Robin Williams: Laughter Fading

12 Aug


I didn’t have a TV when I was a kid.  So when I’d visit cousins or friends who owned a television, I’d binge-watch like a crack-head.  One of my earliest TV memories was ‘Mork & Mindy’.  There was a kid named Clark in my 4th grade class who would wear rainbow suspenders and throw what appeared to be a gang sign whilst muttering “Nanu Nanu” under his breath.  Initially I made fun of him.

“Yeah well you’re stupid because you don’t even have a TV to know who Mork is.”, he said.

So I asked around and found out about ‘Mork & Mindy’.  One episode in particular stands out: The episode, which aired on February 19, 1981, was called “Mork Meets Robin Williams.”  Mork meets Robin Williams and learns about the nature of fame on Earth and the toll it takes on those who get swept up in it. In the final scene, Mork reports back to Orson to tell him what he just learned about the culture of Earth. He explains to Orson that “being a star is a 24-hour job and you can’t leave your face at the office… some of them can’t take it.” Then he lists the names of those Earthlings who were destroyed by the pressures of fame: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon. The episode aired just two months after Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan. If it was written today, there would be a quite a few more famous names to add to it.

I think Robin’s death hit a particularly raw nerve with me because of the bipolar struggle that he and I share.  It’s taken years for me to find the right combination of meds and cognitive therapy that also allow my high level of creativity to remain intact.  But the depression still comes.  The higher the peak the lower the fall.

Robin’s suicide is an unfortunate result of his mental illness.  No different than death as a result of cancer or heart disease.  The fact that a soul like Robin’s could succumb to to the effects of bipolar speaks to the power of psychiatric illness.  Robin was a genius at using his manic highs and depressing lows to produce comedic genius on and off screen.  Perhaps it’s true that those who make us laugh the hardest battle the darkest demons.

  • We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?  ~Dead Poets Society


10 Responses to “Robin Williams: Laughter Fading”

  1. therealgirlfridayPattie August 12, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Comedy comes from pain. It’s a coping mechanism that becomes a brilliant spark of genius because if you can’t get clarity on your pain whilst laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, immobilized by the heaviness of your heart… well, that’s where it happens for me, anyway.

    I wonder if he fell into that trap of accepting the lies because the highs felt so damned good and paid the bills. I’m sure he thought his genius only came from the high times. You could see it in in awkward, uncomfortable appearances on some talk shows through the years. He didn’t feel like that guy – but felt the audience wouldn’t love, accept or approve of him in any other way. Or maybe he thought if he sat down and started talking about how he really felt that day, he’d start crying on TV and not be able to stop.

    It’s a painful thought either way and just crushes my heart.


  2. Michael Cargill August 13, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Good post. It’s one of those conditions that’s hard for someone who doesn’t have it to understand it.

    I found this short video which helped me understand it a bit better –

    Liked by 1 person

  3. therealgirlfridayPattie August 13, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    I’ve been following Allie Brosh for years. I even bought her book! I bonded with her first, over her dogs. Then the depression. She is super funny and talented. The way she writes about being a kid… She’s amazing.


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