Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I've never been very concerned when I've woken up to a celebrity death before; I'm not heartless, I just didn't know them. It was sad that they'd died but I wake up to the news that at least 30 people have died in some kind of atrocity somewhere every morning and I didn't know them either.

I didn't know Robin Williams. But I think, along with a lot of other people of my generation, it had never occurred to me I didn't know him. He invited me in to so many of my favourite films. Twinkly eyes, a voice made of plasticine and the hairiest arms that childhood me had ever seen; the man was a god.

I got mad at him for ruining his own marriage in Mrs Doubtfire - who invites a goat to a child's birthday party? I'm with you Miranda.

I swore at Aladdin for breaking his heart when he was a genie.

I was petrified of Jumanji.

I was so proud of him in Hook (after I'd squinted through the Boo Box bit and stopped wondering why he wanted to get such snobby children back anyway).

People will be baffled if it's suicide, the way they were when Hoffman died, because they won't understand.

"How can someone who made so many people smile have been so sad?"
"Didn't he know he could have turned to someone?"
"How can someone so talented have wasted it all?"

Depression might manifest itself in the mind but it isn't controlled by being strong willed; you cannot will yourself to get up anymore than a paraplegic can will back their limbs. The credit for the smiles you might cause doesn't get back to you; it's filtered out by the fog of guilt and shame and isolation that a bad spell can cause. You can have all the money in the world and still get hungry; you can have the biggest support network on earth and still get low.

I don't think it's too far to go to say Robin Williams was a genius; up there for me with Alan Alda, Ronnie Barker and David Jason for the ability to weave a character so warm, loving, hilarious, genuine and solid that you can't help but believe it must be what the real man is like.

If only there was a bit of hope that something like this would break the myth that someone famous is indestructible and fair game for endless criticism. Can we stop breaking skinny little girls with our circles of shame? If someone so universally loved can have been so desolate, can we understand that someone dodging media bile daily is not immune? Shout what you want at a stand-up or a beautiful woman; they're paid enough to take it. It's their job.

My favourite comedy moment in cinematic history is the point where the lime hits the back of Pierce Brosnan's head. I have rewound that moment on scores of videos and DVDs over the years. Endlessly watching it bounce off his shiny head.

"It was a run by fruiting."

You can't miss someone you didn't know; his films will always be here, and his stand up, and the memories that he must be competing with Roald Dahl for having planted in children's lives.

Thank you for being honest about the way you felt behind it all. You're a terrifying legend and an inspiration to me; you've shown me how much it's possible to achieve, but you've burst the bubble that one day any of it will be enough to take away the crumbling.

From the bottom of my heart Mr Robin Williams; thank you so much for doing what you did. Thank you for weaving yourself through a dozen characters that punctuated the tedium of most adults; thank you for playing for us and with us.

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