The world news and social media is flooded with messages of disbelief, sadness and sympathy over the sudden death of comedian and Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams, which is ample testament to just how much his life and work touched, well, everyone.
Thing is, his talent can never be overstated. The man was a real one off. Arguably one of the most brilliant comics of his or any generation, his genius came from that firecracker brain. It worked at lightning speed, firing off spontaneous, improvised flights of fancy, surrealist comments, a stunning array of voices and sometimes completely fully-formed jokes, right in the moment. That's not skill. That's stunning. From the moment he exploded out of a particularly weird episode of Happy Days as confused alien Mork from Ork he left an indelible mark. Spin off Mork & Mindy was elevated beyond standard TV sitcoms purely because of Williams' performance. It was as if there were dozens of personalities all fighting to make their voice heard. Who knows, maybe there were.
His stand up was note-perfect, seamless in delivery. You couldn't tell what was prepared material and what was improvised. Again, that's real talent. Then there were the chat show appearances. That's where he really shined. We demand you go online and Google any chat show turn by Williams. Go on, do it. It'll be worth it. Any question asked, synapses flare and he was off in a million simultaneous directions.
Let's not forget the man was actually trained as a serious actor. He attended prestigious acting centre Julliard (during which time he roomed with Superman himself, Christopher Reeve) and went on to make so many movies from the 80s onwards he became part of the furniture. A reassuring presence in darkened theatres or in the corner of our living room.
Much has been made of his battles with drugs and depression. He has publicly commented on these struggles, as well as the great friends, brimming with talent and potential, he lost on the way. They never fulfilled their potential, but at least we got Robin as long as we did. He got a reputation for making mawkish, sentimental films but so many were brilliant. Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets' Society, The Fisher King, Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Aladdin, Good Will Hunting, Insomnia, the list goes on...
Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (who also tragically decided to get off the ride by his own hand) once said "weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of 'the rat race' is not yet final". Robin Williams was such a weird hero. A hero to professional comedians, to fans, to comedy. We need them in our lives to cheer us up when stuck in the rat race. When things seem bleak. It is the final, tragic irony that the light he brought to so many was ultimately smothered by his own darkness. But thank Christ we had him in our lives. RIP Robin Williams. Thank you and good night.
- Adrian Mackinder