A Tribute to Robin Williams

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Editor’s Note: by techgnotic

Why did we delay for more than a week the publishing of this remembrance? Because to properly reflect the impact of this loss on the millions of Robin Williams fans worldwide, we wanted to be sure to capture a true sense of the torrent of love for Robin pouring in from the community in the form of heartfelt portraits and other tribute art.

We chose the “best” pieces to accompany our own prose tribute, but the “best” kept being supplanted by “better bests.” There is no end to the river of love for Robin Williams and we expect no end to the fabulous tributes artists will pay to his work.

Why Robin Williams Was Important (You already knew he was funny.)

The official obituaries are disappointing. Descriptions of his humor rely heavily on “you had to be there.” They are unable to use words to describe the manic madness that was a Robin Williams performance in full flight (improvisational probing of the uncaged and directionless zeitgeist of the youth of the times, 1978–80).

Robin Williams’ early work—zany stand–up comic then hitting big-time with prime time network sitcom—is followed by an appreciation of his skills as a comic actor in the Hollywood studio feature films that followed, the places where most of Robin Williams’ millions of fans worldwide came to know and love him: places like The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow-on-the-Hudson (1984), Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Good Will Hunting (1997). Robin Williams’ good–natured optimism and genuine love for humanity shined brightly on the big screen.

But to achieve such success in the movies meant disappearing the demonic anarchic spirit that animated Robin Williams’ early comedy club days—the very thing that electrified a lost and “stagflated” post-punk generation. Robin Williams in the movies was all of his wild energy minus any danger. He might have been the next Lenny Bruce, or even at least the next George Carlin, had his be-all, end-all work ethic not dictated that he accept roles in one studio picture after another, regardless of quality. His need to always be on, always pleasing people, resulted in so many of his movie roles being so insultingly far beneath the potentials of his true talents. Edgier projects never had a chance of organically evolving to emerge from his febrile imagination. He had to be constantly working instead of nurturing. It defined him.

Tragically, the same intense drive to always be working plus a ton of sudden wealth resulted in a cocaine addiction that took a serious toll on his health. He suffered through decades of rough divorces, of being on and off the rehab wagon, and a major heart surgery.

For those familiar with his career from his earliest stand–up days, this once whirling dervish’s gradual loss of comedic velocity was as painful to watch as it no doubt must have been for him to endure.  His final HBO special shows him to be just as funny as other HBO star stand-ups, the sadness being he was once pure genius, light-years ahead of the usual stuff. To see him falling back on bits of decades-old improv when new jokes died was a bit of irony the young Robin Williams would have savored and savaged.

The official chroniclers of our society tend to focus on “success” (especially financial) and how a person attained that success as the core narrative of an individual’s life. But very often a performer’s importance in influencing society lies not in being a role model over the lifetime of a successful career (e.g., the emphasis on how much money Robin Williams’ decades of movies made) but in some spark they provided to the inchoate consciousnesses of their audiences in the early days. The no-limits comedic freedom and anarchy represented by Robin Williams in his first few years on the stand-up scene may have been his lasting legacy, the TV and movies that followed reflecting a mere single facet of his talent, rather than a laboratory for honing his improvisational magic.

The word comes in that it was a Parkinson’s diagnosis that finally made Robin Williams fall to Earth. After having lived through his college roommate Christopher “Superman” Reeves’ quadriplegia and his friend John Belushi’s drug overdose death, this final cruel joke on him—this physical comedian extremis gradually losing half his language with his audience—was one cosmic irony he could finally find no humor in.

What will live on forever will be the pure unadulterated, sheer joy the mere sight of Robin Williams’ smiling face brought and will always bring to his fans. This joy is reflected back in an inundation of the deviantART website with over 5000 portraits and other “Robin-pieces” made and shared by the worldwide deviantART community of artists just since his passing. An evening at the movies with this man, even in his most formulaic “dramedies,” will always mean a psychic cleansing for the millions who love him, a receiving of this holy man’s gift of healing through laughter and his talent at transporting us to where we can indulge a return to our most childlike happiness.

But, Wow...

...just remembering Robin Williams burning down the clubs in 1979—and imagining what could have been... Well, I guess you had to be there.

Your Thoughts

  1. Do you think Robin Williams could have remained a vital comedian and comic actor even as he battled Parkinson’s disease? Have you battled disease while pursuing your art?

  2. Do you think that all great artists possess hidden “darkness” of the heart or mind that adds a powerful poignancy to their work? The funnier the comic, the more intense the suppressed dark side?

  3. Are highly intelligent or very talented people better able to hide their misery from loved ones, thus making it all the harder to “read” them and help them?

  4. Do you think it’s possible for successful artists to fight the allure of the more exotic dangerous diversions, deal with chronic depression, deal with serious diseases, yet still continue to create art successfully? Is a strong community a key to avoiding these hazards?

  5. Almost every comedic interaction from Robin Williams produced an immediate sense of well–being for the audience. Are there works of visual art or literature that have this effect on you?

Suicide Prevention & Support

If you or someone close to you needs additional emotional or psychological support, please contact your local suicide prevention hotline.

If you reside within the U.S., please click here.

If you reside Internationally, please click here.

© 2014 - 2021 techgnotic
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Bluediamondpikachu83's avatar

Rip Robin we'll miss you a lot buddy

zielinskijoseph's avatar

Happy 70th birthday late Robin.

Bicentennial Man 20th anniversary

Its said that trying to capture Robin was like trying to capture lightening in a bottle . When looking at your art , I must say that you captured him just right . You knew it was all in the eyes .

Nivthedeviant's avatar
sam-da's avatar
Great Actor, Artist, Comedian...
From time to time I'm finding out new things about him... never knew he had to battle Parkinson’s disease.
The kinder the person - the more difficult it is to cope with life, especially for such sensitive people.
So much kindness in his movies.

RIP Robin Williams

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ElectricEmpath's avatar

Beautiful compilation of art and beautiful journal

really nice tribute to a legendry actor!

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AlcShot's avatar
nyanpheonix101's avatar
I hope I get to meet Robin Williams someday... probably not though :(
newrose4u's avatar
even though its been 3 years, this made me very sad. RIP Robin Williams.
Crazytay168's avatar
Take care of him Rufio
KookyStorm's avatar
We loss so many legends and Robin Williams was one of them 😢
OMEGA-CROSSFire's avatar
Most people dislike Bicentennial Man, but for me it was genius. I always felt a certain kinship with Robin in that movie, never being accepted as a person/alive/etc.

When Andrew (Robin Williams' charachter) visited "Little Miss" Amanda with her granddaughter on her deathbed and said "It's cruel that you can cry and I cannot. Here is a terrible pain I cannot express. Will every human being that I care for... just... leave?" after she died, I always cry (getting misty-eyed and a lump in my throat while typing this too, goddamnit!)
There was so much feeling and power behind that quote, it just as Robin knew those feelings himself and knew I feel that too at times, so it just touches my soul everytime. It truly was a moment in which the line between actor and character was gone.

We'll never forget you, Robin.
MilanesMLP's avatar
he will be missed :(
sealandangel's avatar
  1. It depends on how bad the disease was. my grandmother had it and she fought until the end. I battle depression everyday

  2. PerhapsI

  3. i think anyone can

  4. No,a person is a person no matter how successful. I watched a friend who had EVERYTHING and was super successfull spiral into despair

  5. Disney movies

Nikolaios's avatar
that guy was a kind person and a fantastic actor we'll miss you but you'll rest into the kings' pantheon
Maxwangsy's avatar

The man is from the earth.

ijudgelove's avatar
I swear I almost cried seeing all of the art that was made in his name. He was such a big part of my childhood, and I was devastated to hear that he had died. He was, and will always be, my favorite comedian, and will always bring a smile to my face. Thank you Robin Williams!
Cavalliero's avatar
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