Robin Williams, RIP

posted at 8:01 am on August 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

We mentioned it last night in the headlines, but it’s worth a full post to remember Robin Williams, one of the most original and energetic entertainers of our time. Mork & Mindy aired when I was a teenager, and “nanu nanu” was a catchphrase in our schoolyard, but it was Robin Williams’ comedy albums that got the most notice. Williams and Steve Martin broke through at about the same time and reinvented comedy all over again — Martin with his absurdist spin, and Williams with his manic wit, and they made comedy both hilarious and smart. Williams was so inventive, so extemporaneous, that the sitcom format of Mork & Mindy was at once a platform and a straitjacket, which became obvious after the first season.

Williams moved quickly to films, but stayed on stage for a very long time doing standup. He toured with the USO for many years, boosting the spirits of the men and women of the armed forces. Unfortunately, Williams also struggled very publicly with addiction and depression; just a few weeks ago, he had spent a brief spell in Minnesota’s Hazelden rehab center. We all found out last night that he was struggling with depression as well, and tragically ended his own life at the age of 63. As I remarked when I heard the news:

His breakthrough film role for his dramatic talent came in 1984 with Moscow on the Hudson with Maria Conchita Alonso, the story of a Russian circus musician who defects while on tour in New York City. Written and directed by Paul Mazursky, it appeared from the trailers to be a madcap, zany comedy, but the film was in fact a love letter from Mazursky and Williams to America and liberty, warts and all. There are many great scenes in this film, but this one captures the soul of the film and Williams at his best. After being mugged, Williams is despondent and bitter while having dinner with his lawyer (the late Alejandro Rey, who was also terrific in this film), and starts denigrating American liberty. That angers another Russian emigrant at the counter who almost gets into a fight with him, but the three wind up celebrating Independence Day instead — with the whole diner (language mildly not safe for work):

Keep Williams, his family, friends, and fans in your prayers.

Update: From the comments, The World According to Garp preceded Moscow on the Hudson, and also featured an excellent performance by Williams. John Lithgow and Glenn Close may have stolen the show a bit, but Williams did a great job. Garp is the rare film that’s better than the source novel, which I read afterward and found pretentious and contrived.


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The guy was a huge lib and gave thousands to the Dem party. He also gave money and support to Nancy Pelosi. He has been dead to me figuratively for years he just made it official. Sorry if that sounds harsh but anyone who would support the Dems is not someone I will care too much about.

neyney on August 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM

I didn’t like his politics either, but I’m sorry that he chose this. A brother of mine killed himself, and so I know what his family is going through. Suicide is incredibly selfish.

Ward Cleaver on August 12, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Let’s all drink to the death of a clown.

Nanu, Nanu, Robin.

Christien on August 12, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Ward the reason I’m a bit harsh in my post is that I have ZERO sympathy for suicide. What a selfish horrible thing to do to his kids. His youngest son is only 22. He also by his endorsement of liberal Dems and their policies helped to usher in this mess of a country we find ourselves in today. Its a world that his children and ours will now have to live in. Celebrities in America are self indulgent, overrated, and spoiled. He could be funny at times but I was never a huge fan. Now you can count me out completely because his kids have to deal with his horrible passing and not having a dad anymore. Selfish in the extreme.

neyney on August 12, 2014 at 4:57 PM

faraway on August 12, 2014 at 4:02 PM

They were sleeping in separate bedrooms according to the guy at the presser. I don’t think his wife even checked on him before she left.

Brat on August 12, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Robin entertains our troops in Kuwait – December 6, 2007

Christien on August 12, 2014 at 5:03 PM

Christien: Thank-you for that, I haven’t seen it:)

canopfor on August 12, 2014 at 5:17 PM

They were sleeping in separate bedrooms according to the guy at the presser. I don’t think his wife even checked on him before she left.
Brat on August 12, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Possibly, especially if he was on a different schedule than he was.

Newtie and the Beauty on August 12, 2014 at 5:30 PM

They were sleeping in separate bedrooms according to the guy at the presser. I don’t think his wife even checked on him before she left.

People in the creative fields are notorious night owls and it is not at all unusual for them to have separate bedrooms due to them not wanting to keep their partner awake when they can’t sleep. I have been around actors and musicians my whole life and probably 75% of them sleep separately from their spouse. They tend to have creative bursts at 3 or 4 am and have to get up to write it down.

I wouldn’t take that as a definite sign that there was trouble in the marriage.

cat on August 12, 2014 at 5:31 PM

He appears to have been on a different schedule than she was.
Newtie and the Beauty on August 12, 2014 at 5:30 PM

FIFM…

Newtie and the Beauty on August 12, 2014 at 5:32 PM

(One reason) Why Funny People Kill Themselves.

Christien on August 12, 2014 at 5:38 PM

I wouldn’t take that as a definite sign that there was trouble in the marriage.

cat on August 12, 2014 at 5:31 PM

I wouldn’t either and did not mean to imply that. I was just replying to faraway’s concern about the timeline and circumstances that rigor had set in.

Newtie and the Beauty on August 12, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Yep. Completely understandable that they were on different schedules.

However, and this is a big however. If it were me, and my husband had recently been in rehab. No wait, even if he hadn’t been in rehab, I would have poked my head in the door to check on him or say goodbye, not necessarily waking him up.

Brat on August 12, 2014 at 5:54 PM

I am more than sure he had Bipolar Disorder. That disorder is genetically and biologically determined. It carries with it the highest risk of suicide. When exacerbated by substance abuse, then the risk greatly increases. Appropriate medications tend not to work so well when non-therapeutic substances are used.

rlwo2008 on August 12, 2014 at 6:00 PM

I am more than sure he had Bipolar Disorder. That disorder is genetically and biologically determined. It carries with it the highest risk of suicide. When exacerbated by substance abuse, then the risk greatly increases. Appropriate medications tend not to work so well when non-therapeutic substances are used.
rlwo2008 on August 12, 2014 at 6:00 PM

The bipolar malarkey is often a bunch of BS, IMO.

We all feel badly now and then. But most are not stupid enough to start taking all kinds of drugs, nor are we so cowardly and selfish that we would kill ourselves, causing our family and friends such pain, out of a “boo hoo poor me” mindset.

I don’t mean to dump on someone who recently passed, but I think it needs to be pointed out that suicide in situations like this is a disgrace. It sends the wrong message to others that killing yourself because you feel bad is a way to get lots of honor and recognition after you’ve died.

There are brave cancer patients, for example, fighting for their lives every day. The contrast is striking between their strength and the weakness and shamefulness of people who kill themselves.

bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM

bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Well SAID!

Katfish on August 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

It sends the wrong message to others that killing yourself because you feel bad is a way to get lots of honor and recognition after you’ve died.
bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. He already had the honors and recognition.

whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. He already had the honors and recognition.
whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Obviously Robin Williams didn’t kill himself for honor and recognition.

But look at all of the attention and outpouring he is getting now. People who haven’t thought about Robin Williams for years are now reminiscing about him and revisiting his work.

The point is, that by not acknowledging the shamefulness and cowardly nature of suicide in this sort of situation, we send the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems and, in some cases, a way to be martyred.

bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 7:43 PM

It sends the wrong message to others that killing yourself because you feel bad is a way to get lots of honor and recognition after you’ve died.
bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. He already had the honors and recognition.
whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 7:12 PM

But what did it profit him when he threw away his own soul out of selfishness? Statistically speaking, he just cursed his kids to a similar fate.

AH_C on August 12, 2014 at 7:57 PM

Breaking news: Lauren Bacall has died. Will probably not be the same coverage of her life and death as RW.

Brat on August 12, 2014 at 8:31 PM

But look at all of the attention and outpouring he is getting now. People who haven’t thought about Robin Williams for years are now reminiscing about him and revisiting his work.

And he is basking in it all just how now?

The point is, that by not acknowledging the shamefulness and cowardly nature of suicide in this sort of situation, we send the message that suicide is an acceptable solution to problems and, in some cases, a way to be martyred.
bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 7:43 PM

I suspect those who have chosen to end their life likely didn’t care much – if at all – if others thought it was a good thing or a bad thing to do. The point is just ending their pain.

whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 8:33 PM

Breaking news: Lauren Bacall has died. Will probably not be the same coverage of her life and death as RW.
Brat on August 12, 2014 at 8:31 PM

That’s sad to hear. She was a classic. But while she was also a multi-generational star, much of her fandom has preceded her in death and most millennials probably never even heard of her. She is most remembered by classic film buffs like me. So, I agree the coverage probably won’t be as intense as for RW. Wow, She went on – what, for half a century? – after Bogie died.

whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 8:43 PM

whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 8:43 PM

I agree. And I love the classic movies too. I hope TCM has a marathon of her films.

Brat on August 12, 2014 at 8:55 PM

An interesting perspective as to the source of Robin Williams’ depression and addictions. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s worth reading.

ITguy on August 12, 2014 at 9:02 PM

I hope TCM has a marathon of her films.

Brat on August 12, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Nice thing with the internet, you can have do-it-yourself movie marathons. That’s a good thing since I only have broadcast TV and that’s pretty much only on for Vikings games and a few Olympic competitions.

whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 9:05 PM

I suspect those who have chosen to end their life likely didn’t care much – if at all – if others thought it was a good thing or a bad thing to do. The point is just ending their pain.
whatcat on August 12, 2014 at 8:33 PM

Very young people who kill themselves are absolutely influenced by news of others who have committed suicide. And look at the emo chic trend that was obsessed with death and self-hurt and sadness and wallowing in pain. Look at the homosexual teenagers and college students who saw suicide as an acceptable way of escaping from whatever situation was causing them sadness. And if they are not thinking of it as a “bad” act or as something that would be a horrible betrayal and crime against their families and friends, then that’s the point.

bluegill on August 12, 2014 at 10:43 PM

He took the easy way out. “I’m bankrupt” – bam – so he kills himself. But wait, it gets better. He was depressed because he had to sell one of his $30 MILLION mansions. Boo F-u-c-k-i-n-g Hoo. With no moral compass, especially from the Hollywood elite types, I feel no pity.

IFTYS on August 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Actually, I preferred “Simon Birch” to the book it was loosely based on, “A Prayer For Owen Meaney.” I read the book a while after seeing the movie. John Irving is very liberal, he bashes Reagan every which way but loose in the book. Simon Birch is thoroughly enjoyable, and retains the most likable points of the novel, leaving the politics out. I only remember watching Garp a couple of times, and should probably give it another tumble.

kscheuller on August 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

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