Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams

I know that to some people, it seems ridiculous to mourn a famous person that you knew only from their work onscreen, that you never met in person. I've never felt this way. I think it's okay to feel attached to someone you know and love just because of movies, television, sports, anything. Judging by what I've seen online in the last day or so, a lot of people agree with me. Every death is a tragedy, and it seems surreal to lose someone you thought you would always be able to see on your TV screen, someone who is alive every time you hit the "play" button.

Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity. He was even just alive onscreen - he was larger than life. He was beloved by audiences, by his contemporaries, and by anyone who saw him and was inspired to pursue whatever it is that they're best at. You've seen it in your news feeds and on the faces of your friends when they find out he passed away. My father was saddened when he heard the news - his English isn't that good, but he watched Mrs. Doubtfire with us when we were growing up and loved it as much as we did. Williams had an incredible impact on so many of us - the generation that grew up watching him wasn't the only one who loved him.

I'm part of that generation, but now that I'm growing up and learning more about comedy, his death is affecting me even more than I thought it would. I've been trying to learn what makes a comedian great. Sometimes it's clear that comedy is hard work - so many people that are incredibly funny spend inordinate amounts of time practicing, rewriting, and performing in order to improve, and they never stop improving. They just keep working. Hard work and tenacity are what can make a good comic into a great comic, and a regular laugh into the kind of laughter that makes your face hurt, that makes you forget you even had anything else on your mind before the joke started. Others are just born great. Robin Williams was born great. I know he spent a lot of time observing, learning, thinking of ways he could be better, but it seems pretty obvious to anyone who's seen him that that's not the whole story. He was born with incredible talent. He was special. He had a gift, and we all were fortunate enough to see him use that gift and turn into something brilliant and unique.

There will never be another comedian or performer quite like him, but there are legions of people who'll never forget him. He will be missed.

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