Robin Williams, the 63-year-old comedian and Oscar-winning actor who died Monday in an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California was rare. Not just in his talent, his success, or his fame or fortune, but in how universally he was loved by the public.
Since he leapt to the world’s (not just America’s) attention in the late 1970s, he never disappeared from the public eye for long. We all knew that he’d struggled with drugs and depression. At least we could have known if we were interested. His battles were out there, on the record.
Today, though, many writers are choosing to remember him for his work and the joy he brought.
Longtime Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan first met Robin Williams in 1978, while Mork & Mindy was being filmed, but before it hit the air. It was after one of Williams’ standup performances. Turan says he knew he was seeing something special: “He took on different characters with different accents, roamed to all kinds of locations, both physical and metaphysical, made lightning-fast comic connections in time and space that were at once hysterically funny and like nothing I had ever experienced before.”
Tony Hicks of the Contra Costa Times captures the essence of watching one of Williams’ standup performances in a single sentence: “Riffing on words and ideas, leaping with lightning speed from thought to idea to rant to epiphany, there wasn’t a faster brain on the planet.”