Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Death of a Clown

(Ed. note: this is cut and pasted from a Facebook status update that I posted on the evening of Monday, August 11th.)

My father and I are comedy geeks of sorts, but our taste in comedians varies significantly. I like Letterman, he preferred Leno. I watch Fallon now, he prefers Kimmel. Only in the last year or so has he come around to "Seinfeld." Yet we both agreed on Robin Williams. What made Williams so unique was his ability to be a self-contained, almost defiant artist and an everyman at the same time. There are very few comedians in this world that can be conceptual and tangential, yet simultaneously so populist. Even if Williams turned into a caricature of himself in later years, he was phenomenal to watch. His rapid-fire riffing was its own kind of improv.

The Robin quote that has popped up most frequently these past few hours has been "You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." What a lot of people don't realize about comedians is that we're all a little mad, whether we're just peculiar or full-blown insane, and that comedy is our outlet, our catharsis, our confessional. Robin Williams was not the first comedic talent to battle depression or drug abuse, nor will he be the last. Some of us turn those demons into art, while others are consumed by it; either we let our faults inspire us or consume us. Unfortunately, Robin rose with the former and fell with the latter. I just hope that his death today is a reminder that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and something that can be prevented. Remember the nearly four decades of laughs, not his ignoble end.


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