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ONE OF THE BEST IMPROVISERS IN THE MOVIE WORLD: ROBIN WILLIAMS
Robin Williams, a beloved icon of the entertainment world, continues to captivate audiences with his wit, and charm, even after his untimely death in 2014. As a comedian, actor, and philanthropist, he left an indelible mark on the world, earning countless accolades, including four Academy Award nominations and one win for his dramatic role in "Good Will Hunting". However, his impact went beyond his professional accomplishments, as he touched the hearts and souls of millions with his kindness, empathy, and generosity. What sets him apart from other comedians and actors is the depth of pain he concealed behind his quick wit and infectious laughter. In this article, we will explore the life, legacy, and struggles of Robin Williams, and how his experiences shaped his unique brand of comedy and dramatic acting.
Like many people, Robin suffered from depression and other illnesses throughout his life. It's the classic "sad clown paradox" - using comedy to mask inner sadness. It's heartbreaking to think that such a gifted entertainer could be struggling so much inside.
Robin Williams appeared to have a privileged upbringing, with his family being relatively affluent and well-known in their community. His father was employed by Ford and his mother was a former model. They lived in a sprawling forty-room farmhouse in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, with the assistance of a live-in maid. Williams attended the prestigious Detroit Country Day School. He once said: "I spent about three years in an all-boys school. It was almost like the one in 'Dead Poets Society.' Blazer. Latin motto. I was getting pushed around a lot. Not only was there like physical bullying, but there was intellectual bullying going on. It made me toughen up, but it also made me pull back a lot. I had a certain reticence about dealing with people. Through comedy, I found a way to bridge the gap." Many of his old classmates remember him as being a hilarious and gracious person. Unfortunately, his home life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed from the outside. His parents were always busy and Robin didn’t get to see them much.
As noted by comedy writer Merrill Markoe in her review of the ‘Robin’ by David Itzkoff, Williams' mother later reflected, "I didn't realize how lonely Robin had been... [he] had some very lonely years. You think you're being a wonderful mother, but maybe you aren’t.
He was often left home alone with the family maid being his only loyal companion. In my opinion, his family life is the reason why he played the role of John Keating in the ‘Dead Poets Society’ so well. His relationship with his father was similar to the main character Neil Perry. Neil’s father was always away and had high expectations of him and Robin played the role of John Keating (Neil’s literature teacher). I think that he might have felt like a father figure to Neil and this helped him to get into the headspace of his character.
Even with his struggles, Robin never gave up on his dream of performing. He dropped out of the Julliard School to pursue comedy and quickly became a favourite in the San Francisco Bay Area. He won his first Grammy Award in 1979 and continued to have great success in both TV and film.
Unfortunately, one thing that started to go downhill in the comedy industry around the late 70s was drugs and Williams soon formed an addiction to drugs and alcohol. In Gerald Nachman's 2004 book "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s," Robin Williams is quoted discussing the nature of comedy, describing it as a "brutal field" that takes a toll on those who pursue it. Williams reflects on the challenges of the lifestyle, which often involves partying, drinking, and drug use, and notes that the demands of touring can make things even harder. According to Williams, comedians often need to "come back down to mellow your ass out," before performing again, and some ultimately give up in the face of these challenges. The loss of his close friend John Belushi to an overdose hit him hard, and he decided to quit his addictions. In a 1988 interview with People magazine, Robin Williams reflected on the death of his friend and fellow comedian John Belushi, acknowledging that it had a profound impact on his own life. Williams explained that Belushi's passing caused many in their circle to reevaluate their relationship with drugs and that, coupled with the impending arrival of his child, he knew that he couldn't continue to live a reckless lifestyle. However, despite his efforts to make positive changes in his life, Williams found himself struggling with depression and his thoughts, which ultimately worsened his condition.
"Cocaine for me was a place to hide," Williams admitted. After 20 years of sobriety, Robin returned to addiction in 2003. It's understandable why he might have been hesitant to seek professional help - he had built a career on being perfect, outgoing, and funny. Admitting his mental struggles may have felt like a failure to him. Think how hard it is for a man who has dedicated his life to entertaining people to admit his mental breakdown.
In the end, Robin was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. The disease can be difficult to diagnose due to its similarity to other conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Only after his death, his health problems were identified as Lewy body dementia. "Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating?" his wife Susan wrote in a Neurology article. The disease caused a host of symptoms, including insomnia, heartburn, tremors, and memory loss. Despite knowing that he was losing his mind, Robin put on a brave face and kept the illness to himself. He continued to work, but his illness eventually became too much for him to handle. He was found dead in his home in California on August 11, 2014.
The reason why I choose to write about Robin Williams, except that I see him as a role model, is that even though how sad he was on the inside he always tried to entertain people
Robin Williams was undoubtedly one of the greatest improvisers of all time. His ability to think on his feet and come up with witty one-liners and comedic responses in any situation was truly remarkable. Whether he was performing stand-up comedy or acting in a movie, he always managed to leave his audience in stitches.
One of the things that made Robin's improvisation so impressive was his ability to seamlessly incorporate his own experiences and emotions into his performances. For example, in his stand-up comedy routine "Live at the Met," he talked about his struggles with alcoholism and depression in a way that was both honest and hilarious. He managed to take a deeply personal and painful topic and turn it into something that could make people laugh and feel connected to him.
This ability to turn his pain into comedy is perhaps what made Robin so beloved by his fans. Even though he was a superstar, he never lost touch with his audience. He was always willing to be vulnerable and open about his struggles, which made him relatable and endearing.
One of Robin's most iconic performances was in the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam," where he played an irreverent and unorthodox radio DJ during the Vietnam War. The role was a perfect showcase for Robin's improvisational skills, as he was given free rein to ad-lib much of his dialogue. The result was a performance that was both hilarious and touching, showcasing Robin's ability to bring humour to even the darkest of situations.
Another example of Robin's incredible improvisational skill can be seen in the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire." In the scene where he first appears as the titular character, he was supposed to have a scripted conversation with the housekeeper, but instead, he decides to improvise the entire scene. The result was a hilarious and heart-warming moment that is still remembered by fans today.
Despite his incredible talent and success, Robin Williams was plagued by mental health issues throughout his life. His struggles with depression, addiction, and ultimately Lewy Body Dementia are a tragic reminder that even the funniest and most talented among us can be fighting a silent battle. It's a reminder that we need to prioritize our mental health and seek help when we need it, rather than suffer in silence.
In conclusion, Robin Williams was more than just a comedian or an actor - he was a true master of his craft. His ability to improvise and make people laugh was unmatched, and his performances will be remembered for generations to come. But perhaps more importantly, his willingness to be vulnerable and share his struggles with the world made him a role model for anyone who has ever felt alone or misunderstood. Robin's legacy will continue to inspire and entertain us, and we can all learn from his example of using humour to heal and connect with others.
I would like to leave you to your thoughts with my favourite quote from Robin Williams that will complete this article. “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it feels like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”