Yesterday I did a piece on Robin Williams’ passing but there was a segment I didn’t have room for after all my ramblings. I’d like to share it now. Whether he was on stage, on television or in a movie I liked pretty much anything I saw containing Robin Williams. I did my share of standup comedy in college (I couldn’t sing and I wasn’t good looking so what else was there?) and he was one of the people I patterned my style after. It didn’t matter if he was being interviewed by Entertainment Tonight, he made you laugh. Then I saw him on one of those late, late talk shows about 20 or 25 years ago and he was serious. He looked beaten and worn down. The host asked him what it was like being a great comedian. When he answered you waited for a punch line but it never came. His words were heartfelt and to the point. He said that being a comedian was one of the hardest jobs in show business. The reason was simple. It was the only profession where people expected you to be in character 24 hours a day. Th n he elaborated by saying you don’t walk up to a famous actor and say, “Act something for me.” You don’t ask a great singer, “Sing something right now for me.” People don’t step over to an award winning director and say, “Direct something for me.” But if you are a comedian, every person you meet at a party, on the street, in an elevator or at the grocery store all want you to make them laugh right there, right then. He said it was exhausting. He never had a minute in public to call his own and for a while he withdrew from public life for that reason. It was just too much to handle. Just imagine one day in which every person you saw recognized you and wanted you to instantly make them laugh. Think of the pressure that would create and the lack of privacy you would have. Then realize I am only talking about one day! He was talking about a lifetime. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days and he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I believe there is a fine line between genius and insanity and he tiptoed along it for many years. That was the only time I ever saw the vulnerable Robin Williams but deep down I believe that was how he really felt. The problem for a man like that lies in whom do you talk to about your pain. Apparently things were not going so well with his wife. And from the sound of it, many of his friends were the ones wanting to be entertained. That leaves a man who is both popular and lonely at the same time. It goes without saying what the world has lost. Perhaps one of the reasons Mr. Williams chose to leave us was that he was always asked to be a funny man and not just a man.
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