Robin Williams in 1978

Actor & comedian Robin Williams outside the Comedy Store, 1978 – photograph by Wynn Miller for Time & Life Pictures

The news of Robin Williams’ passing yesterday hit me unexpectedly hard. A lot of cultural icons have come and gone during my lifetime, but none in recent memory have felt as close and raw as this. All at once I was overcome with shock, disbelief, confusion, loss, and grief. I’ve always loved Robin Williams, but I now know that I didn’t truly appreciate all that he meant to me until suddenly he was gone.

Growing up a child in a less than peaceful home, I found my solace at night after after my mom and stepfather went off to work, in front of the warm glow of the television. Those hours of peace and silence was my escape and safe place. Thank God for shows like Happy Days, Soap, Barney Miller (yes, Barney Miller), and Mork & Mindy to provide the distraction and relief that sometimes only humor can provide. My hope in people was kept alive, and I was able to sustain the belief that whatever I was going through, this too shall pass. Even though the shows were an obvious dramatization, I knew they were written and acted out by real people who gave me hope that human caring and good times were out there, I just had to get out and find them.

As a child, Robin Williams as Mork introduced me to a wild and spontaneous humor unlike anything I had never known before. I was amazed, awakened, and taken somewhere totally magical. When I was a brooding teen, Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society stirred me to stand up for myself, grab life by the nuts, put myself out there and find my voice in this world. In Good Will Hunting he taught me that with manhood comes the responsibility to be self-aware of our gaps and push through, face and overcome the lies of our past that want to keep us in pain with our face down in the shit, and that once you’ve made it to the other side (scarred yes, but in tact) you help others make that journey too. Because that’s what you should do as a human being.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my own children in a full-out belly-roll laugh at his antics in Mrs.Doubtfire, and watch him with wide-eyed wonder in Hook. It’s troubling, sad, and even disappointing that he took his own life. But we’ll never truly know what he was going through, and the weight of the world that must have been upon him in that moment. I owe him so much, like many of us do, and I will always be thankful and smiling when I think of him and his immeasurable talents. The man was a sensitive soul who obviously felt life very deeply. And that can be a blessing and a burden.

Here’s to your pure genius, and all that you’ve given us. I only wish I could have given something back to you in your time of need. Much love to you and your family.

RIP Robin Williams


  1. Amen. My first date ever was out to a Robin Williams movie. I’ve wanted to be funny ever since. I think you should write more about Robin. You are great at presenting the interesting sides to pop-culture.

  2. “Reality, what a concept” on 8 track was my introduction to intelligent energetic comedy that wasn’t from my parents generation. I think the sadness we are all collectively experiencing is certainly for the passing of the man but also some of the joy and innocence we still cling to from those earlier memories.

  3. I did not know you personally, only in your movies, but from your almost ever grinning face I always feel that you were a good guy at heart.
    I will miss you, God bless you Robin.

  4. Well said!
    By how I’ve read several write-ups about his death and watched the local news. None of them spend more than a few seconds on his wonderful accomplishments or all the people that he touched thru his work. They all skip over that to focus on how many times he’d been in re-hab, or this problem or that. In other words, all the negatives. Thank you for writing such a nice piece and reminding me, again, how funny he is.

  5. Can we all vow to do something, or rather, not do something?? When all of the magazines start coming out about Robin Williams’ last days …can we NOT buy them..Not buy into the the speculation, the gossip of what may have been, what could have been….Let’s try to show that we would rather not guess on his thinking, his feeling…his heart. We want him to leave with the dignity a great man deserves….warts and all. Thanks.

  6. i lived in both the City and Marin for many years and got to see Robin Williams around–he was always gracious and humble–i saw him perform a couple of years ago in Mill Valley for 2.5 hours of nonstop commentary on current events, and enjoyed every minute of it–sharp, irreverent, and insightful–a tragic end to a phenomenal life–rest in peace now friend–

  7. Well said……It is a sad and tragic loss of a remarkably talented man…I appreciated your comments regarding the solace of the “tube”…Mork and Mindy…..and, of course, Barney Miller…..a true classic….

  8. I have to say that usually the demise of a celebrity has little or no effect on me unless its either someone I knew personally or had worked for/with in the past . But the announcement on NPR yesterday morning of RW’s passing … and especially the fact that it was a suicide was a hard kick to the gut . At first my wondering if I was hearing the name wrong . Then questioning whether it was that Robin Williams … then finally the realization that it was and the sinking feeling that followed

    Sad and tragic barely covers it in my opinion . One too many losses of genuine genius this year to the devastating combination of Addiction and Depression . First Philip Seymour Hoffman .. and now Robin Williams

    I don’t mean to preach here . And I hope JP will forgive me . But on this circumstance of yet another loss of genius to addiction …. please people ! Use of ‘ recreational ‘ drugs always has its consequences . And ultimately no one ever ‘ Beats ‘ addiction . Some may survive it .. albeit with some kind of lasting damage … but nobody ever defeats it . Ever !

    RIP Robin Williams . Your life was a celebration … but your death a tragedy that regrettably could of been avoided . May others learn from both yours and PSH’s tragic demise .

  9. JP, I am huge fan of The Selvedge Yard. I’ve read many, many posts many, many times because I enjoy the site so much. I went to The 1 Motorcycle Show at your recommendation in some crazy weather (esp. for a Californian) and I will not miss another one. This is your best post yet. The world we live in is a place where Robin Williams wasn’t happy. That breaks my heart.

  10. Watched him once back in the 70s do two shows and two after-parties without missing a beat….about 6 hours of NON-stop commentary.
    I’m betting that he just might do a couple of hours at the funeral. :+)

    My other reaction = FUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :+(

  11. First time i see him act was in good morning vietnam and for many years after i knew most of his lines… Don’t go in there, it’s the Ho Chi Min Trail !
    RIP Robin.

  12. I remember when I was 19, hearing him do Elmer Fudd sings Bruce Springstein on a local radio station while driving through Perth, West Australia in a green Ford Capri on a sunny autumn day. I nearly pissed myself laughing, and the only reason I remember that day, that car, that moment, from thirty years ago was because Robin Williams was doing the voice of sexy, sexy, Elmer Fudd getting low down and dirty. Joy.
    Tell me I’m wrong…

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