By now, you have probably heard the sad news. Robin Williams died. When I heard, I felt numb. In fact, I still do. My first response when I heard about Robin was, “We need to take better care of our comedians.” But my second response was, “Comedians are canaries (in the coal mine). We need to take better care of our world.”
As a kid, I had this video tape of the first HBO Comic Relief telethon, which he was in. I would play this tape over and over and over. It was a 3-hour cavalcade of comics, fundraising for the homeless. Whoopi, Robin, and Billy were the hosts, and they did these great sketches in between standup sets. I was about seven years old at the time, so most of the jokes went over my head. But it sparked this thing in me, “You can be funny. And you can help people. Both at the same time. Like, for a job.”
We used to visit my grandma in California, and I heard that Robin lived near where we visited. One night, nine year old me had this dream I was meeting him. Little did I know I’d actually become a comedian one day.
At age ten, when Good Morning Vietnam came out, it was my favorite movie of all time. Of course, when Mannequin came out, that also became my favorite movie of all time. What do ya want? I was ten.
In the late 90’s when I actually started doing standup, Robin was working on a new show and would pop by surprise to do some stage time. So many of my fellow comedians saw him and interacted with him, but I would somehow always walk in half an hour after he left.
I did finally get to see him perform live at the Throckmorton theatre in Marin one night with a friend. We sat up real close, craning our necks up at Robin, laughing and smiling. Close enough we could almost feel the brush of his arm hair and the drip of sweat from his brow.And then one day a few years ago, I was driving in Sea Cliff, San Francisco, and my friend said that he lived near there. Suddenly, there he was, walking by. Suddenly, I found myself waving and smiling. Suddenly, he found himself waving and smiling. Suddenly, I saw that he realized he didn’t know me. Oh well.
The morning he died, I woke up feeling depressed. I was talking with a friend and realized I was feeling sad about the world. Sad about all the kinds of life on earth that have evolved over millions of years that are getting decimated by the destruction of the rainforests… I had a good cry about it. The depression I felt was like this stuck emotion that wanted to be seen and felt and spoken. And I did. And then I heard about Robin.
A man who lived his life FULL OUT, to the best of his ability. And it’s hitting us for so many reasons, but especially because somehow, “We feel like he was ours.”