Editor’s Note: The following editorial is intended to celebrate the life and work of Robin Williams. It is also a vehicle for catharsis for many of our writers who felt a strong sense of loss and personal connection to the actor. Yet, the major issue here is the fact one of America’s most beloved funnymen was someone who suffered from depression and his life ended from a suspected suicide. Depression and suicide are two issues that should not be dealt with lightly or swept under the carpet. If you or someone you love is in a crisis like this please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for assistance. Also, use this moment of tragedy to have the courage to speak out about your feelings if you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts. Friends, family and medical professionals are out there to help you. You’re not alone in this fight, so please, reach out and let someone know you need help, it truly will make a world of difference in your life.
Logan Fowler: The other night when I read the article posted on Facebook via The Hollywood Reporter about the death of Robin Williams, I frantically went to Google and typed in his name for updated news stories about the former actor/funnyman. This couldn’t be true. No way, no how. But as time went on, it seemed that reality became clear. Robin Williams left us.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the most animated person on the face of the planet. His comedy required much physicality and body movements, but even as he aged, Williams always acted like there was a five year old inside his body trying to break out. Nothing was lost in the comedic routines.
It’s funny (in essence) that my favorite role of his is one where he WAS animated. The late actor actually provided the voice of Genie in Aladdin and came back to portray the wish giver in Aladdin and the King of Thieves. While it wasn’t the person being discussed as a full bodied role, I can bet you five dollars that the animators took some cues from Robin’s actions in studio. The impressions, the gags, the singing, and the sweet moments all came across perfectly in the blue mug that couldn’t have been half as good if it wasn’t Williams behind it. It is truly one of the best characters in the Disney library, thanks to the man giving the Genie his mouth. We will miss you greatly, sir.
Christine Yankelunas: We are moving so fast, we take so much for granted. I think my generation was the luckiest of Robin Williams fans, having been able to watch the magical blue genie with the highest capacity of our imaginations – watching Peter finally believe in something beyond his reason – watching Sean Maguire coach Will Hunting on love, life and loss. I am lucky that when my imagination was as ripe as it ever was or will be – Robin Williams brought magic and laughter to my life, and so many others, and it has shaped the way that I will think for the rest of my life.
You see because, there are countless comedians and actors that make us laugh – but not any that put their entire heart and soul into it, the way Williams did. Whether it was a high energy substance that couldn’t be contained, a genie who selflessly granted countless wishes, a doctor who dared to use laughter to heal, or a therapist who has become wise through his own hardships – it seems Williams took such stock in his roles that we can see a piece of him, and his struggles, in all his iconic films.
In Hook, Tink tells Peter: “You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?” [Peter nods] “That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” In the most innocent and malleable years of my life, when I can still remember dreaming, I watched Robin Williams bring magic to film… and I will always love him for that. Thank you, Robin Williams.
Ann Hale: The death of Robin Williams hit me harder than I ever could have expected. From outward appearances, he looked like a happy kind of guy. His interviews, appearances, films and television shows were usually one big joke after another and he seemed to always have that big goofy grin plastered on his face. It wasn’t until the announcement of his death that I noticed he had recently began to lose weight and his eyes held a little more sadness than usual. I suppose that when you’re so busy laughing at the clown, you don’t notice his tears.
As a child, like many of you, I grew up watching Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin and Jumanji but as an adult I grew to appreciate the more serious side of Robin Williams. The man I only knew to play the jester type character began to fill the roles of these deep men in some amazing and profound films. To choose my favorite would be a truly impossible task but I believe I will best remember Robin for those darker roles that seemed so out of character for him but were, perhaps, more true to the real Robin than anyone may have thought.
For those of you familiar with his more comedic roles, you might think about looking into some of those films I reference above such as Death to Smoochy, What Dreams May Come, World’s Greatest Dad, Patch Adams and One Hour Photo and prepare to see another side of the man. While you’re used to crying tears of laughter, these films will evoke tears of sorrow and beauty. Laughter, sorrow and beauty may just be the three best words to describe Robin Williams and we just didn’t know it.
Rest in Peace Pan the Man. I hope you’re food fighting and crowing up there in Neverland.
Luke Kalamar: Celebrity deaths don’t usually impact me very much. Of course I feel sad whenever an unparalleled talent passes away, but it’s never more than that. And why would it be? It’s not like these individuals have any direct impact on my life. It also helps that the majority who have passed away in my lifetime weren’t super significant to my consumption of entertainment. The first one that comes to mind as an exception is Leslie Nielsen who I still consider one of the finest comedic actors in history.
Now I have to add Robin Williams to that small list. Though I still haven’t viewed the vast majority of Williams’ work, his films were essentially treasures for me growing up. Jumanji expanded my imagination to previously unforeseen and terrifying levels. Patch Adams taught me the power of laughter and hit me in an incredibly emotional way. Hook gave me an actual follow up to a favorite character of mine, Peter Pan. Flubber made me want to play with a crazy green blob in a very destructive way. Genie was, and still is, the absolute best part of Aladdin. Really, the list goes on and on. As I got older and these movies entered my rear view mirror, I still held Williams up to an unreachable standard. I knew that if he was in anything, literally anything, it was hilarious. Even Night at the Museum!
Rest in peace Robin Williams. I know you’re making people happy wherever you are.
Lauren Stern: When the story broke that Robin Williams passed Monday night, I was in a state of shock. I honestly thought it was some sort of sick joke. But as it started to spread, I slowly began to realize that the man who brought so much laughter into my life was really gone.
Williams was a prominent figure in my life. I saw every movie of his as a kid and each one was a major event. I can still remember the first time I saw Dead Poets Society, Flubber, Jumanji, Aladdin, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Flubber and Aladdin in particular were a big deal. I grew up hooked on Disney, so those movies always brought the most memories for me.
Rest in Peace Robin and thank you for everything.
Bill Bodkin: I remember watching a Robin Williams comedy special from the 1970s. I was absolutely awe-struck at just how hilarious and poignant his routine was. Two lines really stuck with me from that special, two lines that I recite to this day.
1. “The moon, like a testicle, hangs low in the night.”
2. “God only gave you a little spark of insanity and when you lose that, you’re nothing.”
That second line has resonated with me for my entire life. It’s been my mantra, my ethos, it’s a quote that I have lived by. At the time I heard it, I wasn’t too sure of myself. I thought I was too weird, too different. But when I heard Robin Williams, the world famous, the hilarious Robin Williams utter this quote, I was thunderstruck. I felt like he was speaking to me as if to say, “It’s okay to be you, Bill.”
To hear Robin Williams took his own life is absolutely heartbreaking. Obviously, as actor he gave us so many great performances – Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, the list goes. Yes, he’ll be missed as an actor, but for me, it’s just so damn sad to see a man who left such an impact on my life, take his life well before his time was up. But, no matter how he left this world, Robin Williams left an indelible mark on my life.
Rest well sir. And thank you.
Dan Cohen: In reading all the social media reactions that have flooded in non stop since the news of Robin Williams’ passing, it’s amazing how many great films I forgot he was even in. “Oh, I forgot about that one!” “That’s right, he was in The Birdcage.” I’ve talked incessantly about how big a Christopher Nolan fan I am, and I didn’t even remember he was actually in a Nolan film (Insomnia). That’s how unbelievable his career was. His greatness all rolled together, and I mean that in the best way possible. We’ve suffered a lot of significant celebrity losses recently, but Robin Williams is going to stick with us for a long time. We all love certain actors that others dislike, and vice versa. Maybe more than any other actor in history, I can’t imagine anyone more universally loved than Robin Williams.
I can sit here all day and go through the list. The Birdcage. Mrs. Doubtfire. Dead Poets Society. Good Will Hunting. Insomnia. Aladdin. Oh my goodness, Aladdin. He’s the reason Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie. The energy. The voices. Everything he did as the Genie could not have been done by anybody else. “Friend Like Me” is something so grand and manic, and it’s all because of Robin Williams. We’ll never see anything like that again. Aside from decades of brilliant comedy, Williams was no joke when it came to dramatic work. Good Will Hunting speaks for itself. Nothing else needs to be said. Even in subpar roles like Peter Pan in Hook, or Alan Parrish in Jumanji, Williams not only made them decent, he made them memorable characters, despite the films being mediocre. Aside from his performances, every time he popped up, whether it be the Oscars, or some comedy show, he seemed like the greatest person to be around, which makes the nature of his death so tragic.
There is no way I can do Robin Williams justice in this article. I’m just sad. I’m sad because he still had years of who knows what left, and now we’ll never see it. There’s no doubt in my mind there were at least two more iconic roles left in him, and probably another Oscar. Whether you’re four years old, or sixty, you loved Robin Williams. The future of film may have taken a blow today, but the legacy that Robin Williams left behind will out live us all.
Mallory Delchamp: Like most twenty-somethings who grew up in the ’90s, I grew up with Robin Williams. I remember being very young, long before I had any interest in the entertainment industry, and just immediately falling in love with him. He was one of the first comedic actors that I took genuine interest in. When I read that he had passed yesterday, I was shocked. It hit me. I felt as though I had just lost a long-time friend and in a sense I did. We all did. Now I never met the man personally. I never had a drink with him or grabbed brunch with him but he was an icon. That’s what made him an icon. You didn’t have to know him personally because his talent and his wonderful personality showed through his numerous cinematic performances.
My heart has never felt so heavy over the loss of a person I never even had the pleasure to meet. As I walk to work this evening and I pass the Aladdin marquee in Times Square it is going to be tough to imagine a world without Robin. Not only has Hollywood lost a talented actor but a whole generation has lost their friend. Robin Williams touched so many lives and it’s a true shame that he could not see the impact that he made on this world. I am praying for his wife, his family, his fans and all of those who suffer with depression. RIP Robin Williams. “Genie, you’re free!”