“…well, I do voices…”
This isn't going to be just another Robin Williams tribute. But if you're over hearing about the man, please move along…
When I was a child, I was fascinated by "The Chronicles of Narnia" series. I loved the idea of a magical world brought to life with each turn of the page. I have read the series over and over again. In fact, I recently downloaded digital copies of each because my physical copies have been replaced time after time after such heavy use. I read over the last week that Robin Williams read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" to his daughter and she requested he not do the voices. She wanted him to just read it. I can hear him reading it now. The roars of Aslan, the scary voice he'd choose for that of the White Witch, the sounds of swords being drawn. Maybe next time I read it, I will think of the voices he may have used.
I was first introduced to Robin Williams in his portrayal of Peter in "Hook." The film showed a grown up Peter who forgot how to be child-like. Not childish. Child-like. In his portrayal of Peter, we were taught how growing up is stupid, foolish and unnecessary. I saw a man, older than my father, learn how to fly (again), have a food fight (without food, mind you), and show his children just how much he loved them. On some level, I saw my own father in the Peter character. "To die would be a grand adventure!"
That was the interesting thing about him. I could relate to his characters because even though my own father isn't silly all the time, his love emulates that of Robin Williams. It's an unyielding love.
For me Robin Williams wasn't just a comedian or an entertainer. He wasn't just an actor. His work spoke to me. It wasn't like I was watching just an actor or a funny middle-aged man perform on the screen. His work transcended into my being. His work spoke to me in every character he portrayed. I learned to love his characters and for some, loved to hate. His characters taught me that you don't have to grow up be successful. You can be silly and be taken seriously. You can have fun and enjoy life. Sadly, as we all found out, this took a toll on him and he may have never been the happy man he portrayed himself to be in his movies and TV shows. That makes me sad.
I remember a few months back saying to someone, "You know, it must really suck to be Robin Williams. He is under so much pressure to make millions and millions of people laugh. Who makes him laugh? What makes him happy?" This was after CBS canceled my favorite new sitcom, "The Crazy Ones." I was upset because I enjoyed seeing my favorite actor on the small screen each and every week.
"Patch Adams" proved laughter was the best form of medicine. Working for a hospice and previously for a childhood cancer foundation, I know firsthand laughter is a much needed form of medicine. I have seen many folks slip away into eternity. For many, however, laughter was what kept them going the last few days. "Our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death."
I vividly remember going to see "Mrs. Doubtfire" in theaters when I was seven and watching in amazement his portrayal of two characters. To me the movie wasn't about cross-dressing, it wasn't about a divorce, it was about a father's love. I'd like to think my own father would go to any lengths needed to be around me and show me just how much he loved me. It was also the first time I heard the word "divorce" as a child. I found so much joy and pain in this movie. "Oh, the feels!" were great and abundant. The closing scene where Miranda watches Daniel (as Mrs. Doubtfire) utter the line: "And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don't, dear. And if they don't, don't blame yourself. Just because they don't love each other anymore, doesn't mean that they don't love you!" spoke to not just the Miranda character, but to the movie-goers everywhere. I think it mostly struck a chord with all children suffering from a lack of understanding: Why do bad things happen? I knew in my heart that this couple was not going to get back together. I wasn't going to get the happy ending I wanted. But these children were going to be okay! The mix of comedy with touching scenes makes this movie close to my number one list of any movie, period.
I owned the CD of Disney's "Aladdin" and played it over and over. "Friend Like Me" was a song that I still catch myself singing while in the shower. Here, Robin Williams showed his voice acting talents as well as his singing abilities.
"Jack," while silly in its story at times is still one of my most memorable movies I saw as a child. This time Robin Williams was playing a boy who (at the time of the movie's release) was MY age. He captured what every ten year old soon faces: the struggles of understanding love, life, and death. At the age of ten, you are finally beginning to understand right from wrong. Robin Williams made this character believable in a way that no other actor could. You could see it in his eyes. The butterfly scene still gets me every time. If you haven't seen this movie, you really owe it to yourself to watch it. "I don't have much time these days. So I'll make it quick. Like my life."
I didn't see "Dead Poets Society" until I was in middle school. My 8th grade English teacher told me she could see writing was a passion of mine and I shouldn't be afraid to embrace it. I listened and embraced the heck out of it. "Dead Poets Society" helped with that. I saw my favorite actor helping students learn how to fight the system, but: "to be wise, not stupid," and to seize the day. He even quoted Walt Whitman in the film's most famous line, "O Captain, my Captain!" and with his many lessons brought a renewed energy in me to write. This energy has never left me. Thank you, Robin Williams!
See, those that know me best know acting and writing are my two favorite things. Writing, at times, is the cathartic release I need to get through a tough day. Other times, it's watching a funny, uplifting movie (yes, usually one starring Robin Williams). When it comes to acting, I love farce, the absurd, silly shows that require physical comedy. When I'm acting there are other times I slip into a weird, improv routine that is chaotic, full of strange voices. I often felt this was the channeling of my "inner" Robin Williams. Let's be honest. The man was weird. He was strange. But he was funny. He was a man I admired both as a child and as an adult. It pains me that he's no longer with us to bring new movies to entertain us again and again. However, aren't we all on borrowed time? None of us will be here forever.
Hug your family. Cherish the moments you get to spend together. Laugh often. Then, laugh again. Take moments when you can to seize the day. Make new friends and be the friend they never had. Learn new crafts. Take chances. Make mistakes. Fail. Pick yourself up.
Thank you, Robin Williams. Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for the heartfelt moments in your movies and TV shows. Thank you for showing me that it's okay to be weird. It's okay to be different. It's okay to be you!
I ain't never had a friend like you. I highly doubt I will again...
"All my love to you, poppet. You're going to be alright. Bye, bye…"
Jack-Hook-Mrs. Doubtfire-Dead Poets Society-Bicentenial Man-What Dreams May Come-One Hour Photo-The Crazy Ones-Mork & Mindy-Law & Order-Awakenings-Flubber-Jumanji-Good Will Hunting-Patch Adams-RV-World's Greatest Dad-Aladdin-Good Morning, Vietnam-The World According to Garp
…just a few of my many, many favorites