I grew up with Robin Williams.
When I was nine years old, approved Williams voiced the energetic genie in Aladdin (1992). When I was ten, salve he donned womens’ clothing to spend more time with his children in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). When I was fourteen, he offered life advice to a confused Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting (1997).
Sure, I never met the comedian in person but that never prevented me from relying on his charms and ebullient personality especially in movies like the ones above that got released exactly when I needed them and which all made my adolescence a little less painful, my life a little bit more fun.
I’m sure that other generations look at Williams as if he belongs to them. He first appeared as the beloved Mork from Mork and Mindy (a role that shot him to stardom) in 1978 (five years before I was born) and some of his most memorable performances occurred in the 1980s. He starred in Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987 and in Dead Poets Society in 1989, two movies I wouldn’t have been allowed to watch when they arrived in theaters. And yet, despite those performances and despite his age of 63 years, Robin Williams felt like he was a member of my generation.
He was the cool older brother who taught me how to act. He was the comedian who taught me that embarrassment was a farce and that making people laugh was so honorable a profession that a person should be willing to do pretty much anything for a smile. He was the actor who delivered joy to audiences and whenever he was on a talk show, I had to stay and watch it because his energy, his enthusiasm, his life was so beautiful to behold.
As a performer, he delivered incredible performances. From his comedic work in Nine Months to his serious performance in What Dreams May Come to his brilliant delivery in One Hour Photo, he showed the world that he could act. Outside of the screen though, he showed the world that he could love.
In fact, since his passing, so many people are turned to Facebook and Twitter to post anecdotes about what he meant to them. The Washington Post‘s Jen Chaney wrote, “Only 1 actor on a red carpet ever looked at me & said, ‘You haven’t gotten to ask a question yet,’ then let me ask. That was Robin Williams.” Nell Minow, in a touching tribute to the actor, wrote that “He was a devoted friend to his former roommate Christopher Reeve [and] helped to found Comic Relief, which raised more than $50 million for the homeless.” But actor Chris Colfer (Glee) might have summed it up best when he tweeted, “You know someone is special when the whole world considers them family.”
Robin Williams was family.
When I was 30, Robin Williams died and it feels like the world is a little sadder because of it.
May he rest in peace.
Take a look back at some of his most memorable performances below.
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The Fisher King (1991)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The Birdcage (1996)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
What Dreams May Come (1998)
One Hour Photo (2002)
And just for fun…