’s List, he would talk to Steven Spielberg and members of the cast and crew on a speakerphone to cheer them up during takes.
He entertained U.S. troops during the Iraq War – causing some to call him “this generation’s Bob Hope.”
He testified before Congress on the need to help America’s homeless population.
Robin Williams was more than an actor, more than a political activist. He was – to many people, myself included – almost like an uncle. You could turn on any of his movies, and he would be there – making jokes that were guaranteed to make you laugh, and forget your troubles for a little while.
With his death, the world has lost a true luminary.
We still have his movies, his stand-up comedy routines, and his interviews. But it won’t be the same.
To many of us, he was more than just a man on the television or movie screen. He was almost like a friend – personable, friendly, and – most of all – funny.
Robin Williams, you are gone but not forgotten. We – as a public – loved you and your work, and we will miss you.