I named this column Comedy Matters because I truly believe it does. It matters to the junkies and alcoholics who frequent open mics to work through their demons on stage. It matters to the headliners and road comics who travel from club to club each night for a living. It matters to writers and Hollywood execs who make millions off the laughter that rumbles in darkened theaters. It matters to cancer patients, widows and kids. Comedy strikes us over the head or starts slowly in our belly and bellows out of us warming our innards with a rush of happiness. So when a comic dies, we hurt. And today, we’re hurting because the world lost a great one.
Robin Williams started his career in San Francisco in the 70s and quickly became one the most absurd joy makers in the comedy world. His big break was when he landed the role of Mork in “Mork and Mindy” in 1978. He transformed into a prolific actor and comedian, appearing in films such as Dead Poets Society, The World According to Garp, Good Will Hunting and so many more; too many to list.
But this isn’t just about his qualifications or list of his films. He affected people in many ways. His fans loved him for his insane and wild energy. Comics loved him for how dedicated he was to comedy and how sweet he was despite his fame. He was a good man, a beloved man, who struggled with depression and an addiction to drugs and alcohol for the past forty years. On August 11, his struggled ended. Investigators believe his death may have been a suicide and to anyone who knew him or his history this would not be a surprise.
At the news of William’s death, Michael Ian Black tweeted, “We lose at least one great comic to suicide or ODs every year. Our jobs are to communicate, but we seem to not know how to ask for help.” Comedians don’t control the market on depression and substance abuse, but it seems to be a common theme amongst them. These issues manifest on stage to applause and laughter but they continue off stage and they grow and fester and strain relationships. And people die and then there’s nothing we can do.
Robin Williams brought a joy to the world that he couldn’t find internally. His family and friends are mourning. His wife and kids are shattered by his loss. And his fans will find it hard to replace this legend. Be in peace captain, we’ll miss you.
Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs two monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at The Box. More information can be found at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.