Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago in 1951, the son of Laurie, a model, and Robert, a car company executive. He grew up in Chicago, but finished college in California, where he was voted the funniest, but least likely to succeed. How wrong they were!
He studied political science at college, but a class in improvisational comedy led to a scholarship at the Juilliard School (New York) where he was classmates with Christopher Reeve and William Hurt. His early career saw him working as a stand-up in San Francisco before finding fame as Mork in the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy. According to the Washington Post, producer Jerry Paris claims they had interviewed about 50 Morks for the show’s precursor, Happy Days, before Williams walked in, dressed in rainbow suspenders,
“When he sat down, I asked if he would sit a little differently, the way an alien might. Immediately, he sat on his head. We hired him.”
And that is the Robin Williams we grew to love – the totally maniac comedian who blew our brains in Good Morning Vietnam with his rat-a-tat humour and crazy leaps of mind. But there was much more to this man, we learned, as he embraced increasingly tender and subtle roles including Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, for which he won an Oscar.
His wife has asked that our remembrance be of the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions. Below we share some of our highlights from his formidable career.
Read Adam Bernstein’s remembrance of Robin Williams in the Washington Post.
Dead Poets Society
Mork and Mindy
‘He had been struggling with depression’ is an all too common statement following the death of someone we love and admire. When will mental health be ‘outed’ so we can stop reading this sad side note?
How sad is the death or Robin Williams? A man who has brought so much joy to all of us? A man who had (ostensibly) ‘made it’, yet continued to struggle with mental health demons. In a heartfelt statement his wife, Susan Schneider, asked:
“As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
And yes, that is what we would all like to do – to celebrate his genius and continue to laugh at his quips. But, in doing so, are we going to continue to sweep under the carpet the awful toll that mental health is taking on up to one quarter of our family members, friends and colleagues? When will we be able to talk about mental health issues as they are – an affliction of the mind, just as others have afflictions of the body? Why do we continue to cover up this affliction on behalf of our loved ones as we judge society is not ready to hear the truth? So, at the risk of begging to differ with his grieving wife, I can’t help but wonder if more open discussion of the things which drive such a talented human being to suicide, might not encourage those around them to seek help sooner?
Seeking help or further information
What do you think? Should we mourn this talented man by simply celebrating his genius? Or is a conversation about mental health and how to prevent someone from suiciding more important? Why can’t we do both?