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Death of Robin Williams true tragedy

Robin WilliamsOscar-winner Robin Williams, 63, died this morning according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office-Coroner Division and his press representative.

I had the honor — and frustration — to interview Robin Williams several times for his film and TV work. The most recent chat was on the set of his CBS comedy, “The Crazy Ones.” It was the return to network television for Williams but that wasn’t enough to keep the comedy on the air past one year.

Every interview with Williams was like trying to ride a bucking bronco being carried through the air on a roller coaster that’s been strapped to a kite without a tail. Sometimes, all you could do was hold on.

He attacked every interview with the same rapid-fire humor that made him one of greatest comedians of the 20th Century. A mundane question would set him off on a comic tangent. What made Williams different was that within that hilarious rant was a legitimate answer to the question. Many of those who have tried to copy his style never learned that an interview is not a tryout for a comedy club.

One thing that resonated from the talk for “The Crazy Ones” was how giving Williams could be. It was obvious the comedy got on the air because of his wicked comic skills. But, Williams insisted on stressing that his co-stars — especially Sarah Michelle Gellar — were just as funny as he was.

“The joy for me is working with them, because I just watch them. And as it’s grown into an ensemble, just watching every week. It’s a great group of people. The pressure’s off, thank God. So I don’t have to be a Robin Williams vehicle. It’s a bus,” Williams said.

It was a bus he drove.

Award-winning writer/producer, David E. Kelley, one of the producers of “The Crazy Ones,” looked at the prospect of writing for Williams as a daunting task.

“The idea of me trying to supply the architecture for comedy to Robin Williams is like handing me the keys to a NASCAR race car and saying, go compete,” Kelley said.

What Kelley didn’t take into consideration was that a race car has a brake pedal. Williams didn’t.

Through the interview, Williams rapidly bounced from serious answers to impressions to a helium voice to singing “Danny Boy.” And it was all delivered with an energy that drained the room and made Williams stronger. That strength finally ran out and the world is a sadder place for it.

If an alien race ever comes to Earth and asks “What is comedy?,” Just show them a clip of Robin Williams. Few have done it better and that makes today’s news an even bigger tragedy.

Responses to "Death of Robin Williams true tragedy"

marty says:

Sad, but not surprising. He was open about his struggles with addiction and depression.As Ed Asner said, he was a Pagliacci — a clown who keeps his tears inside. Anyone who’s ever struggled with the disease of addiction knows it never goes away, and the best that can be achieved is a daily reprieve. Not to say people aren’t successful, but the fact is, they are a minority. Robin Williams was bar none the funniest man I’ve ever seen, and I’m grateful for the years of laughs. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones, as well as his legions of fans.

Amanda says:

I’m very sorry for his family and friends. To all reading this story of another unnecessary death, please choose a better solution to problems. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Depression, drug addiction, bullying, gay self-hate, financial problems and legal problems may seem insurmountable at the time when one is experiencing them but they are temporary. Get help at the suicide hotline 888-784-2433. To anyone who hears another say s/he is contemplating suicide, don’t treat it as a joke.

marty says:

Amanda, so glad you wrote that. The Bee has a front page story in Wednesday’s paper about just that, and indeed there has been a spike in calls to suicide hotlines locally and across the country. Also note that http://www.fresnoaa.org — and (559) 221-6907 — is a 24-hour resource for those struggling with substance abuse or those who know of people who are (if the problem is drugs they can make referrals).

Katie Phebus says:

I have been reading in the papers and got the alert on my phone on Monday. I so sad. Robin Williams is by far my favorite actor because he was always genuinely real. He gave a type of human spirit to Hollywood no actor could compare too. I am so sad that this beautiful soul gave up the battle within him but he lives on in this world and i know when i see his movies and laugh that he gave the world the best of what he had! And we are eternally grateful. Thank You Robin Williams for the laughs! :-)

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