The news of Robin Williams’ death sent a shockwave through most people. The same tributes were coming from those who knew him, those who worked with him, those who worked in the industry and those who simply watched him on the silver screen or television.
What makes a stand-up comedian-turned TV star-turned movie star into such an icon. Certainly others took that same career path?
Robin Williams was different. If you were a writer, he delivered your lines with passion and meaning. He made a good line funny. He improvised and made faces and noises popular before Jim Carrey.
Robin Williams was believable in his roles.
For me, he delivered all of the above at the right time in life.
In 1978, Mork from Ork came on the scene. To a child trying to pick between humor and sarcasm, he gave us humor. He also gave me something to do with those awful red long-sleeved pajamas we received each Christmas.
Add a triangle piece of aluminum foil to the front, throw the matching red bottoms on and I had the coolest Halloween costume of the season. I was Mork from Ork. After a week of practice I could separate my pinky and ring finger stuck together and my first finger and middle finger stuck together and say, "Na-no, na-no." For good measure, I was able to do the same with my right hand, just in case it was needed.
By 1982 I was unsure about relationships and marriage. I knew it existed and I knew there were breakups. I did not know the dark side of them until I watched "The World According to Garp."
By 1986, high school sports were the most important thing in my life. Then Robin Williams is a successful banker and husband in the movie, "The Best of Times." Williams can’t get over a high school football game and wants to replay it to end the needling from his father-in-law. It showed where the star ended up in life and where others ended up in life.
"The Best of Times" put high school sports into perspective. Pouring your childhood into being the best athlete you can be will not get you anywhere the second your last game is played.
Going into the media field, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in radio, TV or newspaper. So I was doing all three.
In 1987 "Good Morning Vietnam" came out and Robin Williams showed how announcing can be funny and informative. The movie was also a delicate balance between Vietnam humor and the horror of war. The movie and TV show "MASH" was made to specifically do that with the Korean War, but fell short. "MASH" was just entertainment.
In 1989 "Dead Poets Society" came out. Thanks to Robin Williams, I learned that there was more to college education than what you were learning in class. You can learn from each other.
It also made me realize the professors who made you think the most in class may be able to teach you about life outside of class. We visited with them in the smoking lounge (even if we didn’t smoke) or talked to them at events and games.
In 1993 "Mrs. Doubtfire" came on the scene. That movie came out just in time for me, as it showed just how fun being a dad could be.
While "Jumanji" was a fantasy movie in 1995, it also showed the importance of games that make you think. There is more to life than Sorry and Candyland.
A year later in 1996 came "The Birdcage." Today, gay marriage is accepted by many court systems. In 1996 it was not a joking matter. Robin Williams was straight. We knew that. But not in this movie. While it was a comedy, it made you root for the lifestyle to be accepted and win out in the end.
Also in 1996, he appeared on screens in "Jack," as a boy who had a disease that made him look 40. This movie put bullying into perspective before that was a popular subject.
In 1997, "Good Will Hunting," made you look within yourself and stop worrying about the past, rather embrace the positive things in the past and forge a great future. Robin Williams had so many lines in that movie and "Dead Poets Society" that the two could be watched as high school graduation speeches. There were so many life lessons in both.
Then came, "Night at the Museum" in 2006. After years of being "dragged" to museum’s by my mom in New York City, that movie made me realize they were actually cool and it was time to bring my own children to the museum.
Robin Williams was a too-young 63 to die. I don’t care how he died.
I just care how he lived.
As I talked to my teenage daughter and her friend about his death, they said, "That’s the guy from ‘World’s Greatest Dad,’ that’s too bad."
I didn’t realize he made this movie.
It’s a dark comedy about a father who is a writer and his troubled son.
Time to watch another movie.
Robin Williams lives on.
(John Anderson is the Regional Editor of the Hornell Evening Tribune, Wellsville Daily Reporter and Dansville’s Genesee Country Express.)