Universal truths: The sun comes up and goes down, politicians are crooked, and Robin Williams is awesome. Robin Williams died today, and that means that I, and millions of other people around the world, have lost more than a funny actor.
The Millennials are a generation which could be defined by the sheer number of broke homes we were raised in. I speak for many of those children when I say that Robin Williams had more direct impact on my world view than my own mother did.
In the 90s, he was everywhere. Mork and Mindy reruns on Nick at Nite, Mrs. Doubtfire on Sunday afternoons before everybody in the world had cable, Aladdin in the movie theater. Robin on Sesame Street is one of my earliest memories, for Christ’s sake.
But his ubiquitous presence wasn’t unwelcome. Robin was like a trusted adult that it was okay to go to for help, like your teacher or a policeman. He was safe and fun, and as we got older, he taught us things.
Dead Poets Society encouraged me to love the written word, to be principled, honorable and brave in the face of the daunting task that just being alive so often happens to be.
What Dreams May Come eased some of my budding fears about death, a subject my own parents weren’t available to talk about.
Moscow on the Hudson showed me what Communism looked like better than any book I read in school.
When I first saw his stand-up in my teens I was amazed at how insightful he was while he made me laugh to tears thirty years after making that audience in the 70s do the very same thing. He was just as on the ball as Carlin, but without all the bitterness. Robin made pain something to be laughed at without malice or disgust or condescension.
Sometimes a celebrity does more than make a movie that some asshole somewhere can watch to kill two hours. Sometimes a celebrity pours their whole self into their work so much that their performance cannot help but touch the lives of people they will never meet. I just realized today that Robin Williams did that in my life. He was a bright spot in an often unpleasant and miserable existence, and I wish the joy he brought people like me could have been something he could have known in a tangible way.
To his family and friends, I give you my deepest condolences. I never knew that man you loved. I never could have known him, but he touched my life and the lives of many kids like me.
Thank you Robin. Thank you and goodbye.