In the wake of the tragic loss of Robin Williams, I once again turn to writing and humor as a way to find solace. So thank you for humoring me as I attempt to humor you.
I was originally going to write about something more light-hearted. Like how right now I have to be scared of Ebola again. But that’s not happening anymore. Well, the Ebola thing is actually still happening, I’m just not writing about it.
In the immediate moments after hearing about a celebrity I cared about passing, I often find myself reflecting on what this individual meant to me, how their work influenced me and how I truly appreciate everything I have taken away from this someone I never met. Sadly, this is often unrealized until after their death, when I unenthusiastically yet poignantly look at the whole picture, much like I did with Roger Ebert’s passing. But when it occurs too soon, without warning and simply uninvited, it forces a solemn, unexpected moment to admire the one we lost.
Robin Williams’ passing reinforces in me the spirit of making others laugh. Making others smile. Being inspired while inspiring others. I’ve always loved putting the smallest joy into someone else’s day by providing them with laughter. As we all know and experience far too often, there is enough sadness in the world, so I figure I should do what I can to balance it out a little, even with only one bad pun, silly joke, or humorous story at a time. Actually, I’m not that great at telling anecdotes. It’s why I call them anecdon’ts.
So unlike everyone else, instead of watching some classic Robin Williams masterpiece the other night, (read: RV), I decided to watch the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from 1990. Not the first movie you’d think of, right? Well, it was my original plan for the evening, and even though I was shaken up, I strongly felt that I shouldn’t let death stand in the way of my plans.
But here’s the thing. I discovered a random piece of trivia after watching it that involved way too much coincidence. Apparently, Robin Williams was a big fan of the Turtles, and provided actress Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, with information about her character while the two were co-starring in the movie Cadillac Man, right as Turtles went into production. This simple and truly trivial piece of trivia makes me feel like I picked the right movie on a night I had no idea I was supposed to be making such a decision. Robin Williams was an influence in places I didn’t even know existed, which shows, among other things, the true power of his character.
The more I think about him, the more I realize just how powerful of a presence he truly was for me growing up. He was the actor I pointed to more than anyone else to succeed in a debate about comedians making the strongest dramatic actors. Most importantly, to me he was one of my earliest voice acting influences, whether I realized it or not. Williams was actually one of the first “major” celebrities celebrated for his voice acting. For better or worse, his involvement in animated movies begot the idea of celebrity power in animation.
As a self proclaimed voice over enthusiast, I can’t even begin to express what his contribution to my childhood has done for me in my adult life. Many people, of course, think of him as the Genie in Aladdin. But for me, I hold an exceptionally special place in my heart for his voice acting prowess as Batty Koda in Ferngully. Mostly for this:
For a man that has had more influence and inspiration on my life than I have ever known, Robin Williams, you will be missed, never forgotten and always appreciated for showing me time and time again that laughter is the very best medicine because you can’t OD and the refills are free.
I have barely even scratched the surface of his career, (seriously, go to YouTube and look up Mork and Mindy, his stand-up, his improv, his television appearances, everything) but I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments showcasing Robin Williams’ knack for being incredibly fun and his incomparable ability to “do voices.”