My relationship with Robin Williams is a bit different. I’m 26-years-old. I didn’t grow up watching him make the great Johnny Carson laugh uncontrollably on late night TV or prance around in ridiculous outfits while making ridiculous voices on Mork and Mindy.
The first time Robin Williams made me laugh I didn’t realize that it was Robin Williams who was making me laugh. It was just that big blue genie, who seemed to spit out a thousand words a minute, each one in a different pitch with a different accent. I didn’t understand half of it. It didn’t matter.
But there were lots of people and characters—some real, some fake—who made me laugh as a child. And and all of them hold a special place in my heart. I’m not old by any means. But, as I get a bit older, I do find myself appreciating more the people made me laugh when I was a kid.
The difference with Robin Williams, and what made him special, is that he was still able to make me laugh now, too. This—to be able to make both children and adults laugh at the same bits, and for different reasons—is a skill that very few comedians have. Mel Brooks is one who can. Right now I can’t think of others. Perhaps Bill Murray or Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy. Perhaps.
To this day, if I see Aladin pop up on the TV guide I’ll stop and watch. Every now and then I’ll put on “Prince Ali” if I want a good laugh. Mrs. Doubtfire falls into the same category. I loved it as a child and I can’t stop watching it now. This is a rare trait.
And of course there are all the other wonderful movies and characters he gave us. Good Will Hunting, which might be my favorite movie and where the therapist he played might be my favorite fictional movie character. Hook, which, as a child, was just captivating to watch. Good Morning Vietnam, which I only saw for the first time a few years ago and which quickly was added to my all-time list. Even Jumanji, a film which, I just learned—I had never looked it up—was not critically acclaimed, but try telling that to 10-year-old me, who must have watched that movie a dozen times. It was one of the video tapes my family we owned.
And that’s just a few titles. There are so, so many more. So many more lines and voices and images to recall, to discuss, to share, to laugh at. Unfortunately, it appears that Robin Williams was only able to serve us—me—so much because he so unable to serve himself. Comedy, we’re often told, comes from the darkest or places. This seems to be another example.
I don’t really have a catchy ending, and don’t really care to put one in here. I’ll just leave off with this tweet that I saw yesterday, one which, to me, just seemed so perfect.
1. Robin Williams’s son was a year ahead of me in school. Sometimes he did voices for the little kids outside while waiting to pick him up.
— Eric Freeman (@freemaneric) August 11, 2014