I just finished listening to an excellent 2010 re-broadcast interview with Marc Maron and Robin Williams in which Williams mentioned having battled with thoughts of suicide. He riffs for a few minutes about it in dialogue form as if he were talking to his own conscience. His conscience shows Robin all that he has to live for and then persuades him to put suicidal thoughts in the WTF? category of his life. If only they had stayed there.
I've heard from a few friends and read those quoted in newspapers about how Robin Williams' death affected them more powerfully than they thought it would. It was as if a family member had died, they'd said. I felt the same way. On Monday morning, I went, still in a haze of sleep, to the computer to read the online version of The Guardian newspaper. I was met with a front-page image of young Robin Williams. There were dates. I didn't understand what I was looking at. I thought, why is there a photo from 'Good Morning, Vietnam' in the paper? Then sleepiness was replaced by shock and I began to sob. I had grown up with Robin Williams always there, always making me laugh. As a kid in the 70s, I watched the Happy Days episode on which his character, Mork, debuted. Robin's Mork was an immense force in a kooky, red space-jumpsuit. Last year, I caught Williams' 2010 stand-up show 'Weapons of Self Destruction' on YouTube and it was just as searingly funny as it was political. I remember hoping that he'd film shows like that more regularly, in part, to fill the void that George Carlin's death left.
There's something, too, about my being from the Bay Area that makes his death feel like a personal loss. Those of us who went to the Holy City Zoo, albeit years after Robin got his start there, and were, in general, supporters of Bay Area comedy, felt, I think, a sort of proprietary pride in seeing Williams become a huge star. It was a case of 'local boy makes good'. He was legend, he was unique, and he was ours.