He was OUR Charlie Chaplin, OUR WC Fields, OUR Laurel and Hardy.
He was the comic for OUR age. Coming into the post-Watergate scene from the planet Ork, he transformed our expections of what comedy and even drama had been before. He showed us in movies such as Mrs Doubtfire and Good Morning Viet Nam that they were often one and the same.
Yes we laughed when Mrs Doubtfire’s mask started to melt, but we also cried. In one scene in Patch Adams he put on that rubber nose and joked with terminally ill children. No other comic since Chaplin had done that so brilliantly.
He even danced- in The Birdcage and through his characterization made the world see that gays had the same fears, heartaches and ultimately capability to love as straight people. Yes we should have known that, but his performance SHOWED US that. The world has come a long way since that movie, proof of the effect of efforts such as this.
And so we saw the world as events of the next 30+ years unfolded thru HIS eyes and heart. The trauma of Viet Nam we all remembered all too well in Good Morning Viet Nam. The heart break of divorce in Mrs Doubtfire. The cruelty of terminal illness, especially when happening to children, in Patch Adams. He helped us make sense of it all, and through the insanity of his humor we were able to make just a little more sense of the larger and more horrific insanity of the world around us.
He will be lionized, cannonized, mourned, paid tribute to in the months and years to follow. No celebrity in OUR time, I think, was more beloved.
But we should never ever lose sight of the fact that, though he is gone, he was with us for a time. Few people have left the world a better place (and certainly very few celebrities).
Robin Williams left the world a better place. Mork came down from Ork and gave us some 35 years of relief and badly needed perspective from a world we needed relief and perspective from. 35 some years later we are forever transformed and our expectations will never be the same. We have seen and enjoyed the power of humor and the dramatic arts thanks to this man, and though there will be many more I am sure, we won’t want to settle for anything less than the brilliance, inspiration and brilliant perspective on our lives that was Robin Williams humor.
Here is Dick Van Dyke’s eulogy for Stan Laurel, a comic of HIS age (and for many ages to come), to sum things up.
RIP Mrs Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Armand Goldman. May God give you the comfort you failed to find with us, and may you make the heavens resound with laughter as you did on earth for us all these years.
“God bless all clowns.
Give them a long, good life.
Make bright their way.
They’re a race apart.
All comest most
Who turn their heart’s pain
Into a dazzling jest
To lift the hearts.
God bless all clowns.” ‘ A Clowns Prayer, as recited at the funeral of Stan Laurel by Dick Van Dyke