I was acquainted with Robin Williams in the early 1980’s. At the time I was married to a stand up comedian and they were colleagues, if you will. In those days comics honed their craft at either The Comedy Store or The Improv in Hollywood. It was a legendary group of funny folks that banded together over a common passion.
It was inordinately composed of men, although there were a few women, and these brave, young, talented individuals were cutting their teeth on stage for a mere pittance. Usually $25 a set, which lasted 5 to 10 to 30 minutes depending on when they were booked in the week and in what order they performed.
The camaraderie amongst these comics was exemplary. They’d stand in the parking lot, shooting the shit, talking about their auditions, what comedy clubs they were booked in throughout the country, riffing with one another about the events of the day, sometimes working out a bit with one another and even giving each other a joke or two to have and claim as theirs while they waited for their set or thereafter.
Robin Williams was often in that parking lot waiting for his time to go on stage. He was fairly famous already due to his role on “Mork and Mindy” and he was there not for the money (obviously) or the fame. He was there because he loved to perform and the audiences loved him.
One of the things that I found curious about him aside from his brilliance and his frenetic energy was that we’d be having a conversation and his answers to my questions, while funny, ended up following him onto the stage that same evening. Was he trying out his material on me or was he answering spontaneously and then taking it with him to the spotlight?
I never knew the truth, or shall I say, his truth?
To lose another brilliant, talented, gifted performer is truly a loss for all of us. It gives real meaning to the term, “tortured artist.”
I spoke this afternoon with a man that is very involved with the mental health community. He is not a physician but he has personal experience with mental illness and is active in the education and support of those that are in need of such tools.
He told me that, “suicide is 100% preventable.” While I find that difficult to believe, he knows better than most. He says that there are signs, there are messages and that there is an opportunity to help prevent someone from choosing a permanent solution to a temporary situation.
Something to ponder upon as we mourn Robin Williams passing. #RobinWilliams