This morning my usual safe harbors of early morning television are filled with tributes to Robin Williams, who apparently committed suicide yesterday.
Not that my safe harbors are all that safe any more in the first place. The Weather Channel, for instance, used to be a place where you could find, you know, the actual weather, for which us old farm kids have what I realize for others (I’m looking at you, townies!) is an unreasonable fixation. Since NBC acquired the place, they’ve been installing a series of hacks like Al Roker, and now that prancing moron Sam Champion, who has turned the early a.m. show into a morning zoo broadcast with frenetic action punctuated by forced manic laughter that grates on the nerves.
But unfortunately, this morning is Robin Williams’ morning, and it’s sad. Williams was an almost excruciatingly funny person in the same mold as that other manic, hilarious person uncomfortable in his own skin, Jonathan Winters. Winters fought his own battles with his demons, demons that finally killed Robin Williams.
It occurred to me yesterday while I was pondering the news that was flashing all over the world at the speed of electrons thanks to the Internet, that Williams was in two of my three all-time favorite movies. He’s not in “Finding Forrester,” but he had major roles in “August Rush” and “Good Will Hunting.” In the latter film, he portrayed a psychically damaged counselor who was able to connect with Will Hunting and begin to heal his mental issues. In “August Rush,” Williams played a creepy, dark Fagin-like character, and he played it well, digging deep to find that anger that was apparently well below the surface.
Every once in a while, you see things bouncing around the blogs where people wonder which comedians they’d most like to have dinner and a beer with. Me, I’ve always thought my choice would be none, because comedians, in general, are funny, but don’t necessarily seem like well-balanced, nice people. Everyone says Williams, in person, was a nice guy, and I have no doubt he was. But there’s always that darkness behind comedy, and with him, the depression finally won.
Depression is a terrible thing, a problem with which I can sympathize from personal experience. Those who have never struggled with it simply cannot grasp the insidious hold it takes on a person’s life. Maybe, just maybe, with Williams’ death, we will begin to take depression more seriously as a true illness. Although given our nation’s aversion to learning any lessons from anything, I have no high hopes.
If he had been capable of realizing it, he should have been proud of what he’d accomplished during his life and what he contributed to the rest of us. Robin Williams seemingly had everything, but in his depression he knew with certainty he had nothing.