From Mork and Mindy to Aladdin to Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams added much more than laughter to our lives. It's a tragedy that he felt his own life was so empty.
The first television show I can remember watching was Mork and Mindy on reruns. As a little boy I laughed at how zany and silly Robin Williams' alien character was. I remember trying/pretending to drink juice with my fingers like Mork did.
The first R-rated movie I saw was Good Morning Vietnam, which is what I'd call a heavy comedy, because it makes you laugh, but also tells a serious, emotion evoking story. Robin Williams was perfect for that film. Both he and his character understood that laughter and silliness are seriously important.
His best role might have been in Good Will Hunting, which should have won the Oscar for Best Picture, but Titanic's special effects and star-crossed romance blinded the Academy. Not to take anything away from Titanic, but Good Will Hunting didn't need stunning special effects to be a stunning work.
Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. Matt Damon as Will Hunting may have been the main character of the film, but Robin Williams' character, psychiatrist Sean Maguire, was the protagonist. Maguire drives the action, encouraging Will, helping Will, pushing Will forward. Everything Will Hunting does in the movie is an effect of Robin Williams' character. Williams is so true in the role, so believable as a caring man who wants to help, that he's able to get Will Hunting to turn his life around. Maguire challenges Will. He drives the story forward.
Williams also improvised the line "Son of a bitch. He stole my line," at the end. One of countless improvisations Williams made in his work.
Considering how much inner pain Williams was feeling, it's a sad coincidence that his best acting work might have been when he played a psychiatrist.
I don't know what it was that convinced Robin Williams to end his life. He strangled himself with a belt. A death so gruesome, filled with such self-hatred, it's impossible to make sense of it.
The thing about depression is that those experiencing it are living in their own, isolated worlds. Their perception of reality is skewed so uniquely negatively. They could find something depressing about winning the lottery, or getting a promotion at work, or falling in love, or having children. They twist good things into bad, and dwell on bad things until they're worse. They might make a movie that gives laughter to millions of people, and then convince themselves that all they're good for is to make other people laugh.
Only Robin Williams knew what kind of pain Robin Williams was in.
In the 63 years he spent on this Earth, I hope he experienced stretches of time when he enjoyed being Robin Williams. We all got to enjoy him for years, we'll get to enjoy him for years to come. It would be sadistically unfair and cruel of the universe to have deprived the man himself of at least a few glimpses of how special he truly was.